Thiruvanathpuram, Nov 14: In strict adherence to rituals dating back decades, the main runway at the Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala will be closed for a few hours Wednesday for a temple procession to pass through.
Twice every year, airport operations at Thiruvananthapuram come to a complete stop for a few hours as the ‘Arattu’ (ritual bath) procession from the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the state capital pass through the runway on its way to the Shankhumukam beach. The ritual has come to be defined as a permanent fixture during the temple festivals of Painkuni and Alpassi, dating back as far to the reign of Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma, the last king of Travancore.
Before the airport’s inception, this was the traditional route followed by temple authorities for the ‘arattu’ procession. The temple’s deity is carried in a ‘garuda vahana’ accompanied by hundreds of people, caparisoned elephants, drums and cymbals for the ritual dip in the Shankhumukham beach. After the bath, the procession returns through the same runway back to the temple, this time accompanied by traditional torches. The members of the erstwhile-Travancore royal family take part in the procession every year.
Airport authorities said a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) is issued ahead of the processions every year, which allows airlines to change their flight schedules accordingly.
“It’s been going on every year. Flights are always re-scheduled during this period,” said an official.
On Wednesday, officials said the runway will be closed between 4 pm and 9 pm for the procession to pass through before resuming operations once again. Airlines like Air India, IndiGo and Jet Airways are said to have readjusted their schedules already. People taking part in the procession have to take special passes from airport authorities to enter the premises.