The Sabarimala temple opened at 5 pm Saturday for the 41-day annual pilgrimage season, hours after 10 women from Andhra Pradesh were sent back from the hill shrine in Kerala in the afternoon. The state government on Friday said the shrine is "no place for activism" and activists hoping to make a statement by going on the pilgrimage will not be given police protection. The Kerala government is also non-committal about giving protection to women between the age of 10 and 50 years, who were allowed to enter the shrine after the Supreme Court last year lifted a ban on the entry of menstruating women. The Supreme Court has referred review petitions against its 2018 verdict to a seven-judge bench. Security has been heightened around the hill shrine and more than 10,000 cops will be deployed in four phases.
With the Kerala police sending back three Andhra Pradesh women pilgrims from praying at the famed Sabarimala temple on Saturday, the recent Supreme Court decision not staying its September 28, 2018, order allowing women of all ages inside the temple failed to be a reality.
The Kerala police on Saturday did not allow three women, who were part of a group, to go to the Sabarimala temple after checking the identity cards of the women.
Though the temple tradition disallows women in the age group of 10 to 50 years to enter the temple precinct, the Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear that it has not stayed the September 28, 2018 order allowing women to enter the temple.
This time, the Kerala government has, however, made its position clear that it will not make any effort to see that women were taken to the temple to pray.
Last year, the police provided security to women pilgrims who faced stiff resistance from the activists of the right-wing activists who chased them away.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra told reporters on Saturday that everything was in place and that he would be meeting the Advocate General to understand the Supreme Court verdict.
“Today, we will be monitoring the entire arrangement… depending on the situation, things will be reviewed,” said Behra.
The two-month-long Sabarimala temple festival officially opens for pilgrims on Sunday at 5 a.m. However, it opened today at 5 p.m. for religious rituals to be performed by the temple priest and ‘tantris.’
The three women who were barred entry to the temple came from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. They were part of a group of pilgrims who were stopped for checking by the police at Pamba base camp.
The police after checking the Aadhar cards of these three women, were separated from the group as the police found them to be in the age group of 10-50 years.
The police said later that its team briefed the three women about the temple tradition, and that they agreed to stay back. The rest of the pilgrims were allowed to proceed further.
Meanwhile, Kerala police have asked its men to announce in buses bound for the pilgrimage venue that the women in the banned age group will not be allowed beyond the Pamba base camp. From the base camp, one has to trek to the Sabarimala shrine located atop a hill.
The famed Sabarimala temple that resembled a fortress a year ago wore a peaceful look on Saturday.
No prohibitory orders, which were clamped last year, have been in place in and around the temple town this time.
Situated in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, Sabarimala temple is 4 km uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is around 100 km from the capital city.
The temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan, also known as Dharma Sastha, who according to belief is the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Vishnu.
The temple is accessible only on foot from Pamba.
Devout pilgrims observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Every pilgrim has to carry a kit — ‘Alrumudi’ containing coconuts which are broken just before climbing the 18 steps on one’s head — during the pilgrimage and without it, none is allowed to go up the holy 18 steps at the ‘Sannidhanam’. (IANS)