Sabarimala: Five people were arrested on charges of damaging a new gold-coated flag post consecrated only on Sunday afternoon at the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

Representational image of Sabarimala Temple. Reuters

Representational image of Sabarimala Temple. Reuters

CCTV cameras identified the culprits, who were caught by the temple guards. After preliminary interrogation, five people from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh were taken into custody.

The new flag post was donated by a business group from Andhra Pradesh. It reportedly cost Rs 3.5 crore.

It was on Sunday that it was consecrated by the priests in the presence of state devasom minister Kadakampally Surendran and other devasom officials.

“This is something really sad and unfortunate. We are told mercury dipped in a cloth was thrown on the lower portion of the flag post and it got damaged,” Surendran told reporters at the temple.

Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple is four kilometres uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is around 100 km from the Kerala capital.

CCTV visuals that have been released show a white piece of cloth being thrown at the foot of the flag post. Soon, the gold coating peels off because of chemical reaction.

According to the visuals, a person aged around 65 years hurled the mercury-dipped cloth while two others standing close by caught the incident on their mobile camera.

The police seized a bottle containing mercury from the bag of one of those in custody.

Police believe the reason for the crime may be business rivalry. The attackers were believed to be ranged against the business group which paid for the flag post.