A day ahead of the closure of the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple after monthly pujas, the agitation against the entry of women of menstruating age to the temple has almost entirely shifted to the pilgrims’ trekking paths between Pampa and the hill shrine.
On Sunday, protesters blocked entry of four women from Andhra Pradesh, in separate incidents. In the morning, Vasanthi and Adiseshi — both in their 40s — were stopped by protesters at the trek’s entry point in Pampa. A group of devotees blocked them on the steps at the entry point as other devotees gathered around and chanted in protest, forcing the women to retreat.
Other members in the women’s pilgrim group continued their trek. “They didn’t want to create any problem and were willing to return after the protests. We escorted them to Nilakkal where their vehicle was parked,” IGP S Sreejith told reporters.
Another woman, identified as Balamma (46), was stopped by protesters at the pilgrims’ walkway, about 500 metres from the shrine.
Police shifted her to a hospital in Pampa where she was administered treatment for low blood pressure. Another woman, Pushpalatha, commenced her trek and reached Marakkkottam, about 2 km from the entry point, where protesters confronted her and made her return. Pushpalatha is learnt to be aged below 50 years; she did not produce any document to prove her age. All the four women are reported to be part of a pilgrim group of about 40 women from Guntur.
Since Wednesday, 10 women have been denied entry to the temple; while four of them were blocked at the entry point, six were stopped after they commenced the uphill trek. The ongoing protests staged by devotees and Hindutva outfits are pegged to the argument that the judgment did not factor in sentiments of the celibate deity’s devotees.
When the temple opened for pujas, on October 17, the protests were focused around the base camp of Nilakkal and were more organised in nature. Four days later, with prohibitory orders in place in seven areas till Monday night, the stir has been taken over by small groups who are stationed on the trekking paths and near the sannidhanam. The temple will close at 10 pm on Monday.