Sabarimala temple opens, cops block entry of women below 50
Will women of all ages get the right to enter Sabarimala?
As the Sabarimala temple opened on Saturday evening for the two-month annual festival amid tight security, the Kerala police in defiance of the Supreme Court order, stopped women pilgrims at Pamba, 5km from the hill-top temple of Lord Ayyappa, checked their documents for proof of age and allowed only those above 50 to proceed further.
According to police, 10 women pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh, who were below 50 were turned back.
In pic: Devotees arrive at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
In September last year, the Supreme Court had held that the centuries-old ban on women and girls aged 10 to 50 was illegal and unconstitutional.
On Thursday, the court referred the Sabarimala issue to a larger seven-member bench, stating that detailed examination is required into the matter, without staying its 2018 verdict.
What's the issue?
The LDF government, which was proactive in implementing 2018 Supreme Court order during the previous pilgrim season, had indicated on Friday that it wasn’t in favour of young women going to Sabarimala, despite Thursday’s verdict making it clear that there was no stay on allowing women to have darshan of Lord Ayyappa at the shrine.
Heavy security arrangements are in place at Sabarimala. Around 1,400 police personnel have been deployed at the Sannidhanam (the area near the sanctum), led by a superintendent-rank officer and 10 deputy SPs.
At Pamba and Nilackal, there are around 720 and 700 police personnel respectively on duty, and this includes around 250 women police officers.
In addition, separate teams of Quick Reaction Force, Rapid Action Force, police commandos and National Disaster Response Force are also deployed at the Sannidhanam. At Pamba, metal detectors and X-ray scanners have been installed. More than 50 women police personnel have been entrusted with verifying women pilgrims’ ID cards.
Heavy crowd throngs Sabarimala Temple
Thousands of devotees from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other neighbouring states offered prayers at the temple. At 5 pm, Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu opened the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and performed poojas.
In pic: Devotees waiting to offer prayers at Sabarimala Temple during the Mandala Pooja festival in Sannidhanam.
Priests offer prayers
A K Sudheer Namboodiri took charge as Sabarimala 'melshanti' (chief priest), while MS Parameswaran Namboodiri is likely to take charge as chief priest of the adjacent Malikappuram devi temple by November 23.
In pic: Priests offer prayers before opening the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala Temple during the Mandala Pooja festival in Sannidhanam.
Opening and closing dates
During this pilgrimage season, the temple will be open till December 27 for the Mandalapooja after which it will be closed for three days.
The shrine will reopen on December 30 for the Makaravilakku festival after which it will close on January 20.
In pic: Priests opens the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala Temple during the Mandala Pooja festival in Sannidhanam.