All you need know about the Sabarimala temple
New Delhi, Sep 28: Sabarimala temple, dedicated to Ayyappa, is in the midst of a controversy with the Supreme Court questioning the basis of a 1500-year-old rule that prohibits women in the menstrual age group from entering the temple premises.
The apex court will give its final verdict on pleas challenging the ban on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved its judgement on August 1 after hearing the matter for eight days. The Kerala government, which has been changing its stand on the contentious issue of women of the menstrual age group entering the Sabarimala temple, had on July 18 told the Supreme Court that it now favoured their entry.
Even as the controversy rages on, we list out facts about the temple that you absolutely must know:
- The Sabarimala Temple, considered the abode of Lord Ayyappa, is located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Kerala.
- It is believed that Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union between Lord Shiva and the mythical Mohini, who is also regarded as an avatar of Lord Vishnu.
- The Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala sees millions of pilgrims swarm to its doorsteps on the eve of Makara Vilakku Day. It is the holy Hindu day when Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana met Sabari, a tribal Goddess. Devotees believe that on that day Lord Dharmasastha stops his Tapasya to bless all the devotees visiting the temple.
- They have a specific colour code for the pilgrimage which they follow. They have to wear black or blue dress. They can also be seen smearing Sandal paste and Vibhuti on their forehead while undertaking the pilgrimage.
- Sabarimala's official website says it is "open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion".
- The temple prohibits the entry of women in their 'menstruating years' (between the ages of 10 to 50), on the grounds that it is a place of worship.
- Travancore Devaswom Board is said to have the legal authority to manage the Sabarimala temple's administration.
- The board has heavily relied on Article 26 of the Constitution, which guarantees a religious denomination of right to manage its own internal religious affairs.
- The Sabarimala temple board had even argued that women are restricted from entering the temple as they "can't do" the tough 41-day penance.
- A controversy began when Jayamala, a Kannada actor, claimed in 2006 that she had entered the sanctum sanctorum and touched the idol of the presiding deity in Sabarimala.
- Last year, a 31-year-old woman made a failed attempt to enter the temple. The woman, a resident of West Godavari district in Telangana, was picked up from 'sannidhanam', the temple complex.
- The temple has witnessed two major stampedes that have claimed over 200 lives.
- On January 14, 1999, a stampede on the foothills of Sabarimala killed 53 and another 104 pilgrims died on Makara Jyothi Day at Sabarimala in 2011.
- At least 20 Sabarimala pilgrims were injured in a "minor stampede" in December, 2016 due to a heavy rush of devotees.