Sabarimala temple opens amid tight security

RSTV Bureau
Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala, Thursday, October 18, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The Sabarimala temple opened Friday evening for the two-month long pilgrim season amid tight security in the backdrop of the standoff over the entry of women in menstrual age.

As the shrine opened at 5 pm in the presence of head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru, the large number of devotees present there chanted “Swamiyae Ayyappa”.

Two new melsanthis (priests) M L Vasudevan Namboodiri (Ayyappa temple) and M N Narayanan Namboodiri (Malikapapuram) assumed charge.

The 41-day mandalam festival will conclude on December 27 after Mandala pooja, when the shrine will close after the ‘Athazhapuja’ in the evening. It would reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30.

The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on January 14 after which the shrine will close on January 20, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when lakha of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.

Unprecedented security arrangements have been made at the shrine which is opening for the third time since the Supreme Court allowed women of all age groups to offer prayers, a move being opposed by devotees and others.

On Thursday, a crucial all-party meeting was held to resolve the stand-off over permitting women of menstrual age into the shrine. The meeting ended without any consensus. The Kerala government firm on implementing the Supreme Court order and the Opposition staged a walkout in protest.

“The government has no other option as Supreme Court has made it clear that the September 28 verdict has not been stayed, which means women in the 10-50 age group have the right to visit the Sabarimala temple,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters after the meeting on Thursday.

The meeting was convened by him in the backdrop of state-wide protests by devotees after the Supreme Court ended an age-old ban on entry of women in the 10-50 age group.

(With inputs from agencies)