Sabarimala: The brief pilgrimage season in Sabarimala failed to make history as women in the 10-50 age group were kept away by protests against their entry despite the Supreme Court order allowing women of all ages to pray at the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The sanctum sanctorum of the famed temple closed at 10 p.m. on Monday, a day that saw five women making an unsuccessful effort to pray at the hill temple, where tradition had barred women aged between 10 and 50.
Bindu, a woman from Kozhikode in Kerala, appeared before the police at Erumely, one of the entry points to the temple route, but the police refused permission to her after checking her antecedents.
After that she was put on a bus to Mundakayam but angry protesters literally took her out of the bus. Following the timely intervention of the police a crisis was averted.
Likewise at the Pamba entry point, four women from West Godavari district were stopped from going ahead as angry protesters got around them shouting Ayyappa slogans forcing them to retreat.
Starting Wednesday last, Kerala was on the edge, after the temple opened for its customary monthly pujas, the first time after the September 28 the Supreme Court verdict which overturned a centuries-old practice that barred women of menstrual age from entering the hill temple.
Celibate deity Lord Ayyappa is worshipped at the Sabarimala temple where on Monday at 7 p.m the last pilgrim went up the hill.
None of the dozen women who tried to have a darshan in the last five days succeeded in entering the temple for prayers as thousands of devotees were determined not to allow them.
The police appeared most relieved for the time being as they had a tough time in trying to implement the apex court’s orders in the face of strong protests which at times turned violent.
Given the present situation, they may have a tougher time when the temple again opens for its annual two-month-long pilgrimage season which begins on November 17.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was away on tour for the past week and returned in the wee hours of Monday, faced a flurry of questions about the incidents at Sabarimala. He told the media in the state capital that he would rather wait some more time to reply.
“I will speak to you about Sabarimala tomorrow (Tuesday),” said Vijayan.
But state Minister for Devaswoms Kadakampally Surendran made no bones of the fact about what happened during the past few days starting from Wednesday last week and said the government was like being caught between the devil and the deep sea.
“On the one side there is the apex court directive and on the other side is those opposing it, especially the BJP/RSS, and the state government was in between these two,” said Surendran.
A Padmakumar President of the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), custodian of the Sabarimala temple, said they were definitely concerned about the devotees’ rights and also the traditions of the temple and all of what happened would be conveyed to the Supreme Court.
The TDB Commissioner is reaching Delhi on Tuesday when the apex court will take a decision on 19 different petitions seeking a review of the September 28 verdict.
The leadership of the Congress party that met in the state capital on Monday decided to make amends after a feeling that the BJP appears to have got a slight edge in leading the protests against the state government.
State Congress President Mulappally Ramachandran told the media that on November 15, four vehicle jathas originating from different parts of the state will converge at Pathanamthitta, the headquarters of the district where the Sabarimala temple is located to explain its position.
And in a related development, Rahul Eashwar, activist and member of the tantris family, who was arrested last week during the protest against the state government, got bail on Monday evening as did 19 others.