Kerala airport closed down for five hours for Padmanabha Swamy procession!!
It is indeed God’s own country because the state of Kerala may have the only international airport where flight operations is rescheduled twice a year to pave way for annual festivals of deity Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
In total, five hours is the total time for which the flight operations to and from the airport would come to a halt. “Aarattu,” the ritual bath procession of temple idols, passes through its runway on the final day of the 10-day ‘Painkuni’ and ‘Alpassi” festivals (celebrated during the Tamil months of Painkuni and Alpassi months respectively) of the shrine.
The airport issues a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), a notice containing information concerning the establishment, condition or change in any facility, service or procedure, among others, in airspace management, in this regard a week ahead of the procession, airport sources said.
Armed CISF personnel stand guard on both sides of the runway when the idols pass to take a ritualistic bath in the nearby Shangumugham Beach crossing the airport premises.
After the ‘holy bath’, the procession goes back to the temple through the same route in the night with an escort of people carrying burning ‘theevettis’ (traditional fire lamps).
As this year’s ‘Aarattu’ procession, marking the culmination of the ongoing ‘Alpassi’ festival at the Lord Padmanabha Temple, would be held tomorrow evening, flight operations at the airport were scheduled to be cancelled between 4 and 9 p.m, airport authorities said.
According to the temple management, the procession moves through the airport runway as the area is part of the traditional ‘aarattu route’ through which it has been passing for several centuries to reach the beach.
The procession used to pass through the same route even before the airport was established in the year 1932, they said.
The temple issues special passes to participants in the ‘aarattu’ as it passes through the high-security airport area, they added.
Thiruvananthapuram Airport Director George G Tharakan said NOTAM is usually issued a week before the procession date, so that flight operators worldwide are aware of the need to change the schedule.
“I do not think, such a practise is followed anywhere in the world…The runway will be closed completely and all flight operations, both domestic and international, will be halted for five hours. It is the time when modernity meets tradition,” he told PTI.>