Sabarimala Temple opens amid tight security arrangements, 10 women devotees stopped in Pamba

Sabarimala Temple: The sanctum sanctorum opened for the Mandala Puja at around 5 pm. However, devotees would be able to visit the Sabarimala shrine from November 17. They will have to wait at the Nilackal base camp and would be sent to the Pamba base camp.

Sabarimala Temple opens amid tight security arrangements, 10 women devotees stopped in Pamba
Image Courtesy: Reuters

New Delhi: The Sabarimala Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, opened on Saturday after two-month annual pilgrimage season. Tight security arrangements are in places in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district, where the temple is situated. The sanctum sanctorum opened for the Mandala Puja at around 5 pm. However, devotees would be able to visit the Sabarimala shrine from November 17. They will have to wait at the Nilackal base camp and would be sent to the Pamba base camp.

Compared to the last season, no prohibitory order has been clamped in and around the temple town this time.

The shrine opened two days after a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court referred a batch of petitions challenging its previous order allowing the entry of women of all ages to the revered temple to a larger bench comprising seven judges. The larger Constitution bench will re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its earlier verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age from visiting the holy shrine.

The top court also observed that the right to worship by an individual cannot outweigh the rights of a religious group.

Ahead of the opening, at least ten women of menstruating age (between the age of 10 to 50) were sent back by the police. The women had come from Andhra Pradesh to offer prayers at the temple. 

This time, the administration had stated that it was non-committal about giving protection to women devotees between the age of 10-50. 

Kerala Devaswom Board Minister K Surendran on Friday said the state government will not provide protection to any woman visiting the temple and those who need protection should get an order from the Supreme Court. 

"The state government will not provide protection to any woman visiting Sabarimala temple. Activists like Trupti Desai should not see Sabarimala as a place to show their strength. If she needs police protection, she should get an order from the Supreme Court," he told the reporters. 

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Meanwhile, Desai announced that she will go to Sabarimala Temple after November 20 regardless of whether she would be provided protection by the Kerala government or not.

"I will go to Sabarimala after November 20. We will seek protection from the Kerala government and it is up to them to give us protection or not. Even if not provided with protection, I will visit Sabarimala for the darshan," she said. 

(With agencies inputs)