Sabarimala Row Explained: Why were women barred & the ensuing legal battle
The 2018 judgement
Last year in September, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had allowed the entry of women of all ages in the revered shrine in a 4:1 majority verdict. The state government sought time to implement the verdict, however even after the entry was allowed a large number of followers camped outside the shrine prevent the entry of women of all ages.
Why women were barred
One legend says that Lord Ayyappa does not receive menstruating women in the temple in honour of Malikapurathamma – a lady-demon who was defeated by Ayyappa after which she proposed marriage to him. The Lord had set the condition that he would marry her the day devotees stop visiting him at Sabarimala.
The other legend considers Lord Ayyappa as a historical figure born into the royal family of kingdom located in Patthanamittha, who had shunned all worldly desires including contact with women, after defeating an Arab intruder called Babar or Vavar.
The legal battle
The ruling was challenged in 2006 and came up for hearing in January 2016. The 2018 judgment allowing entry of women was passed by CJI Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice RF Nariman, Justice DY Chadrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra.
In the pitched battle, on one side there were devotees of Lord Ayyappa, right-leaning organisations and the BJP, who cited tradition to oppose the apex court’s judgment, while the other side were women rights activists, lawyers and left leaning parties, including the ruling party CPI(M), who said it would impose the SC order.
The protests turned to pandemonium in the days after two women - Bindu Ammini, a lecturer at Kerala’s Kannur University, and Kanakadurga, a civil servant – managed to enter the temple on January 2 and offer prayers.
About the shrine
Situated on a hilltop, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan, who is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini – the feminine incarnation of Vishnu. Its administrative and legal duties are managed by the Travancore Devasvom Board, an affiliate of the Kerala government.