Sabarimala, Kerala: Two women of menstruating age, who attempted to trek the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa here early Saturday, were forced to return once again after the police informed them that it would be difficult to provide security as there was a possibility of protests from devotees.
Reshma Nishant and Shaneela Sajesh from Kannur had attempted to offer prayers at the temple on January 16 as well, but had to abandon their plans due to protests from devotees who spotted them.
The women, said to be in their late 30s, claimed that they had come to the temple after undertaking the 41-day “vritham” (penance).
The police said the women were told that it would be difficult to provide protection to them till the shrine as there was a possibility of protests. There is a sizable crowd of devotees at the shrine on Saturday, as the “darshan” closes at 9.50 pm.
The two women reached the Nilackal base camp at around 5 am. They were taken to the control room and informed of the difficulty in taking them to the shrine after which they agreed to leave.
A group of six people, belonging to the Purogamana Navothana Kootayimma — a Facebook collective — who came along with the two women, also returned. They alleged that the police had “cheated” them after assuring that young women would be allowed into the shrine.
More women in the 10-50 age group would visit the temple on Saturday, they said. Since it opened for the Mandalam-Makaravilakku festivities on November 17, the shrine has witnessed massive protests by devotees and right-wing outfits against the Kerala government’s decision to implement the Supreme Court’s September 28, 2018 verdict, opening its doors to women of all ages to offer prayers.
Traditionally, girls and women in the menstruating age group of 10-50 years were barred from offering prayers at the shrine, the presiding deity of which is “Naishtika Brahmachari” (perennial celibate).
The state government submitted in the Supreme Court on Friday that 51 women in the previously barred age group had come to Sabarimala through virtual queue booking.
However, a controversy erupted after some of those, whose names had figured in the list, appeared on television channels and claimed that they were over 50 years of age.
A Tamil Nadu native, whose name had appeared in the list, turned out to be a male devotee.
The temple shuts after the pujas on Sunday morning, bringing to close the two-month-long pilgrimage season which witnessed unprecedented protests from frenzied devotees over the entry of young women, following the top court’s verdict.