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Turbulent Pamba Destroys Bridges Leading to Sabarimala, Devotees Call Destruction God's Wrath

The Sabarimala temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, was cut off last month after a turbulent Pamba river destroyed the two bridges that led to the shrine and many other structures along the bed.

Aishwarya Kumar |

Updated:September 4, 2018, 12:02 PM IST
Pamba: Last month, S Gurumurthy, newly appointed RBI board member, received a lot of flak for calling out those fighting for women’s entry into Sabarimala as the reason for the floods that ravaged the area around the religious shrine. Back on the ground, on the river banks of a swollen Pamba, the belief is no different.

Venugopal, who runs a restaurant near the Hill Top Parking along the Pamba, minced no words as he said that women should not be allowed into the holy shrine. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter Sabarimala.

Pamba hilltop
(The damaged hill top parking along the Pamba)

“If you try and cross what is already written by the Gods, there will be repercussions. What else do you want to see now? Do you want people to die?” argued Venugopal.

The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, was cut off last month after a turbulent Pamba river destroyed the two bridges that led to the shrine and many other structures along the bed. The bridge at the Pampa-Triveni has been covered with about 10-ft thick sand that were deposited by the waters. Giant trees have been uprooted and have completely destroyed the foot-overbridge, resting areas, toilets.

“Women have not been denied entry into the temple. There is just an age that has been prescribed. Nobody has said that the God does not belong to women. What is the fight about? This is the land that Lord Ayappan walked. He came here for meditation and to attain salvation. There is a reason why everyone is not allowed into the temple at all times,” he argued. This reporter too was asked not to venture out onto the banks of the river without prior permission from the police.

(The destruction caused by Pamba in its wake)

The Malayalam month of Chingam, one of the most revered months among Hindus, is usually a time for huge footfall for the temple. This time, however, while the temple stayed open for 10 days, it has had no visitor.

“You all wanted to fight for women’s entry. Now, look, the Lord himself decided that nobody will enter,” he said. He pointed towards the Hill Top Parking, which is now completely full of debris and rubble. Right below the parking is the Pamba riverbed.

“If the Lord wanted, he could have completely destroyed it. My restaurant is so close to the parking but nothing happened to it. Let’s not forget, he ensured that no human lives are lost,” he said.

Another devotee Anandan weighed in and said that the temple had seen bad times since the start of the year. Earlier this year, in an unprecedented event, an elephant had gone berserk during one of the procedures at the temple, then a priest had died.

“There was a meeting that was called by those who know the scriptures and they had predicted something bad. Now look what has happened,” he added.

As debate rages about the entry of women in one of India’s topmost religious places, the work to restore the same and the other structures destroyed seems to be a monumental task.

destruction pamba
(The destruction caused by river Pamba)

The Travancore Devasom Board, which manages the temple, has estimated a loss of Rs 100 crore because of the flooding. Like Venugopal pointed out, no visitors during Chingam season have caused the temple about Rs 10 crore alone. The swollen river destroyed the resting places, washrooms, shops along its bed and has now changed its course.

Speaking to News18, N Vasu, commissioner at the Board, said that damage was unprecedented and completely unexpected. “The bridge that was used by devotees is almost invisible. The river has changed its course and has expanded, destroying the complexes along its way. It’s not going to be an easy task to fix the area,” he said.

The Army is expected to make a temporary bridge for the temple as pilgrimage season starts in just about two months’ time. But the biggest problem at hand, as Venu pointed out, is the removal of debris and the process of desilting. The commissioner said that the entire process might last for a month at least.

The damage caused has been a lesson for the authorities. As the debate rages about the construction on the banks of the Pamba, Venu said that there would be no new construction along the river banks and that bio toilets would be built on the banks for the first time.

“The area falls under the Periyar Tiger Reserve too. We have to see the rules and regulations of the Reserve also. But rest assured, there would be no new heavy construction,” Venu told News18.

| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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