Pilgrims going to Sabarimala temple in Kerala can carry coconuts in cabin baggage in flights, with aviation security regulator BCAS relaxing the norms for a limited period.
A senior official of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) said the permission has been given for the ongoing Sabarimala season that is to end in late January.
Lakhs of devotees visit the hill shrine every year and majority of them carry ‘Irumudi Kettu’ (the sacred bag containing offerings, including coconut filled with ghee, to the Lord).
Coconuts meant for offering as part of Sabarimala pilgrimage have been allowed to be carried in cabin baggage for a limited period of time, the official told PTI on Tuesday.
The official also said that additional security measures and checks have been put in place in this regard.
Under current norms, coconuts are not permitted in cabin baggage on the grounds that they are flammable.
”… Coconuts, in the view of inconvenience to the pilgrims to Shri Sabarimala shall be allowed in cabin (carry on) baggage after the X-ray, ETD (Explosive Trace Detector) and physical check by ASG till the duration of Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage i.e. up to 20 Jan 2023,” BCAS said in a circular on Monday.
ASG refers to the Aviation Security Group.
The Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala opened for the two-month long pilgrimage season on November 16. The annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season started on November 17 and will end on January 20.
Generally, those undertaking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala prepare and pack ‘Irumudi Kettu’ as part of the ‘Kettunirakal’ ritual.
During the ritual, ghee is filled inside a coconut, which is then kept in the bag along with other offerings. The bag would also have few ordinary coconuts to be broken at various holy spots during the pilgrimage, according to the Sabarimala temple website.
Only those pilgrims who carry the ‘Irumudi Kettu’ on the head are allowed to climb the 18 sacred steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Those not carrying it have to take a different passage to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
The 41-day Mandala puja festival will conclude on December 27. The temple will be opened again on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage on January 14 and then the shrine will be closed on January 20.