Sabarimala temple opens, 10 women sent back

SABARIMALA: Amid tight security, thousands of devotees from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other neighbouring states on Saturday offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple when it was opened for the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku puja.

Sabarimala temple opens, 10 women sent back

Women devotees arrive at Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. PTI

editorial@tribune.com

Sabarimala, November 16

Amid tight security, thousands of devotees from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other neighbouring states on Saturday offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple when it was opened for the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku puja.

Police said at least 10 women, who were part of a 30-member group from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, were sent back from Pamba, 5 km from the shrine, as they were found to be in the barred age group of 10-50 years.

At 5 pm, Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu opened the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, located in a reserve forest of the Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, and performed the puja.

The devotees, who were allowed to trek the hill from 2 pm, climbed the sacred 18 steps to the temple with the “irumudikettu” (sacred bag containing the offerings to the Lord) after the priests performed the “padipuja”.

At the Pampa base camp earlier, the police checked identity cards of a group from Vijayawada and send back 10 young women.

“... police checked their identity cards and found that they were in the barred age group and informed them about the current situation in Sabarimala. They did not proceed further," the police said.

Early this year, two women in the barred age group-- Bindhu and Kanakadurga--had trekked the holy hills and offered prayers at the shrine, scripting history on January 2.

The state and temple precincts witnessed protests by right wing outfits and BJP workers last year after the LDF government decided to implement the Supreme court's verdict of September 28, 2018 allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.

However, this year, even though the top court had not stayed its verdict on entry of young women into the shrine while posting various petitions on the matter to a larger Bench, the government was exercising caution. Over 10,000 police personnel will be posted in and around the Lord Ayyappa temple for security purposes during the pilgrimage season.

Renaissance Protection committee, an LDF initiative, lashed out at the Left government, saying it had gone "soft" on its stand on women entry issue and this will only help "weaken" the cause. — PTI

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