Sabarimala Temple: The third time the shrine is open to devotees after Top Court ruling
As the Sabarimala temple doors are set to open to devotees again, Kerala braces for more protests. Early this morning, activist Trupti Desai arrived at the Kochi airport and faced stiff protests by BJP activists who had gathered there along with several protesters. She was accompanied by 6 others who were unable to get out of the airport. Ms Desai had, earlier in the week, sent an email to the Kerala chief minister seeking security during her travel to the hill shrine. Ms Desai has decided to return back to Pune after protests.
The Sabarimala temple opened around 5 pm for the third time after the Supreme Court ruling that lifted the ban on entry of women between the age 10 to 50.
Yesterday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held an all-party meeting on Sabarimala, aimed at discussing the row over the entry of women of menstruating ages at the Sabarimala temple, ahead of the two-month long annual 'Mandala Makkaravillakku' or the pilgrimage season, set to start on November 17.
Here are the updates of the Sabarimala temple opening:
BREAKING: Trupti Desai to return to Pune tonight, reports news agency ANI.
Devotees throng to Sabarimala Temple as it opens for 62-day long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season.
BREAKING: Travancore Devaswom Board, managing the Ayyappa temple, decides to move Supreme Court seeking more time to implement its verdict on entry of women in the 10-50 age group.
Sabarimala Karma Samithi holds protest against Trupti Desai in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram.
The Makaravilakku festival would be celebrated on January 14 after which the shrine will close on January 20, marking the culmination of the pilgrim season, when lakhs of devotees are expected to throng the shrine.
The 41-day mandalam festival will conclude on December 27 after Mandala pooja, when the shrine will close after the 'Athazhapuja' in the evening. It would reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30.
Two new melsanthis (priests) M L Vasudevan Namboodiri (Ayyappa temple) and M N Narayanan Namboodiri (Malikapapuram) assumed charge.
As the shrine opened at 5 pm in the presence of head priest Kandararu Rajeevaru, the large number of devotees present there chanted "Swamiyae Ayyappa".
The 500 people who had applied online to visit the temple have not turned up to visit the temple.
Trupti Desai speaks to NDTV from the airport:
- The temple doors have just opened. We have expressed hope of visiting the temple tomorrow. Just held a meeting with cops 10 minutes ago. They say it can spark protests all across.
- We feel entering the temple is our right. But if it could spark violence... We haven't come to cause any law and order problems. The police have told us there are intelligence inputs protesters could trigger chaos. I will take a decision after consulting my team.
- Police is saying the protesters can enter inside anytime. If we don't return then the protesters can attack. Police has requested us to return since protests might break out across the state.
- They say they will not be able to assist us till the shrine. I will decide after consulting my team. Entering the temple is our right, but we have not come here to disrupt law and order. So at 6:30 pm we will decide, since the police has requested us.
BREAKING: Sabarimala Temple opens for 2 months for main pilgrimage season.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had gone to inaugurate the Mahasangam. He tweeted, "Amazing crowd at the Pathanamthitta Mahasangamam testifies both to the passions roused by the Sabarimala issue & the mass appeal of the responsible & moderate stand taken by the Congress."
Rahul Easwar tweeted, "Trupti Desai faced peaceful protests in Kochi Airport 155 kms away from Holy Sanctum Sanctorum of #Sabarimala Ayyappa. Taxis not willing to take Mahishi Feminists. FemiNazis are going to know the strength of #Hindus, Malayalis & Ayyappa Devotees. #SaveSabarimala. Swamiyeee."
Author Taslima Nasreen has questioned female activists "eager to enter" the temple:
"I do not understand why women activists are so eager to enter Sabarimala. Better they should enter the villages where women suffer from domestic violence, rape, sexual abusehate, where girls have no access to education, heath-care,and no freedom to take a job or get equal pay."
Updates from Pamba base camp:
- The temple board meeting is underway. Speculation is that they will seek more time to decide on entry of women of the menstruating age into Sabarimala shrine.
- Devotes gather at the base camp, hours before the gates of the temple open.
- Police checking vehicles entering the area, taking account of devotees travelling to the temple.
IGP Vijay Saleem has asked police personnel to follow strict dress code at Sabarimala, while exemption has been given to cops at the holy 18 steps, according to Press Trust of India.
Over 15,000 personnel, including women police personnel and 860 women civil police officers, would be deployed during the season, when lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country are expected to visit the shrine, Press Trust of India added.
Kerala Minister Sunil Kumar to NDTV:
- Trupti Desai is in Kerala as part of BJP-RSS agenda
- She started from pune. Why didn't RSS-BJP people stop her only at Kochi airport. Why are they stopping her only in Kerala?
- RSS-BJP have come together to fight against the state government. But this fight is against Supreme Court
- Not all agitators are devotees. 99% of them are hardcore BJP-RSS workers
- BJP-RSS used Sri Ram in North India, here they are trying to use Ayyappa
Amid unrelenting protests by devotees and political workers against any change in the archaic tradition, the state's Left-led government has made massive security arrangements. Over 15,000 policemen are posted in and around Sabarimala and teams of commandos and disaster response personnel are on standby.
Trupti Desai, still stuck in the Kochi airport, told Press Trust of India:
We will not return to Maharashtra without darshan at the Sabarimala temple. We have faith in the government that it will provide security for us.
It is the responsibility of the state government and the police to provide protection and take us to the temple as the Supreme Court has allowed women of all ages to offer prayers at the shrine.
After the Supreme Court's September order, a number of women attempted to enter the Sabarimala shrine but couldn't because of violent protests by devotees who said they would not allow any insult to Lord Ayyappa, a celibate god.
The Supreme Court will on January 22 consider as many as 49 petitions challenging its order. Rejecting an urgent hearing on Wednesday, the judges refused to put on hold the order but said the petitions would be taken up in an open court.
For the Sabarimala temple opening:
- In a first, devotees have to get a pass from police. Officials look to regulate vehicular movement. Vehicles should get a pass from the police before proceeding to the hilltop shrine. They would also keep a check on how many people are in the vehicle travelling to the shrine.
- The pass system is also to differentiate between devotees and protesters
- Police say they are under control. 15,000 police personnel have been deployed.
- Nillakal, one of the base camps, has been designated as the parking point.
- Protesters checking hotels and asking them not to accommodate women of the "banned" age group.
- Temple priests said they will shut the temple if women between 10 and 50 enter the temple premises.
- Section 144 imposed around the Sabarimala temple
Activist Trupti Desai at Kochi airport:
"We landed at the airport by 4:30am. We have not been able to go out because of these protests. Police has given us protection and have suggested that we wait for now. We have tried to book 3-4 taxis since morning, no one is willing to take us to Sabarimala. We will not leave Kerala without going to Sabarimala"
What protestsers are doing to prevent entry of women towards the Sabarimala temple:
- Protesters gathered in huge numbers outside Kochi airport on the arrival of activist Trupti Desai
- They are checking hotel rooms
- Vehicles are being checked, people need to get passes
- They did not allow airport cabs to take Ms Desai out of Kochi airport
Police were deployed in large numbers at Kochi airport to control the situation. Police officers held discussions with Ms Desai and protesters but both sides stick to their stand, according to Press Trust of India.
Protesting local BJP leaders at the Kochi airport, alleged that Ms Desai and her team came to violate the centuries--old custom of the temple that prevents entry of women and girls in the age group of 10 and 50, reported Press Trust of India.
"She (Desai) came here not for darshan but for disturbing a peaceful Sabarimala pilgrim season beginning Saturday," Press Trust Of India said quoting protesters.
While activist Trupti Desai and the 6 others accompanying are stuck at the Kochi airport for over 4 hours, protesters remain persistent on not letting the activist out. Taxi drivers are refusing to take her out of the airport.
"Won't allow Trupti Desai to go out from airport using police vehicle or other govt means. Airport taxies also won't take her. If she wants, she can use her own vehicle. There will be agitations all along her way even if she goes out from airport: MN Gopi, BJP, said outside Cochin airport.
The Sabarimala is set to open between 5 and 5.30 pm today. Hours before its opening, activist Trupthi Desai, who will travel to the hilltop shrine, arrived at Kochi airport. She was faced with several BJP activists along with protests who were chanting Swami Sharanam outside the airport. Ms Desai was accomponied by 6 others and remain inside the airport premises.