The Sabarimala temple that opened on Monday under a thick security blanket witnessed no untoward incidents. After a five hour long puja, the temple closed with the singing of the Harivarasanam song that marks the end of the days.
Police said that about 7000 people had darshan yesterday while last year this time, there were only 1000 devotees. The temple will remain open today also before closing for another break. It was the second time in that the temple opened amid unprecedented security over apprehension of protests by those opposing the Supreme Court order allowing women of all age-groups into the shrine.
Though no girl or woman in the age-group of 10-50 years was spotted at the temple, the abode of Lord Ayyappa, its eternally celibate deity, police said it has received information about a 25-year-old woman heading for the shrine with her husband and two children. Police intercepted her and she was reported to have said that it was her husband who forced her undertakes the trek up the hilltop shrine. “I had no wish to visit Sabarimala at this age,” she stated. The clear picture of their intentions emerged after police held a brainstorming discussion with Manju and her husband for about two hours.
The police also took exception to the harsh manner in which he talked to police. They said the man seemed to be bent on taking Manju to Sabarimala at any cost. Earlier reports came that Anju, her husband and two children had approached Pamba police station, seeking police protection while they entered Sabarimala. Police said that they would provide security to the woman only if she makes a request for it.
Sabarimala virtually turned into a fortress with hundreds of police personnel, including armed commandos, dotting the place where surveillance cameras and mobile phone jammers were installed.
Thousands of pilgrims entered the temple as temple tantri (head priest) Kandararu Rajeevaru and melshanti (chief priest) Unnikrishnan Namboothiri jointly opened the portals of the sanctum sanctorum around 5 pm. No special puja will be performed on Monday, temple authorities said, adding the doors will be closed at 10 pm. It will open again Tuesday for the “Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal” puja to mark the birth anniversary of the last king of the princely state of Travancore Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.
Several BJP leaders and Ayyappa Dharama Sena president Rahul Easwar reached ‘Sannidhanam’, the temple complex, in the evening.
Security at Sabarimala and nearby places was stepped up following violent protests by fringe Hindu groups and mainstream political parties like the Congress and the BJP against the Kerala government’s decision to enforce the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on girls and women of menstruating age from entering the temple.
Frequent checking and frisking by police did not go down well with devotees and right wing activists who protested at several places. TV channels showed heated exchanges between devotees and policemen over frisking.
Devotees complained of lack of amenities at the base camps that were damaged in the unprecedented floods in August. Even journalists were not allowed to leave the Nilackal base camp for Pamba on way to the temple in the morning but the restriction was lifted later in the day.
Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court said on Monday pilgrims should not be harassment under the guise of implementing the Supreme Court judgment. 30-year-old woman seeks police protection to offer prayers at Sabarimala.
—India Legal Bureau