Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 15: Sabarimala, Kerala's famed temple, opens its doors Monday for the annual two-month pilgrimage that is expected to see over 40 million devotees visiting the hilltop shrine this year.
The health department has made arrangements for the devotees at the foothills and enroute to the temple top, including increasing the number of "oxygen parlours".
The Indian Railways has announced it will operate more coaches while the state state government will run more buses.
Earlier, the Devaswom (temple affairs) ministers and secretaries of south Indian states met to discuss arrangements for pilgrims coming from their states.
Last year, a record 40 million devotees visited the temple. This year a 10 percent rise in the figure is expected, temple authorities said.
More than 5,000 officials, including around 3,000 policemen, will be deployed in the temple town in Pathanamthitta district to oversee the daily administration of the festival season.
Additional chief secretary and head of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) K. Jayakumar told IANS that all arrangements had been made for the new pilgrimage season.
"Several review meetings have been held to look into the various pilgrim facilities for the smooth conduct of the festival," said Jayakumar.
Women who have attained puberty but not reached menopause are barred from entering the Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.
Sabarimala temple is situated in the Western Ghats, at an altitude of 914 meters above sea level. The temple is accessible only by foot from Pamba, the main halting point.
Though the temple is now open throughout the year, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November and closes on the first day of the Malayalam month in January.
Some of the ardent devotees observe a 41-day penance before the pilgrimage during which they do not wear leather sandals, are attired in black dhoti and eat only vegetarian food.