Sabarimala temple to open today, no protection for women visiting the shrine
(PTI Photo)

Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's decision to refer the Sabarimala case to a larger bench, the Lord Ayyappa shrine is all set to open today, Saturday, even as the government said those women desirous of visiting the hill temple should get a "court order."

The Lord Ayappa Temple is all set to open today for the Mandala Pooja festival. According to India Today, women of all age groups will be allowed to enter the temple, however, no protection will be given to the women. Ahead of the opening of the Sabarimala Temple, Kerala Devaswom Board Minister K Surendran on Friday said the state government will not provide protection to any woman visiting the temple and those who need protection should get an order from the Supreme Court.

The top court has decided to set up a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its earlier verdict that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the shrine.

With the two-month long annual pilgrimage season set to commence from November 17, Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said Sabarimala was not a place for activism and the LDF government would not support those who make announcements about entering the hill shrine for the sake of publicity, as reported by PTI.

Women rights activist Trupti Desai, who has been a vehement critic of the restriction on the entry of women of a certain age group, said she will be visiting the temple after November 20 regardless of whether or not she is provided security cover, as reported by ANI.

What is the Sabarimala issue?

The Tranvancore Devaswom Board has, since 1951, restricted the entry of women of menstrual age (between 10 years and 50 years) from entering the Sabarimala temple. The notification made legally binding since 1965 and was upheld by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

On September 28, 2018 the Supreme Court opened the temple to women of all ages. The Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta district had last year witnessed violent protests by right wing outfits and devotees over the September 28, 2018, order of the apex court allowing women of all age groups, including those in the menstruating age, to offer prayers at the hill shrine.

Supreme Court defers verdict

The government must read the "extremely important" dissenting verdict for implementation of the 2018 judgement allowing women of all ages to enter Kerala's Sabarimala temple and ensure its compliance, Justice R F Nariman of the Supreme Court said on Friday. A five-judge Constitution bench, by a majority of 3:2, on Thursday referred to a larger seven-judge bench the pleas seeking review of the 2018 judgement allowing all women and girls to enter Sabarimala temple.

Justice Nariman, who penned the minority verdict on behalf of himself and Justice D Y Chandrachud, did not agree the majority view of referring the issue to the larger bench and reiterated that the court's 2018 verdict, allowing all women and girls into the shrine, be strictly implemented. As the majority verdict, penned by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, kept review pleas pending for the 7-judge bench and did not stay the 2018 majority judgement, women of all age groups will be entitled to undertake the pilgrimage to the shrine.

On Friday, a bench headed by Justice Nariman which was hearing the appeal of Enforcement Directorate against grant of bail to Congress leader D K Shivakumar, observed that the government must read his "extremely important" dissenting verdict in Sabarimala case and ensure its compliance. "Please tell your government to read the dissent judgement delivered in the Sabarimala case yesterday. This is extremely important. We cannot allow violation of our order and it has to be complied with. Inform your authority and the government to read it," he told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Security measures:

Tight security will be provided during the pilgrimage season with over 10,000 police personnel being posted in phases in and around the hill temple.

Unlike last year, when the shrine and the adjacent areas were recuperating from the August deluge that had hit the state, the Devaswom Board this year has made extensive arrangements to receive devotees. The Board, which manages the temples in the state, said resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam areas has already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities.

Resting area for 9,000 devotees have been arranged at Nilackal where there is a parking area for over 9,000 vehicles also.There are over 1000 toilets, 120 urinals and 60 bathrooms at Nilackal. Similarly at Pamba, the Board has arranged facilities for 3000 people to rest. The board has also set up five emergency medical centres.

(Inputs from Agencies)

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