Earnings at the famed Sabarimala temple have crossed Rs.51 crore (Rs.510 million) at the end of the first month of this pilgrimage season. Devasom Minister G. Sudhakaran told that the main reason for the record earnings is the rise in number of pilgrims this year.
'Another reason is that the production of the temple prasadam -- aravana and appom (holy offering) -- have been streamlined and this time, the entire collection is managed by the Dhanalaksmi bank officials directly, who are entrusted with the counting and accounting process,' he said.
In previous years, it was the officials of the Travancore Devasom Board who counted the money and there were allegations that some used to swallow up to four Rs.1,000 denomination notes.
'This time, nothing of that sort happens because we have used technology and it is the bank officials who do this job,' the minister said.
Sabarimala temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, 914 metres above sea level, four km uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district of the state. One of the most famous Hindu pilgrim centres in India, it bars women who have attained puberty but have not reached menopause from entering it.
Even though the temple is now open throughout the year, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam era month in November (Nov 17 this year) and closes on the first day of the Malayalam era month in January.
'We are happy that our work to make things transparent has earned its rewards. This is reflected in the earnings. During our first year (2006-07), the total collection was Rs.80 crore (Rs.800 million), last season it touched Rs.83 crore (Rs.830 million) and this time, we are confident it would cross Rs.100 crore (Rs.1 billion),' said Sudhakaran.
He added that on account of proper production facilities of the temple prasadam in the total collections, they expect its sales would come close to Rs.40 crore (Rs.400 million).
' Last season (November to January), close to four crore (40 million) pilgrims arrived and this time the number would cross 4.50 crore (45 million),' the minister added.