After a 20-day lull since the annual pilgrim season began, long queues and packed crowds are back at the Lord Ayyappa Temple here, which had witnessed a drastic dip in pilgrim arrivals in the initial weeks. The lifting of restrictions imposed by police and ease in tension that had prevailed at the shrine, following protests against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict, permitting women of all age groups, have triggered high inflow of devotees after the initial lull. According to temple sources, over 85,126 pilgrims visited the hill top temple on Friday alone, indicating a steady increase in the footfalls. While the head count was 79,306 on December 3, it was 61,037 on December 4 and 51,335 on December 5, as per the figures. Over 45,000 pilgrims had visited the Lord Ayyappa temple on December 6, the anniversary of the Babari Masjid demolition day, though there had been extra vigil and additional security arrangements at the temple complex. Unlike the previous years, the temple wore a deserted look for many days after it opened for the over two-month-long monthly pilgrim season on November 16. The number of devotees, who had offered prayers at the shrine, was just 28,717 on November 16, as per figures. A temple release said nine lakh devotees had so far worshipped at the shrine since it opened for the pilgrim season. It said that the Hundi collection and revenue from sale of appam and Aravana prasadams had also gone up. The devastation caused by the August floods had affected the usual pre-season arrangements implemented by the government at Nilackal, the base camp, and Pamba, the last gateway to the hill temple. The dearth of dormitory facilities, safe drinking water and restrictions imposed on private vehicles have caused difficulties for devotees and affected their usual inflow. Besides this, the intense protests by devotees and right wing groups against the LDF government's decision to implement the September 28 apex court verdict on the entry of young women had distanced pilgrims away from the forest temple, located in the Western Ghats. Prohibitory orders had been invoked in and around Sabarimala by police following the violent protests. The opposition Congress-led UDF and BJP had been on a war path against the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government for the past several weeks, demanding lifting of prohibitory orders. Raising the same demand, three UDF MLAs have been staging a satyagraha at the portals of the state Assembly, while BJP state general secretary A N Radhakrishnan is on an indefinite fast before the Secretariat since last week.