Thiruvananthapuram: Police at Sabarimala stopped a 31-year-old woman just a few yards away from entering the sanctum sanctorum after she got through the checkpoint downhill and trekked up to the shrine.
This helped the temple authorities in Kerala avoid another controversy when the shrine's traditional ban on the entry of women in the age-group 10-50 is in the national spotlight.
Police said the woman from Andhra Pradesh, along with her husband and two children, went past the Devaswom check post at Pampa and took a less frequented route to climb to the "sannidhanam" without anyone noticing. She said they were unaware of the restrictions at the temple.
Over the years, entry of women in the menstruating age was not allowed at Sabarimala because of the tradition that the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is an eternal celibate. This has been challenged by women's groups, especially after the recent entry of similar restrictions at Shani Shingnapur and Trimbakeshwar shrines in Maharashtra, and a case is pending before a Supreme Court constitution bench.
If the woman had climbed the steps to the sanctorum, it would have forced the temple authorities to conduct purificatory rituals thus attracting further public debate when passions on both sides are high. Bhumata Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who spearheaded the campaign in Maharashtra, had said she would enter Sabarimala this pilgrimage season defying the restrictions.
The woman and her family were sent back to their native village in Andhra Pradesh after questioning.