Sabarimala on the boil again as 11 women attempt to enter Lord Ayyappa shrine
Thirivananthapuram, Dec 23: Tensions flared up near the Sabarimala Temple on Sunday morning as a group of 11 women, below the age of 50 years, began to trek with the intension of visiting the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
The Ayyappa devotees protested against the move and are trying to stop the women. Women, in the age group of 10-50 years, are traditionally barred from entering the Sabarimala temple.
But the Supreme Court, in its September 28 verdict, lifted the ban and permitted women of all age groups to offer prayers at the temple. After the SC verdict, several women have tried to enter the shrine but have been unsucessful so far due to the massive protest by the devotees.
The 11 women are members of the Chennai-based "Manithi" outfit. Though they attempted to trek through the traditional forest path, about five kilometres from the temple complex, they could not go forward as devotees started 'namajapa' (chanting of hymns of the lord) protest against them. They are now squatting on the road. Police have thrown a security ring around them.
As per latest reports, Pathanamthitta district magistrate has extended Section 144 till 27th December.
Clad in the customary black dress, the women, led by the outfit's coordinator Selvi, insisted to the police that they want protection to offer prayers at the shrine. As the news spread, a large number of devotees thronged Pamba, about five kilometres away from Sannidhanam (Sabarimala temple complex).
Kerala: Group of women devotees reached Pampa base camp in the early morning hours to trek to #SabarimalaTemple, said, "Please give us way, we will visit the temple and return back soon." pic.twitter.com/VqgTSXK5Aw— ANI (@ANI) December 23, 2018
Police officials are now holding talks with the representatives of the outfit. Anxiety loomed in and around Sabarimala temple for some days as 'Manithi', the outfit, had declared that a group of 50 women, all below the traditionally barred age of 50 years, would visit the shrine on Sunday.
On October 20, Two women, who came within 500 meters of entering the Sabarimala Temple, had to turn back and return after the head priest of the shrine threatened to shut down the shrine and stop prayers. Over a hundered cops led by Inspector General S Sreejith had given two women, an activist and a journalist, a security cover and escorted them along the trek to the shrine. But when head priest issued a threat, Sreejith reportedly spoke to these women and convinced them to return.
Had they entered the shrine, they would have become first women from the menstruating age group to visit the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa.
Over a dozen women have so far made unsuccessful attempts to trek the holy hills. Four transgenders, who were earlier stopped from proceeding towards the Lord Ayyappa temple citing security reasons, offered prayers at the hill shrine under heavy police security earlier this week.
What is Sabarimala Temple row all about:
Sabarimala temple, dedicated to Ayyappa, is in the midst of a controversy after the Supreme Court questioned the basis of a rule that prohibits women in the menstrual age group from entering the temple premises.
Devotees have been aggressively protesting a Supreme Court order that allows women of menstrual age to enter the temple, a ban that was followed for decades as a religious practice. With the Kerela government saying it will follow the court order and ensure women are allowed in the temple, protests have swept across the state leading to state-wide unrest.