Sabarimala Must Allow Women: Kerala Government Ditches Predecessor's Take

Young women are not allowed in Sabarimala temple since they are considered "unclean" during menstruation

New Delhi: Women of all ages should be allowed into the famous Sabarimala shrine of Kerala, the state government told the Supreme Court today, reversing the stand of the previous Congress-led government.

For centuries, women between 10 and 50 years have not been allowed in Sabarimala, a hilltop shrine that is among the most prominent of Kerala temples. Some say they are not allowed because they are considered "unclean" during menstruation but others say the reason is that the temple's deity Lord Ayyappa is celibate.

The Left-led LDF government had in 2007 said that women should not be stopped from entering the shrine but that stand changed when the Congress-led UDF was in charge.  In 2014, the UDF government said there was a "mistake" in the earlier government affidavit and said women cannot be permitted in the temple because of the deity's celibacy vows.

The LDF, which returned to power earlier this year, said today that its 2007 view stands. The court, however, has to consider the argument of the temple's decision-making Devaswom Board, which says a document submitted in court cannot be altered at the convenience of the party in power.

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The Supreme Court had said before that refusing entry to women to a public religious place is a violation of rights. It will take up the case again in February.

Last year, there was outrage when the chief of the Devasom Board, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, said women will be allowed into the temple the day a machine is invented to detect if they are menstruating.

"The day there will be a machine to detect if it's the 'right time' for women to enter temples, that day they will be allowed in Sabarimala," Mr Gopalakrishnan was reported as saying.