Sabarimala Makes Record Rs 2.18 cr in 2 days

SABARIMALA: Tucked away a little distance from the celebrated 18 steps that pilgrims in their thousands climb every hour to reach the Sabarimala sanctum, is a large, bare hall. Perhaps the only giveaway about its special status is a couple of hefty men with cropped hair standing near the door, dressed in black like the pilgrims milling around them, but with walkie-talkies in their hands.

Inside there is frenetic activity. About 50 handpicked men are counting money. There are small mountains of notes and coins of every denomination and some of them separate the bigger notes from the loose change, while the rest are engrossed with the gleaming, neat piles at their feet. The counting here starts at three in the morning and ends close to midnight and there are 200 men working in four shifts.

Sabarimala is the second wealthiest shrine in India after Tirupati. In just the first two days of the annual season which started on November 17, the collection from pilgrims here has been Rs 2.18 crore. It's a record, and the Travancore Devaswom Board authorities expect the collection from the two-month season that ends January 14 to go far beyond the 131.15 crore in the 2010-11 season.

According to the board's statistics the hundi collection alone for two days was Rs 82.30 lakh. The collection for the corresponding two days last year was 74.34 lakh. The income from aravana (prasad) sales stood at Rs 71.42 lakh as against Rs 68.70 last season. The board spends between Rs 40 to 50 crore for the conduct of the two-month Mandalam-Makaravilakku season every year.

"The counting takes place under strict security cover by the vigilance wings of both Travancore Devaswom Board and the state police. The entire counting process takes place under live cameras. Selection of members for the counting team is done meticulously,'' Sabarimala executive officer M Satheesh Kumar told TOI.

Travancore Devaswom Board and Dhanalakshmi bank have entered into an agreement by which the bank collects the money from the temple on a daily basis and deposits it to the board's account. Every year, over 30 million pilgrims, mostly from the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala trek up the hill, deep in the Western Ghats, to worship Lord Ayyappa.


۩ Ayyappa DevoteeZ ۩

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