Kerala’s famed Sabarimala court will reopen today evening for two days amid heightened tensions and security following intense agitations against women entering the temple after the Supreme Court of India, in a 4-1 verdict, asserted that the temple be open to women of all age, ending the entry ban on women of menstruating age.
On September 28, the Chief Justice of India headed bench of the Supreme Court, in a 4-1 verdict, asserted that the temple be open to women of all age, ending the entry ban on women of menstruating age. It said the centuries-old custom at the shrine was not an essential religious practice and “the attribute of devotion to divinity cannot be subjected to the rigidity and stereotypes of gender”. Four of the five judges on the bench — then CJI Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud — ruled against the restriction on women while Justice Indu Malhotra gave a dissenting opinion, saying “the religious practice of restricting the entry of women between the ages of 10 to 50 years is in pursuance of an ‘essential religious practice’… notions of rationality cannot be invoked in matters of religion by courts”.
In October, the apex court had said that it would hear the review petitions regarding its earlier judgment last month that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on November 13.
The temple opened on October 17, the first time after the apex court verdict, and closed on October 22 after the evening prayers.
Twelve women had been stopped by protesters from reaching the temple.
The temple administration had threatened to lock the temple and stop rituals if any tradition would be broken. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) said that it would file a detailed report on the ‘grave situation’ to the Supreme Court.
The Pathanamthitta district administration Friday had imposed Section 144 in four areas, police said Sunday. Prohibitory orders have also been issued for the base towns of Pamba, Nilakkal, Erumeli and Elavunkal. Around 2,300 personnel, including a 20-member commando team and 100 women personnel, have been deployed to ensure smooth ‘darshan’ and security of devotees.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that the government was committed to implementing the SC order, Devaswom (temple affairs) Minister Kadakampally Surendran said no young woman had approached authorities so far seeking police protection to trek to the temple. “
We will not allow women activists to go to the temple. They have ulterior motives. Such persons will be sent back from the base camps,’’ he said.
Tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru and chief priest Unnikrishnan Namboodiri would jointly open the temple doors and light the lamp at the ‘Sreekovil’ (sanctum sanctorum). Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said the state government would ensure complete protection to believers.
So far, no women in the ‘barred’ age group had approached police for protection to offer prayers at the hill shrine, he said. The Pandalam royal family, closely associated with the Ayyappa shrine, said it was “pained” at the heavy security in and around Sabarimala.
“Saddened that devotees will have to offer prayers at the shrine amid thick police cover,” it said.
Devotees, who arrived at Erumeli since Sunday evening, protested this morning for not being allowed to leave for Pamba and Sannidhanam. They blocked traffic chanting ‘Ayyappa Sarnam’.
“We have been waiting since last evening. We were told that we would be allowed to leave at 6 am. Now, they are telling us that KSRTC buses will be allowed to leave only by 12 pm. We have come to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa. Please allow us to go,” an angry devotee said. If private vehicles are not being allowed, they should be taken in the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses to Pamba, the devotee said.
Meanwhile, media personnel have also not been allowed to leave for Pamba and ‘Sannidhanam’ (temple complex) from the base camp here till 9 am this morning. Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behara has said no restriction of any sort has been imposed on media persons.
“To ensure necessary protection to the media, we are not allowing them now. As soon as security arrangements are complete, media will be allowed in Sabarimala and nearby places,” he said.