Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 19: As the Sabarimala temple opened for the annual two-month pilgrimage amid heavy security, the police on Tuesday stopped a 12-year-old girl from trekking to the hill shrine.
The age of the girl, with "irrumudikettu" (offerings to Lord Ayyappa), had been shown as 10 in the virtual Q-booking. After checking the girl’s ID proof at Pamba, the police barred her from proceeding ahead to offer prayers at Ayyappa’s shrine that has been a hotbed of protests since the Supreme Court last year lifted the century-old traditional ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to the temple. The 12-year-old was a part of a group that came from Tamil Nadu and belonged to Belur. She was accompanied by her father and other relatives.
Supporting the shrine’s tradition, a nine-year-old girl from Kerala, who came to the temple complex from Karnataka on Monday, had a placard around her neck inscribed with the words "Ready to wait. Will visit the shrine after attaining 50 years".
Hailing from Thrissur, Hridyakrishnan said she had visited the shrine thrice and would have ’darshan’ of Lord Ayyappa only after she reaches 50. Her father, Harikrishnan, had said devotees are those who protect traditions and beliefs.
Since the Supreme Court referred to a larger bench a bunch of review petitions regarding the entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala, the Kerala government in a U-turn has pointed to “grey areas” in the judgment and indicated it is “not going to take young women to the temple”.
To stop them from going to the shrine, the police are checking all vehicles at Nilakkal — the first base station from where pilgrims are allowed to proceed to Pamba. Women police constables have been deployed in the area.
This is the second pilgrim season after the Supreme Court’s ruling in September 2018.
While scores of young women, including activists, attempted to visit the temple last year, only two are known to have officially entered the shrine with police protection.
On November 14, the Supreme Court concluded that its September 28, 2018, judgment lifting age restrictions on the entry of women may impinge on the affairs of other religions as well and will require a more detailed examination. In a 3-2 decision, the apex court decided that petitions seeking review of the verdict will be kept pending till a larger bench of seven judges’ takes a call on the matter.