Two days after the Supreme Court referred the review petitions against its 2018 judgment of allowing entry to women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine to a seven-judge bench, the Lord Ayappa Temple is all set to open today for the Mandala Pooja festival. However, the government said those women desirous of visiting the hill temple should get a “court order" also women of all age groups will be allowed to enter the temple, but no protection will be given to them.
Sabarimala temple opens today: 10 points
- With the two-month long annual pilgrimage season set to commence from today, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said Sabarimala is not a place for activism and the LDF government would not support those who make announcements about entering the hill shrine for the sake of publicity.
- Women desirous of visiting Sabarimala should get a "court order," State temple affairs minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
- Tight security will be provided during the pilgrimage season with over 10,000 police personnel being posted in phases in and around the hill temple.
- The Devaswom Board, which manages the temples in the state, said resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam areas has already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities. At Sannidhanam alone, facilities have been arranged for around 6,500 people to rest with their bags containing sacred offerings.
- Resting area for 9,000 devotees have been arranged at Nilackal where there is a parking area for over 9,000 vehicles also.There are over 1000 toilets, 120 urinals and 60 bathrooms at Nilackal," a senior official in the Devaswom ministry said.
- Similarly at Pamba, the Board has arranged facilities for 3000 people to rest. The board has also set up five emergency medical centres.
- The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has decided to deploy 150 buses to transport devotees between Pamba and Nilackal, a distance of around 18 km. The KSRTC has also arranged special services from almost all parts of the state to Pamba and Nilackal.
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.
The temple tantri (head priest), Kandararu Mahesh Mohanaru and melshanti (chief priest) A K Sudheer Namboodiri will open the temple on November 16 evening at 5 PM.
The new priests will take charge on November 16.
The Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta district had last year witnessed violent protests by right wing outfits and devotees over the September 28, 2018, order of the apex court allowing women of all age groups, including those in the menstruating age, to offer prayers at the hill shrine.
Unlike last year, when the shrine and the adjacent areas were recuperating from the August deluge that had hit the state, the Devaswom Board this year has made extensive arrangements to receive devotees.
Pune-based women's right activist Trupti Desai, who tried to defy the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala shrine last year too said that she will go to the shrine after November 20 even if she is not provided protection by the state government. "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," she said.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led United Democratic Front demanded withdrawal of the state government's affidavit in the Supreme Court which it said was filed in favour of women's entry into the shrine.
"Belief and devotees are two factors considered by the Court while hearing this case. The state government and its affidavit is against both. That's why we demand withdrawal of the affidavit," opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said.
The five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday said a larger bench will re-examine various religious issues, including the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple and mosques and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
(With PTI inputs)