Sabarimala: Around 32,000 devotees offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala on Tuesday, even as police prevented a 12-year-old girl from Puducherry to proceed to the hill shrine from Pamba.
While two women in the barred age group of 10-50 years were stopped by police on Monday from visiting the shrine, on Saturday, when the temple opened, at least 10 young women from Andhra Pradesh were sent back.
Approximately 32,000 devotees offered worship on Tuesday, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) sources said.
There was a dip in the arrival of pilgrims against the heavy rush seen since November 16 evening, when the shrine was opened.
There was heavy rain in the afternoon, causing difficulties to the pilgrims.
Unmindful of the heavy showers, policemen standing on the 18 holy steps, helped the devotees climb and offer prayers.
A total of 9.6 lakh devotees have made virtual Q booking for darshan till 10 am this morning, sources said.
The 12 year-old had come with her father to offer prayers at the shrine.
The age of the girl, with "irrumudikettu" (offerings to Lord Ayyappa) had been shown as 10 in the virtual Q booking.
When women police personnel checked her Aadhaar card it was found that she was 12-years-old following which they did not allow her to proceed further from Pamba to the temple complex, police said.
After those accompanying the child were informed about the current situation in Sabarimala, her father and other relatives proceeded to the temple.
Supporting the shrine's tradition, a nine-year-old Keralite girl, who came to the temple complex from Karnataka on Monday, had a placard around her neck inscribed with the words "Ready to wait. Will visit the shrine after attaining 50 years."
The Pamba base camp is at the foothills of Sabarimala, about 5 km from the shrine.
The Ayyappa temple had opened on November 16 evening for the two-month long Mandala-Makaravillakku puja. A UDF delegation, which visited Pamba and Nilackal base camps on Tuesday to have a first hand experience of the facilities for the pilgrims, said they were inadequate.
The delegation led by Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and PJ Joseph said parking facilities were not enough and the LDF government had failed to provide enough facilities for pilgrims.
Radhakrishnan said the arrival of devotees may be increase, but facilities like toilets and drinking water were lacking at the base camps.
During the two-month long pilgrimage season, the Kerala Water Authority has decided to provide 130 lakh litres of water daily.
While at Pamba 60 lakh litres would be distributed 70 lakh litres would be supplied at Sannidhanam, a KWA press release said.
The state and temple precincts had 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.
Though the apex court did not stay its earlier order allowing entry of women in the Lord Ayyappa temple, the LDF government in Kerala this time said the shrine is not a ground for activism and made it clear that it would not encourage women who want to visit the temple for publicity.
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had referred to a larger bench the matter related to entry of women into the hill temple and other issues related to various faiths.