Govt mulls opening Sabarimala temple all year round

Govt mulls opening Sabarimala temple all year round
A high-level delegation led by Pinarayi Vijayan will discuss the matter with the chief priest soon.

Thiruvananthapuram/Kottayam: Following the recent Supreme Court order on women's entry to the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, the Kerala government is examining if the temple can be opened for all days in a year apparently in a bid to regulate the flow of pilgrims.

Meanwhile, the chief priest of the temple, the Panthalam Royal Family and Devaswom Employees Front have decided to file a review petition against the verdict. The Nair Service Society (NSS), a body of Kerala's influential Nair community, too will challenge it legally.

Traditionally, the temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (between November-December), Makaravilakku or Makara Sankranti (January) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.

Lakhs of pilgrims visit the shrine located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district every year. With the latest Supreme Court order, allowing entry of women in the 10 to 50 age group, the government is expecting an increase in the number of pilgrims in the coming season.

Managing huge number of pilgrims will be challenging for the temple authorities and Kerala police alike. The state police chief has already asked for more women police personnel and access to more land in the reserved forest to ensure security and smooth conduct of the pilgrimage.

According to officials sources, a high-level delegation led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will discuss the matter with the chief priest soon. The government is also thinking of extending the five-day worships in every Malayalam month, if the temple priest denies government's suggestion.

A high-level meeting of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) on Thursday also decided to make necessary arrangements for women pilgrims visiting the hill shrine when it opens for this year's annual pilgrimage season on October 16.

NSS slams govt

The NSS has said it would file a revision petition in the Supreme Court against its order permitting women of all age groups to enter the temple.

Since the NSS had been a party to the case from the very beginning itself, it has decided to file a revision petition in the Supreme Court in the matter, NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said in a statement here on Thursday. He termed as 'disappointing' the stand taken by the Kerala government and the TDB that they would not file a review petition in the apex court against its verdict. Slamming the TDB over the issue, the NSS said the board, which is an independent body managing Lord Ayyappa temple and 1200 other temples, has the responsibility to protect customs and traditions of these shrines.

These temples are managed by using the offerings being made by the devotees and not using money contributed by the government, it said.

The NSS also alleged that the state government was showing unnecessary hurry in implementing the court order. This stand of the government and board has forced the faithful to take necessary steps to protect their faith, the apex body said. The NSS also urged the government to take steps to amicably resolve the issue.

The secretary's statement comes a day after the government rejected the opposition demand to file a review petition in the apex court against its order and said it would implement the verdict in the coming pilgrimage season itself.

The Sabarimala temple had restricted the entry of women belonging to the age group of 10-50 as part of its age-old tradition. On October 28, a five-judge constitution bench, headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.

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