The gates of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala were thrown open to the general public at 5 pm on Saturday (November 16), hours after 10 women of menstrual age, willing to visit the shrine, were sent back by the police.
The shrine was opened for the two-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple was opened at 5 pm and poojas were performed, as hundreds of devotees thronged the shrine.
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 “padi pooja“.
Earlier in the day, at least 10 young women from Andhra Pradesh’s Vijaywada, who arrived at Pamba to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple, were sent back, police said. The women were in the age group of 10-50 and were a part of a 30-member group.
According to reports, policemen denied them entry saying they have been instructed not to allow females in the age group of 10-50 into the temple. The state government had earlier said that no security cover will be provided to women of the menstrual age entering the shrine.
“After the women reached Pamba, 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,” police said. The Pamba base camp is at the foothills of Sabarimala, about 5 km from the shrine.
The opening of the Sabarimala temple on Saturday comes two days after the Supreme Court referred a batch of petitions seeking a review of its December 2018 order, to a larger seven-judge bench. The top court had last year allowed the entry of women of all age groups into the shrine.
The Kerala Police has deployed 10,017 officers in and around Sabarimala for the annual festive season. The deployment has been done over five phases since November 15.
A report said that 24 officers in the ranks of Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents have been deployed. Also, 112 Deputy Superintendents, 264 Circle Inspectors and 1,185 Sub Inspector/Assistant Sub Inspector officers are in the top layer.
(With inputs from agencies)