Tension Mounts Over Entry Of Women Into Sabarimala Temple Before Monthly Rituals

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New Delhi: Tension mounted over the entry of women of all ages into the hilltop shrine a day before the opening of Kerala’s Sabarimala temple for monthly rituals after key talks on the contentious issue collapsed and protesters threatened suicides and stopped vehicles to thwart women of menstruating ages from going on the pilgrimage.

Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala’s Left government, reiterated that his administration will not file any review petition against last month’s Supreme Court order that allowed women between 10 years and 50 years to enter Sabarimala in what has been hailed as a landmark verdict. He said no one will be allowed to stop devotees from visiting the temple in the Western Ghats.

But chaos prevailed at Nilakkal, which is about 15 kilometres from Sabarimala base camp Pambha, despite heavy police presence. On a rainy Tuesday, believers of the centuries-old tradition threatened self-immolation and blocked women of reproductive age from visiting the 800-year-old shrine in south Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district since its presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be celibate.

Women protesters, mostly tribals, held pictures of Lord Ayyappa and chanted hymns, keeping a close watch on whether vehicles on the way to Sabarimala had women on board. A group of journalism students comprising girls was turned back. So were women journalists headed for Pambha, from where a five-km trek to reach the shrine begins. P Ratnamma, a leader of women devotees protesting against the top court order, threatened to hang herself. “We are ready to die for Lord Ayyappa. Come what may, we will not allow women to enter Sabarimala,” said Ratnamma, who has been leading a protest for the past week. The BJP and the Congress, as well as some fringe groups, have opposed the Kerala government’s stand on Sabarimala.

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