Amid tight security, the Ayyappa temple also known as famous Sabarimala Temple would open for the two-month long pilgrim season on Saturday evening, with the Kerala government making all preparations to make it a hassle free pilgrimage.
The temple that resembled a fortress a year ago, wore a quiet and peaceful look today. Compared to the last season, no prohibitory order has been clamped in and around the temple town this time.
The Supreme Court on Thursday did not stay its September 28, 2018 order allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple. The apex court, however, referred to a larger bench, the review petitions against the verdict allowing entry of women into Kerala’s Lord Ayappa Temple.
The top court, by a majority of 3:2, referred the review petitions to a larger 7-judge Constitution bench. Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice DY Chandrachud gave a dissenting judgement.
Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu would open the sanctum sanctorum and perform the pujas. A K Sudheer Namboodiri would take charge as the Sabarimala Melsanthi and M S Parameshwaran Namboodiri as Malikapuram Melsanthi.
The darshan could be done by the pilgrims by climbing the 18 holy steps after the padi puja.
The hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of the state, would be opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season this evening around 5 pm.
Devotees can go to the shrine only after 2 pm. They have started arriving at Nilackal and Pamba from various parts of Kerala and neighbouring states.
The state and temple precincts had witnessed frenzied protests by right outfits and BJP workers last year after the LDF government had decided to implement the Supreme court’s verdict of September 28, 2018 allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.
This time, the Kerala government has however, made its position clear that they will not make any effort to see that women were taken to the temple to pray.
Last year, the police provided security to women who faced stiff resistance from the activists of the right-wing forces who chased them away.
According to tradition and custom of the temple, women in the age group of 10 to 50 are not allowed to enter.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra told the media that everything was in place and he would be meeting the advocate general to get a first hand knowledge of Supreme Court verdict.
It has decided not to give police protection to women in 10-50 age group to trek the holy hills to reach the temple.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran has made it clear on Friday that Sabarimala was not a place for activists to display their activism and said the government would not encourage such women who want to visit the shrine for publicity.
Maintaining that this pilgrim season would be peaceful, Law Minister A K Balan said if anyone tries to hamper the darshan of the devotees, the government would take strong action.
“If someone thinks that they can exploit the devotees by spreading lies and turn them against the government, let me tell you, it’s not going to happen,” he said.
Last year, a group of women rights activists and journalists of around a dozen women, in the 10-50 years age group tried to climb the sacred hills, but the attempt was unsuccessful as frenzied devotees of Lord Ayyappa heckled and hassled them and forced them to retreat.
However, defying protesters, two women, in their 40s, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, had entered the Ayyappa temple in January this year and offered prayers, making a historic change.
This time, over 10,000 police personnel would be posted in phases in and around the Lord Ayyappa temple for security purposes .
The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala, is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level in Sabarimala.
(With inputs from PTI)