Lord Ayyappa’s temple in Sabarimala opened for two-month-long pilgrim season on Friday evening amid tight security.
The temple’s doors were opened even as the standoff over the entry of women in menstrual age persisted with little hope for early resolution.
The temple was opened in the presence of head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru at 5 pm after which two new melsanthis (priests) M L Vasudevan Namboodiri (Ayyappa temple) and M N Narayanan Namboodiri (Malikapapuram) assumed charge.
The 41-day mandalam festival will conclude on December 27 after Mandala pooja, when the shrine will close after the ‘Athazhapuja’ in the evening.
It would reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30. The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on January 14 after which the shrine will close on January 20, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when laksh of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.
Unprecedented security arrangements have been made at the shrine which is opening for the third time since the Supreme Court allowed women of all age groups to offer prayers, a move being opposed by devotees and others.
Meanwhile, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala shrine, Friday decided to approach the Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its order allowing women in the menstrual age to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The decision was taken after discussion with legal experts and board members, TDB President A Padmakumar told reporters here, a day ahead of the commencement of the two-month long annual pilgrim season.
The board will move the court either Saturday or Monday, he said even as the temple opened Friday evening amid mounting tension in the backdrop of the stand-off over protests by devotees against entry of the women in 10-50 age group.
“If possible, we will move a petition in the Supreme Court either tomorrow or Monday’”, he said adding the board wants devotees to have peaceful darshan.
The move comes a day after the LDF government at an all-party meeting took a firm stand that it was bound to implement the apex court order and rejected suggestions by opposition parties that it seek time from the apex court.
The temple and surrounding areas have come under unprecedented security for the season which draws lakhs of devotees to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa, a celibate.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear petitions seeking review of its September 28 order in January, but has refused to stay it.
(With PTI inputs)