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Donations from 37 countries pour in at Sabarimala temple

HIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The whole country may be grappling with acute shortage of notes post demonetisation. But not the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, as donations in different currencies have poured in from across the world at the temple since the commencement of the ongoing pilgrimage season.

Since November 16 – the day the temple opened for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival – the temple received donations from 37 countries with representation from all continents except South America and Antarctica. The offerings in foreign currencies, mainly from Non-Resident Indians, amounted to Rs 15 lakh in the first week of December.

The UAE Dirham (AED) topped the conversion chart with a total of Rs 6,58,263 pouring in as donations. It was followed by the Malaysian Ringgit (`70,365) and Singapore Dollar (`58,221). US Dollars worth Rs 3,22,771 have been donated in the period under review. Currencies from Gulf region, where 80 percent of Non-Resident Keralites live, accounted for a sizeable chunk of donations. Besides AED, the shrine’s collections pots received offerings in Qatari Riyal, Bahraini Dinar, Omani Rial, Kuwaiti Dinar and Saudi Riyal. Devotees from Europe donated British Pound and Euro as well as Swiss Franc, said an official of Travancore Devaswom Board (TBD), which manages the temple.

Besides the Malaysian Ringgit, Asian currencies included the Chinese Yuan,  Bangladeshi Taka, Nepalese Rupee, Sri Lankan Rupee, South Korean Won, Mauritian Rupee, Maldivian Rufiyaa, Philippine Peso, Thai Baht and Iraqi Dinar. From Africa, donations in Tanzanian Shilling, Angolan Kwanza, Botswana Pula and Ethiopian Birr reached the temple. The total offerings in foreign currencies are expected to exceed previous year’s figure of `1.45 crore by the end of the season, said the TDB official.

Shedding light on a possible psychological factor that influences the trend, former Melsanthi Gosala Vishnu Vasudevan Namboodiri said devout NRKs want to make cash offerings to their God in the same currency that supports their livelihood. TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said the diaspora population constituted a significant number among pilgrims.

“The offerings are deposited by NRIs, mostly from South India who are ardent devotees of Lord Ayyappa. This year, too, their number has increased corresponding to the rise in total number of devotees,” he added.

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