Pilgrims gather for Sabarimala ‘celestial light’, year after tragedy

January 15th, 2012 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Sabarimala, Jan 15 (IANS) A year after over 100 people died in a stampede after witnessing the Makara Jyothi, pilgrims in large numbers were stationed in and around Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to witness Sunday evening the ‘celestial light’ that appears on the horizon on Makara Sankranthi.

The light appears soon after dusk and to see this ‘miracle’, devotees, mostly from different parts of southern India, have taken vantage position at the temple top besides the surrounding hillsides.

Several measures have been taken by the administration taking into account the tragedy that took place at Pullumedu - a hillock near the famed temple - in which 102 pilgrims died in a stampede soon after devotees returned witnessing the celestial light last year.

“Police have made all the required arrangements to see that things are in place,” said an official attached to the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), the custodian of the Sabarimala temple.

Special parking lots have been arranged, barricades set up and an estimated 3,000 security personnel are on duty to make the religious event a success.

After last year’s tragedy, the TDB declared in the Kerala High Court that the celestial light that appears on the horizon is manmade.

Tribesmen under the aegis of Mala Araya Samajom have claimed that it is their right to do light the fire and they would march towards the place on the hillock.

Police, however, have decided to prevent them from doing it and instead see that it is done by the person appointed by the TDB.

Pilgrims in the temple were taken by surprise Saturday evening when a light appeared on the horizon. But TDB president M. Rajagopalan Nair told reporters that it was the searchlight of the forest.

State Minister for Devasoms V.S. Sivakumar is stationed at the temple town.

Makara Jyothi light is the most important event of a two-month pilgrimage dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. According to believers, the sighting of the celestial light is auspicious and over the last few years, there has been a huge influx of pilgrims to witness it.

The Sabarimala temple is situated on the Western Ghat ranges, four kilometres uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district in central Kerala. It is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrim centres in India.

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