The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government to allow 20,000 devotees on November 19 and 20 at Tiruvannamalai in the state for the annual holy Karthigai deepam festival and the 'girivalam' (circumbulation). The Karthigai deepam festival at the Arulmigu Arunachaleshwarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai is scheduled to be held on Friday.
The bench of Acting Chief Justice M Duraiswamy and Justice J Sathya Narayana Prasad was disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition from D Senthilkumar, who through his counsel V Duraipandi sought permission for at least 20,000 people while the government resolved to issue 13,000 entry passes for this purpose, citing covid-19 spread. The bench directed the respondents, including the Chief Secretary, The Commissioner, Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Board and the district Collector to permit 5,000 devotees belonging to Tiruvannamalai and 15,000 others from other districts and states.
Since the respondents have resolved to permit 13,000 devotees per day from November 7-17 and considering the substantial decrease in covid cases in Tamil Nadu, "we are of the considered view that the respondent authorities can make necessary arrangements for granting permission to 20,000 devotees per day on 19.11.2021 and 20.11.2021 and the increase of 7,000 devotees per day on those two days shall not matter much for the state government considering the vast extent of the holy hill and the sanctity attached to the temple festival/ritual," the court said.
"In all, 20,000 devotees per day should be permitted on 19.11.2021 and 20.11.2021 to circumambulate the holy hill (to go on Girivalam)," the bench said. The devotees shall be allowed to book their slot on the virtual mode and entry shall be permitted only on production of such online ticket. They should also produce double vaccination certificate to gain entry, the court directed.
The authorities shall ensure that all devotees are subjected to temperature check at the entry point. The devotees should follow all covid-19 protocols as per the guidelines issued by the state government. Directing the respondent officials to provide adequate medical facilities on the Girivalam path, the court ruled devotees shall not use banned plastic items during the circumambulation.
"Facilities for hand washing shall be provided by temple administration at frequent intervals all along the path and queue," the court said and disposed of the PIL.
-With PTI Inputs