Woman seeks security for trek; later backtracks

Woman seeks security for trek; later backtracks

Devotees arrive at Sabarimala Temple, in Pathanamthitta District on Monday. This is the second time the hill temple will open for 'darshan' after the Supreme Court allowed entry of women of all age groups into it. PTI

The Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala opened on Monday for the annual Sree Chithira Atta Thirunal celebration, marking the birth anniversary of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, last king of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore. Pilgrims were allowed to have darshan till 10 pm on Monday.

Late in the evening, a 30-year-old woman -- Anju -- from Cherthala in Alappuzha district arrived in Pampa with her husband and two children and sought police security for her trek to the hill shrine. Soon, hymn-chanting pilgrims assembled near the Ganapathy Temple in Pampa for a protest. Pilgrims are also camping near the sannidhanam. At about 8 pm, police officials were reported to have turned down the request for security after the woman said she was “forced” by her husband to join his trek to the shrine.

Earlier in the day, devotees protested at Erumeli against a delay in KSRTC bus services to Nilakkal and Pampa. Uncertainty prevailed on bus services from Nilakkal, the base camp, to Pampa. The first bus on the route departed from the Nilakkal bus station at about 11 am. Some of the pilgrims decided against waiting for the bus services to commence and walked to Pampa, about 18 km by road.

Traditionally, pilgrims don’t turn up in large numbers at the temple when it opens for the Sree Chithira Atta Thirunal. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which manages administration of the temple said thousands visited the shrine on Monday.

At 5 pm, tantri (head priest) Kantararu Rajeevaru and melsanthi (chief priest) Unnikrishnan Namboothiri opened the sanctum sanctorum and lit the traditional lamp. On Tuesday, the temple will reopen at 5 am and after the regular pujas and abhishekams, close at 10 pm.

Pilgrims were allowed to trek from Pampa to the sannidhanam from the afternoon. Grievances regarding extensive security checks were raised by some of the pilgrims and members of the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam, former custodians of the temple. Bus services were limited and hotels remained closed due to the shutdown. Restrictions are also in force on pilgrims’ stay at the sannidhanam.

Between October 17 and 22, when the temple opened for monthly pujas, protesters thwarted attempts by about 15 women aged below 50 years to enter the temple. More than 3,700 people were arrested in connection with protests in Nilakkal, Pampa and the sannidhanam. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, on September 28, lifted restrictions on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years.

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