Sabarimala Ayyappa temple

Three people have been detained in connection with the damage caused to the base — panchavargathara — of the newly-unveiled golden flag mast at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala on Sunday.

While local reports say the mast was destroyed with mercury — visuals from the spot definitely make the substance look like one of the two metals that can exist in liquid state at room temperature — subsequent reports have claimed the substances used to damage the flag mas is possibly an acid.

The incident is believed to have taken place during worship between 11:50 am and 1:40 pm on Sunday. The damage having already been done, the portion of the vandalised mast has since been covered with a white cloth even as regular rituals resumed at the holy Hindu shrine.

‘Mercury-applied cloth’

Following the incident, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said there was some sort of revenge involved in the act. It was he who first promulgated the idea that mercury might have been poured at the base of the flag mast.

“I suspect revenge behind the incident. The perpetrators would have thrown the mercury-applied cloth after the Ucha Pooja. Inspection of CCTVs installed by police and [Travancore] Devaswom Board will give a clarity on the incident. Identifying the culprits is the main aim right now,” he told reporters after the incident.

Mercury reacts with gold by forming an amalgam that is silver in colour, and this is another fact that strengthened the belief that mercury might have been used in Sunday’s act of vandalism.

People in custody

However, a Times of India report later said that three people had been taken into custody by the Travancore Devaswom Board guards and the local police. following a scanning of the CCTV footage of the incident. Apparently, one of the trio was seen pouring some liquid over the base of the flag mast.

While forensic tests are being conducted to know the exact nature of the substance poured on the panchavargathara, the cops are also grilling the three in connection with the case to find out what they had poured on the flag mast, and why they did it.