In Sabarimala, in the midst of the recent (and continuing) debate around whether women of menstruating age should be allowed inside the temple comes a fresh controversy. This one — however — is unlikely to have many opponents.
As per tradition, pilgrims throw their clothes into the Pamba river when they make the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala. But now, as part of “Mission Green Sabarimala”, over 200,000 people have signed a pledge to discontinue this practice.
The mission also aims to collect enough signatures to make it to the Limca Book of Records.
“All the pilgrims who come here bathe in the Pamba river; so it is crucial for us to keep it clean. There is a myth that one should dispose of one’s clothes in the river after taking a dip in it. This is not true. We decided to rope in 10 people every day, all college students, to volunteer for us and ask the pilgrims to take the pledge and sign the canvas,” said Pathanamthitta district collector S. Harikishore.
Not just clothes — the river is incredibly polluted with plastics as well. Four years ago, a wild elephant had died after ingesting a large amount of waste from the river. This incident was what led the administration to begin the drive to clean up the river.
Each person who visits Sabarimala leaves behind at least 250 grams of plastic, resulting in thousands of tonnes of collected waste every year. The ancient temple, located within the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, today faces a major environmental threat.
The annual pilgrimage to the temple is one of the largest in the world. It is estimated that over 100 million people visit the temple every year.
For devotees to be able to continue to make the pilgrimage to Sabarimala year after year, it will be crucial that they join together to protect its environment. That is the only way in which they can ensure that its beauty will be accessibly by future generations as well.