Ahead of the opening of the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday for monthly pooja, tension looms large at Nilackal – the main gateway to the temple – as police detained protesters opposing the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.
Two women, one from Kerala and another from Andhra Pradesh who began their trek to the temple were stopped by protesters on their way on Wednesday.
Andhra woman Madhavi accompanied by her parents and children began their Pamba climb on the Swami Ayyapan road leading to the hilltop temple hours ahead of its opening for the monthly puja rituals.
Ten minutes into their trek, accompanied by a strong police force, the family had to abandon their plans of praying to the Lord Ayyappa inside the temple.
In a related development, a young woman Liby bound to pray at the temple clad in jeans was stopped at the Pathanamthitta bus stand by angry devotees.
“Is this the way a lady should go to the temple. She claims to have observed the penance but if you look at the beads of the customary Sabarimala necklace, it’s very clear that she has worn it today or yesterday. This is not acceptable to us and she won’t be allowed to go,” said angry a group of angry women protesters.
Women journalists, who tried to reach the hill temple as part of their official assignments, were also stopped. The protesters attacked journalists of a few channels and also damaged their vehicles and camera equipment.
Security has been tightened with around 1,000 police personnel being deployed near the temple.
According to an ANI alert, at least 50 people including former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan were taken into custody in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district for protesting against the entry of women into the shrine.
The temple is set to open its portals for monthly rituals at 5 pm on Wednesday for the first time after the recent Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups into the shrine.
Earlier on Tuesday, devotees stopped vehicles and prevented women of the “banned” age group from trekking to the holy hill.
Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of it.
Local television channels reported that some college students, who were sporting black colour dresses, were asked to get out of a bus they were travelling in, by devotees alleging that they were on their way to Sabarimala.
According to media reports, women and journalism students were forcefully pulled out of buses at Nilakal.
However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has warned of stern action against those who prevent devotees.
Talks between the Travancore Dewasom Board and the Pandalam royal family, the head priest and the Ayyappa Sewa Sangh earlier on Tuesday failed triggering massive outrage.
Sabarimala temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly puja during the Malayalam month of Thulam.
The Supreme Court, last month, had struck down a rule that disallowed girls and women in the age group of 10-50 years from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
(With agency inputs)