Sabarimala temple opened today for monthly pooja, tension looms large at Nilackal the main gateway to the temple as devotees Tuesday stopped vehicles and prevented women of the “banned” age group from trekking to the holy hill.
The temple is set to open its portals for monthly rituals at 5 pm on Wednesday for the first time after the recent Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups into the shrine.
At Nilakkal, 15 km away from Pambha, devotees, mostly women were seen checking vehicles amid heavy rain and asking women to go back.
Chanting ‘swamiya saranam Ayyappa’ matras aloud and clapping their hands, women devotees had been inspecting vehicles at various points en route to Sabarimala since Monday evening.
Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get out of it.
Local television channels reported that some college students, who were sporting black colour dresses, were asked to get out of a bus they were travelling in, by devotees alleging that they were on their way to Sabarimala.
According to media reports, women and journalism students were forcefully pulled out of buses at Nilakal.
Women journalists, who tried to reach the hill temple as part of their official assignments, were also stopped.
Very few police personnel were present when the incidents happened.
The police foiled a suicide attempt by a woman devotee in Nilakkal after she threatened to hang herself from a tree.
Security remains a concern amid the tense situation. More police force is expected to reach Nilakkal.
However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has warned of stern action against those who prevent devotees. Vijayan said his government will implement the Supreme Court order according to which no woman can be restricted from entering the temple.
There is a speculation that the chief tantri will not show up for the rituals following the failure of the talks between the Travancore Dewasom Board and the Pandalam royal family, the head priest and the Ayyappa Sewa Sangh.
Sabarimala temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly puja during the Malayalam month of Thulam.
Kerala has been witnessing intense protests including prayer marches and mass rallies by Lord Ayyappa devotees and right wing outfits against the implementation of the apex court verdict.
The Supreme Court, last month, had struck down a rule that disallowed girls and women in the age group of 10-50 years from entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.>