Pandalam royals accept TDB invite, want to 'clear misunderstandings'

TDB calls tantris & Pandalam royals for Sabarimala talks
Until now, girls below 10 years of age and women above 50 were only allowed to visit the temple. Photo: PTI

Thiruvananthapuram: Amid continuing protests on the Sabarimala issue, Pandalam Palace has accepted the invitation for a meeting from the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to 'clear up misunderstandings' ahead of the annual pilgrimage season that is set to begin next month.

The members of royal family, however, made it clear that they will not back off from the demands put forth earlier. P. G. Sasikumar Varma, Pandalam Palace managing committee president, said that Pandalam Palace would boycott the meeting if the purpose of it is to discuss the entry of women to the temple. Accepting TDB's invitation, Sasikumar said the government and TDB have started indentifying with the emotions of devotees.

As various Hindu outfits and Ayyappa devotees have been staging protests over the last few days across Kerala against the implementation of the Supreme Court order, permitting women of all age groups into the shrine, the call for talks is considered an attempt for a consensus.

Earlier, TDB president A Padmakumar said the meeting is scheduled to be held on October 16 at its headquarters here and invited tantris (temple priests), Pandalam royals and devotee.

Various stakeholders of the Sabarimala shrine, including Ayyappa Seva Sangam, Ayyappa Seva Samajam, tantri mahamandalam and Yoga Kshema Sabah, have also been invited for the talks.

"TDB has no prejudice over any matter related to Sabriamala... Let them come and share their views. We will take a suitable decision on all aspects regarding the temple after that," Padmakumar told reporters.

The three-month-long annual 'Mandalam-Makaravilakku' pilgrimage season of the Sabarimala Temple will begin on November 17.

Protests continue

Meanwhile, various devotee groups and Hindu outfits took out protest marches in different places across the state, demanding that the sanctity of the temple rituals be protected.

The BJP-led NDA's 'Long March', which started last week from Pandalam in protest against the CPIM-led LDF government's decision to implement the top court order without going for a review, reached the capital city Sunday.

Actor-turned-MP Suresh Gopi flagged off the rally here at Alamkode.

"Each BJP worker will fight till his final drop of blood is shed to protect the sanctity of the centuries old tradition of Sabarimala" party state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said addressing the rally.

The march, which criss-crossed the southern districts of the state, would conclude before the state Secretariat, the administrative hub here, Monday

Hundreds of activists of Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) also took out a rally here, urging the state and union governments to address the concerns of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.

Call for hartal

AHP president Pravin Togadia called for a hartal in the state on October 18 if the Left government implements the apex court order.

"We demand that the state government file a review petition in the Supreme Court.Till that petition is pending, they should not implement the court order," he said addressing the rally.

If the state fails to do so, the AHP would announce a hartal in Kerala on October 17, 10 pm to October 18, he said.

Warning that AHP would expand the agitation to other parts of the country, Togadia demanded that the Centre come out with an ordinance to overcome the apex court order.

A group of Yuva Morcha activists took out a march to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's residence at northern Kannur district.

The police blocked the agitators by putting up barricades a few kilometers away from the residence.

On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.

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