Kochi: The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) informed the Kerala High Court that it cannot take measures to widen the 18 holy steps of the temple or enhance puja days of the Ayappa temple at Sabarimala to ease the rush of pilgrims.

The board, which manages the famous Ayappa temple at Sabarimala, is exploring feasibility of introducing a conveyor system for pilgrim movement across the 'Srikovil' (sanctum sanctorum).

The High Court had on July 15 last year directed the board to consider widening of the holy steps (Pathinattam Padi) to ease pilgrim movement and to enable them to have convenient darshan.

On September 2, there was a further direction to consider the possibility of having temple the opened round the year.

“A meeting of experts had been conducted on January 3 and thanthric and vedic experts and members of representatives of Royal families of Pandalam and Travancore were of the opinion that any modification of the temple structure cannot be permitted,” statement filed by P R Anitha, Secretary, TDB said.

“Temples in Kerala are 'Thanthric' in representations symbolising physical body and subtle body of the human form. The body and the presiding deity were designed and constructed according to 'thanthric injunctions' and principles of Indian temple architecture,” the statement read.

All the thanthric and vedic experts in the state were of the unanimous opinion that holy steps were unique in nature and cannot be altered and the opening of the temple throughout the year and any change in the present form of poojas was not permissible.

The board said even if the holy steps were widened, there was no sufficient space available in the upper courtyard of the shrine to accommodate more pilgrims. If more pilgrims are freely allowed to ascend the steps, it would create more pressure including chances of stampede.

However, to provide more breathing space to pilgrims, the board had decided to demolish few shops and sheds close to the temple. The copra processing unit and coconut stock yard would be shifted.

The temple is opened to devotees during the annual pilgrimage season from November to January, besides five days every month.

At least 102 pilgrims had been killed in a stampede at Pullmedu near the temple when they were returning after witnessing 'makaravillaku' (celestial light) on January 14.

(Agencies)