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Aluva all set for Sivarathri

Tomorrow is Sivarathri when thousands will throng the Aluva Manalpuram. <145,4>KUNDUR SATHYA NARAYANAN profiles the famed sandbank and the legends that abound here

The famed Manalpuram at Aluva, where legends nestle, is all dressed up for Maha Sivarathri, when thousands will gather to remember their departed, loved ones. The Periyar flows by silently, its bed and banks used for all things right and wrong.

This year, Sivarathri falls on March 12.

Though elaborate arrangements are being made for Shivarathri this year too, the Manalpuram fails to get the attention of the authorities for the rest of the year.

``Some fifty years ago, in the month of Kumbham, the Periyar flowed through this area as narrow strips of water. But indiscriminate sand mining has killed the Periyar,'' laments P. S. Gopinadhan Nair, president of the All Kerala River Protection Council.

The Manalpuram has narrowed because of sand mining. Years ago, as per a court decision, stone walls were built to protect the banks of the Manalpuram. But unfortunately, sand from this very area was used to fill the Manalpuram. Therefore, in the floods that followed, the stonewalls were damaged and fell into the river, causing many accidents.

Sand mining in these areas has claimed many lives too, in recent years. In Periyar, long poles are being used for sand mining and the riverbed has deepened to more than eight metres. A warning has been put up recently.

The Aluva Environment Protection Forum, formed in 1986, has introduced various programmes for protecting the Periyar. The Periyar Action Plan is one of them. As chief investigator of the Project, Seetharaman, a retired professor of Chemistry, travelled through the entire trajectory of the river, with his friends. One of the main suggestions laid out in the Plan was the need for setting up of Periyar River Authority.

But the project study itself was trapped in red tape.

And the Periyar still flows polluted and exploited.

The Manalpuram is often ravaged by anti-social elements, feel devotees.

It's high time security personnel are appointed to safeguard Manalpuram, suggest the local people.

What gains significance in this season are the legends the place is associated with. One legend goes thus: The Bhuthaganas of Shiva were building a temple at this Manalppuram, when Vishnu came here, disguised as a cock and crowed to mislead the Bhuthaganas.

The Bhuthaganas, fearing that dawn had approached, left the work unfinished.

It is a fact that though unfinished in nature, this temple has withstood many a flood and still stands as an enigma to the architects, regarding its foundation and structure.

Another legend has it that Sri Rama, during his search for Sita, performed tharpana for Jadayu here.

Though a number of issues wait for permanent solutions, the Manalppuram and the Periyar wait for D-Day now.

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