Sabarimala temple remains calm as it opens for annual pilgrimage

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on November 18, 2019

The new Melsanthi, A.K.Sudheer Namboodri, opening the sanctum sanctorum of the Ayyappa Temple and Sabarimala on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikom on Sunday.   -  =The Hindu.

Clouds of conflict may have evidently disappeared but the skies chose to open up suddenly yesterday (Sunday) as thousands of devotees thronged the shrine of Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala open for the annual Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season.

Chief priest AK Sudheer Namboothiri opened the sanctum sanctorum at 3 am and performed special poojas, as devotees braved the rain and storm to witness the auspicious ceremony.  

Last year, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar had launched protests around the temple precincts and across many places in the State after the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict of September 28, 2018, allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the shrine.

The drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha elections has apparently prompted the LDF to review its stand ahead of the 2019-20 Sabarimala and adopt a more nuanced approach. It has made it clear that it would not encourage women who want to enter the shrine merely for publicity.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, at least 10 women, part of a 30-member group from Andhra Pradesh, were sent back from Pamba in the foothills as they were found to be in the restricted age group of 10-50 years.

Matters of the temple

Kerala Law Minister A K Balan said that there is presently a "de facto" stay on the apex court order granting entry of women in Sabarimala. The State Government could act only on the basis of the court's verdict.

"Now we have a new problem. The question is whether the verdict of November 14 stayed the earlier order. De jure there is no stay.... but de facto there is a stay," he told. 

Devaswom (temple administration) Minister Kadakampally Surendran held a high-level meeting with the officials of all departments and discussed various matters related to the temple.

It was decided that small vehicles will be allowed to ply till Pamba and the State Road Transport Corporation bus stand would adopt a queue system. A conductor would be appointed in the bus.

In the previous season, private vehicles were allowed only till Nilackal, which is around 18 km from Pamba, due to protests by a section of devotees and the BJP-Sangh Parivar.

The police control room said that more than 25,000 devotees from all over South India had executed the trek and visited the shrine until 5 pm on Sunday. The roads in Pathanamthitta that lead to the foothills were strewn with vehicles carrying devotees from across the state's borders.

The Sabarimala temple had opened for the annual pilgrim season on Saturday evening following the Supreme Court decision to refer to a larger bench re-examination of religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict lifting a centuries-old ban on women.

The 2018 order has been stayed in effect even though it was not officially mentioned," Balan told newspersons.  'De jure' means existing or holding a specified position by legal right while 'de facto' means existing or holding a specified position in fact but not necessarily by legal right.

The Travancore Devaswom board, which manages temples in the state, has made elaborate arrangements to provide all possible amenities to devotees. The unprecedented floods in August last year had played havoc with the pilgrimage season with most of the facilities for the devotees being damaged.


Published on November 18, 2019

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