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Sabarimala temple opens for prayer, Kerala govt non-committal on security

By Vishal S
|

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 16: The Sabarimala temple opened on Saturday for the 41-day-pilgrimage season, amid tight security in Pathanamthitta district in Kerala. The state government has deployed over 10,000 police personnel in the region to maintain law and order situation.

The annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala commences on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam which falls on November 17 and ends on December 27.

File photol

Devotees have to trek from base camp Pambha to reach the temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. At 2 pm, the devotees began their trek for the temple. A Hindustan Times report says that at least five women.

Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu would open the sanctum sanctorum and perform the pujas. A K Sudheer Namboodiri would take charge as the Sabarimala Melsanthi and M S Parameshwaran Namboodiri as Malikapuram Melsanthi. The pilgrims would be allowed to climb the 18 holy steps after the padi puja and have darshan. The portals of the hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, would be opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season this evening around 5 pm.

The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala, is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level-- Sabarimala. The devotees have to trek through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to pamba.

Massive clashes had erupted after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all ages into 2018.

"Women seeking protection to visit the shrine will have to get a court order. This (Sabarimala shrine) is not a place for activism. This is not a place for activists like Trupti Desai to show their strength. We will not take them in. Let them go get a court order," Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said on Friday.

Bhoomata Brigade's activist Trupti Desai, who shot to fame after entering and performing pooja at the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra, vowed to visit the Sabarimala temple after November 20 regardless of whether she would be provided protection by the Kerala government or not.

"I will go to Sabarimala after November 20. We will seek protection from the Kerala government and it is upto them to give us protection or not. Even if not provided with protection, I will visit Sabarimala for the darshan," reports quoted Desai as saying.

In a 3:2 verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday referred the Sabarimala matter to a larger Bench. The top court did not say anything adverse against its September 28, 2018 decision allowing women to enter the shrine nor did it stay the earlier judgement.

[What Sabarimala verdict means for Kerala politics]

While the five-judge bench unanimously agreed to refer the religious issues to a larger bench, it gave a 3:2 split decision on petitions seeking a review of the apex court's September 2018 decision allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala.

Meanwhile, the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala has decided to seek legal advice on the Sabarimala verdict hours after it was delivered on Thursday.

What happened at Sabarimala in 2018:

The state and temple precints had witnessed frenzied protests by right outfits and BJP workers last year after the LDF government had decided to implement the Supreme court's verdict of September 28, 2018 allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine. For centuries women in the menstruating age group of 10- 50 years were barred from entering the temple. However, this year, even though the top court has not stayed its verdict on entry of young women into the shrine while posting various petitions on the matter to a larger bench, the government was excercising caution. It has decided not to give police protection to women in 10-50 age group to trek the holy hills to reach the temple.

Sabarimala Timeline:

  • 1990: S Mahendran files plea in Kerala High Court seeking a ban on women's entry to the temple.
  • Apr 5, 1991: Kerala HC upholds an age-old restriction on women of a certain age-group entering the temple.
  • Aug 4, 2006: Indian Young Lawyers Association files plea in SC seeking to ensure entry of female devotees between the age group of 10 to 50 at the Lord Ayappa Temple at Sabarimala.
  • Nov 2007: LDF government of Kerala files affidavit supporting PIL questioning ban on women's entry.
  • Jan 11, 2016: Two-judge bench of SC questions practice banning entry of women at the temple.
  • Feb 6, 2016: Congress-led UDF government takes U-turn, tells SC it is duty-bound to "protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees".
  • Apr 11, 2016: SC says gender justice endangered by the ban on women.
  • Apr 13, 2016: SC says tradition can't justify the ban on women's entry.
  • Apr 21, 2016: Hind Navotthana Pratishtan and Narayanashrama Tapovanam file a plea in SC supporting entry of women.
  • Nov 7, 2016: LDF government files a fresh affidavit in SC saying it favoured the entry of women of all age groups. 2017
  • Oct 13, 2017: SC refers the case to the constitution bench.
  • Oct 27, 2017: Plea filed in SC for a gender-equal bench to hear the case.
  • Jul 17, 2018: Five-judge constitution bench starts hearing the matter.
  • Jul 19, 2018: SC says women have the fundamental right to enter the temple and questioned the rationale behind the age group.
  • Jul 24, 2018: SC makes it clear that the ban on entry of women would be tested on "constitutional ethos".
  • Jul 25, 2018: Nair Service Society tells SC the celibate nature of Sabarimala temple's presiding deity Lord Ayyappa is protected by the Constitution.
  • Jul 26, 2018: SC observes it can't remain oblivious to ban on entry of women as they were barred on "physiological ground" of menstruation.
  • Aug 1, 2018: SC reserves verdict.
  • Sep 28, 2018: SC, in 4:1 verdict, allows entry of women in Sabrimala temple, says banning females' entry into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practise violates rights of Hindu women.
  • Oct 8, 2018: Plea in SC by National Ayyappa Devotees Association seeks review of the judgement.
  • Oct 23, 2018: SC agrees to hear the review pleas on Nov 13.
  • Nov 13, 2018: SC agrees to hear the review pleas in open court on Jan 22, refuses to stay the judgement.
  • Nov 14, 2018: SC declines to stay its verdict.
  • Dec 3, 2018: Kerala govt moves SC seeking transfer of related cases from HC to the apex court. 2019
  • Jan 22, 2019: SC says it may not start hearing in the case till Jan 30 as Justice Indu Malhotra, lone woman judge of the 5-member Constitution bench goes on medical leave.
  • Jan 31, 2019: SC to hear review pleas on Feb 6.
  • Feb 6, 2019: SC reserves verdict on review pleas.
  • Nov 14, 2019: SC refers to the larger seven-judge bench for re-examining various religious issues, including entry of women into Sabarimala temple and mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Five-judge bench gives 3:2 majority verdict, keep pending the review pleas.

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