Newly installed gold plated mast of Sabarimala temple damaged by pouring mercury on Sunday

The Sabarimala devotee were shocked when they heard that the newly installed golden post was damaged by pouring mercury. Officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hill shrine, said that three persons were taken into custody in connection with the incident.

Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad Grama Panchayat in Kerala. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, with an estimated over 100 million devotees visiting every year. Ayyappa’s temple is situated amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m (4,133 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. 

The ‘panchavargathara’, the square base, of the mast was found damaged this Sunday afternoon by using some chemical, suspected to be mercury. The teakwood mast, covered using 9.16 kg of gold, 300 kg of copper and 17 kg of silver, was ceremonially installed by the head priest, Kandararu Rajeevararu after performing purification rituals in the morning. The new flag post was donated by a business group from Andhra Pradesh. It reportedly cost Rs 3.5 crore.

State Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said the damaging of the panchavargathara using mercury or some other such chemical substance was “mysterious.” Police believed that this act happened on Sunday afternoon after the rituals were completed.

The 10-day festival at the Sabarimala temple is scheduled to begin on June 28. The shrine will be closed on July 7 after the ‘aarattu’ ritual, which marks the end of the festival.

Rajat Bhandary