Swamy Ayyappa, the deity at the famous hill shrine of Sabarimala in southern Kerala , seems to have taken PM Narendra Modi’s dream of a cashless economy very seriously, with digital payments now accounting for nearly 15% of the daily revenue that accrues from sale of prasadam, puja and offerings.
Thousands of pilgrims flock to the shrine between November and January, bringing cash, precious metals and jewels in offerings. Fifteen swipe machines were installed by Dhanlaxmi Bank in response to the demand from pilgrims who recounted practical difficulties in the wake of demonetisation.
Pilgrims are swiping an average of Rs 10-15 lakh a day at the shrine as offerings and to buy prasadam, MR Manjith of Dhanlaxmi Bank, official bankers of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), said. “On the first day the pilgrimage season, the collection from digital payment was Rs 5 lakh and it has moved up very quickly,” he added.
Devotees can also transact any amount of money to the deity as offering through the ‘e-hundi’ and put the receipts in a conventional hundi kept beside. All types of credit and debits cards of all banking institutions could be used at the e-hundi counter and for a credit card, up to a low of R1 can be transacted. Bank sources said that digital payment is preferred mostly for buying prasadam and has a share of 15-20% of the daily sales of Aravanaa and Appas out of the total sales of Rs 70-80 lakh.
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“Devotees still prefer to use cash as offerings in the ‘hundi’ and the ‘e-hundi’ offering is limited to R20,000-25,000 per day,” bank sources at the temple said.Hundi collections for the current season is seen around R6.65 crore
Dhanlaxmi Bank sources said that the shrine has six ATM machines at the top of the hill and one at the base camp.