Thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees, including women and children, today protested in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram against the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.
As the temple complex opens Wednesday for monthly rituals, protesters have warned they will not allow women inside the complex and if needed, they will lie down at the entry points.
Steered by the state unit of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), devotees raised slogans and held pictures of Lord Ayyappa, placards and the BJP's party flags as part of their "Save Sabarimala" campaign.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the hill-shrine, will meet the patrons, including the Tantri (head priest) family, Pandalam royals and Ayyappa Seva Sangam on Tuesday to discuss the preparations ahead of the three-month-long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season starting November 17.
However, the members of the Padalam royal family and the temple priests haven't confirmed their presence.
"Let them come and share their views. We will take a suitable decision on all aspects regarding the temple," the board's president A Padmakumar said.
Heavy security has been deployed for the opening. So far, no special arrangements have been made for women devotees, he added.
The state has been witnessing a series of protests by the state units of Congress and the BJP as well as Hindu outfits against the verdict and the Left-led government's "hasty" move to implement the order. Some of the groups have demanded that the Kerala government come out with an ordinance to stop the entry of women to the shrine.
The BJP has alleged that the government is "conspiring" to destroy the hillock shrine.
BJP's state president PS Sreedharan Pillai has warned of a bigger agitation if the government failed to resolve the issue in the next 24 hours.
"We will meet each villager in Kerala and chalk out a massive agitation plan to protect the Sabarimala Temple, its centuries-old traditions and the sentiments of Lord Ayyappa devotees," Mr Pillai said.
The Lord Ayyappa temple has traditionally barred all women of menstruating age. The temple's rule followed the belief that menstruating women are "impure".
The custom in the temple was challenged by a clutch of petitioners who argued that women cannot be denied the constitutional right to worship.
In a four-one majority verdict, the top court allowed women to enter the temple. But women devotees, activists who backed the ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50, took to the streets to express their dissent.
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