'Only 2 women of menstrual age visited Sabarimala'

Bindu and Kanakadurga. (PTI Photo)

Even as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear review petitions on Sabarimala women's entry row on Wednesday, a fresh debate erupted in Kerala on Monday over the actual number of women who visited the hill shrine.

In a related development, the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple tanthri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevararu has justified the purification ritual performed at the shrine after the entry of two women, Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, on January 2.

Kerala Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said in a written reply in the State Assembly that as per the report given by the executive officer of the Ayyappa temple so far only two women in the 10-50 age group entered the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple after the ban on entry of menstruating women was lifted. He said that there was no confirmation for the visit of a Sri Lankan lady in the 10-50 age bracket to the temple.

It may be recalled that the State Government had stated before the Supreme Court on January 18 that 51 women in the 10-50 age group visited the temple. However, it later came to light that many in the list were males and many others were aged above 50. Subsequently the State Government found that only 17 among the 51 were women in 10-50 age group. The list of 51 was based on information on the Sabarimala virtual queue system of the Kerala Police.

Meanwhile, Sabarimala chief priest Kandararu Rajeevararu said in an explanation to the Travancore Devaswom Board that the purification rituals were performed in accordance with the customs of the temple. He justified that being the chief priest it was his responsibility to perform the purification and there was nothing wrong with it, said sources.

Board to discuss

A meeting of the Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, might discuss the explanation at its meeting scheduled on Tuesday. The board had earlier sought explanation from the tanthri for conducting the purification ritual following entry of Bindu and Kanaka.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a batch of petitions seeking review of the order of September 2018 listing the age old restriction on entry of women into the hill shrine. Kerala state witnessed widespread tension following the entry of two women at the hill shrine. More than a dozen women from within Kerala and other states, who tried to climb the steps of the hill shrine were even blocked by a large group of pilgrims. The two-month long annual pilgrimage season that ended recently also witnessed tense moments.

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