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Sabarimala Temple to Close for a Month Today; 9 Women Turned Away by Protesters, Priests So Far

Though attempts have been made by some young women to enter the temple of the 'Naishtik Brahmachari' since Wednesday, devotees backed by priests have stood their ground.

Updated:October 22, 2018, 10:17 AM IST
Pamba (Kerala): The gates of the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala will close for a month on Monday and no woman of menstruating age has been able to enter the shrine for the last five days despite a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

So far nine women, including two journalists, have tried to reach the holy 18 steps of the temple, but have had to return midway in the face of strong protests by devotees and an ultimatum by the chief priest to lock the temple if any woman entered.

The latest attempt by three women was blocked on Sunday by a large number of devotees. The devotees, up in arms against implementation of the Supreme Court order lifting ban on entry of women in 10-50 age group, chanting Ayyappa mantras blocked the women from reaching the famed shrine amid high drama.

Though attempts were made by some young women, including a journalist, to enter the temple of the 'Naishtik Brahmachari', the eternally celibate deity, since Wednesday, the devotees backed by priests have stood their ground, saying they would not allow the tradition to be breached.

The BJP has demanded a special assembly session to seek the Centre's intervention, while the Congress sought an ordinance by the NDA government.

The Pandalam royal family, the traditional custodian of the Sabarimala temple, alleged the CPI(M)-led LDF government was trying to destroy sanctity of the shrine of the "Naishtik Brahmachari" by taking women in the menstrual age group there.

On Sunday, a 47-year old woman reached up to the 'Nadappandhal' close to the sanctum sanctorum, but was prevented by the devotees chanting "Swamiye Saranam Ayyapa" after three others were stopped enroute to the hills. The woman, who complained of uneasiness, was brought to a hospital here by the police.

An elderly woman devotee who was present at the spot said as the identity card of the woman showed she was born in 1971 and had not attained the 'permissible age", the other devotees started chanting Sarana mantra.
Earlier, the protesters prevented two women, in their 40s, at the foothills itself. The women were accompanied by their relatives.

The police, who took the women to the safety, said the two informed them that they came to Sabarimala without knowing the customs of the temple. They were part of a pilgrims group visiting temples in Kerala and other women not in the 'banned' age group were allowed to climb the holy hills by the protesters.

Amid mounting protest in the state against the Supreme Court order, BJP Sunday urged the Kerala government to convene a session of the assembly and pass a resolution seeking the Centre's intervention to overcome the crisis.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai claimed even CPI(M) members in the state were opposing the bid to break the custom of the ancient shrine, which draws lakhs of devotees from across the country, especially from southern states.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress urged the Centre to bring an ordinance to overcome the Supreme Court verdict.

CPI(M) politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai claimed the devotees opposing the apex court verdict were in a minority and they did not have the support of the entire Kerala society. He supported implementation of the court verdict on Sabarimala.

In another development, activist Rehana Fathima, who had made an attempt to enter the temple on Friday, has been “expelled” from the Muslim community for "hurting the sentiments of lakhs of Hindu devotees", the Kerala Muslim Jama'ath Council said.

In a statement, the council said, “Her act hurt lakhs of Hindu devotees." The body’s president, A Poonkunju, said Rehana, who had participated in 'Kiss of Love' agitation, "has no right to use a Muslim name".

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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