Travancore Devaswom Board and the film trade have promptly taken up Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's appeal to avoid mass gatherings.
TDB president N Vasu exhorted devotees not to visit Sabarimala for the six-day monthly pujas that begin on March 13. The film trade, on their part, has decided to shut down exhibition centres across the state till March 31.
“We believe that the faithful will heed our request and keep away from Sabarimala,” Vasu told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, minutes after the Chief Minister gave the appeal to prevent large gatherings. Vasu said hundreds of pilgrims, including foreigners, normally visit the hill shrine during the monthly pujas.
The TDB president said all rituals would be conducted as usual. Sabarimala's chief priests are 'purappeda shanthis' (isolated monks) who will have no contact with the outside world during their tenure. “The priests will carry out all the necessary rituals without fail,” Vasu said.
The 'appam' and 'aravana' counters will also remain closed. The TDB president, however, said there would be no attempt to physically prevent pilgrims from trekking up the shrine. “We have still not thought on those lines. We are sure devotees would realise the gravity of the situation and act accordingly,” Vasu said.
He also said that temples under the TDB would not conduct festivals during March. The Chief Minister had said that temples and churches should limit festivals during March to certain core rituals so that devotees would not collect in large numbers. “People coming together at this time would be harmful. It will allow the virus to spread,” the Chief Minister had warned.
The decision to shut down theatres was taken at a meeting of film trade bodies held in Kochi on Tuesday. Trade office-bearers announced that there would be no film screenings from March 11.
This will mean that the release date of Priyadarshan-Mohanlal big budget drama, 'Marakkar - Arabikkadalinte Simham', will be postponed. Actor Tovino Thomas had already announced that the release of his film 'Kilometres and Kilometres', which was set to hit the screens this week, would be postponed. While announcing the decision two days ago, Tovino had said that it would be prudent to avoid public gatherings to control the spread of COVID-19.
A decision on film shootings has not been taken. “It is up to the directors and producers to take a call on whether they want to stop shooting for two weeks,” Unnikrishnan B, the general secretary of Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), said.