Two-month-long Sabarimala festival begins amid tight security

Published: Nov 16, 2018, 19:43 IST | IANS

The new season would take a three-day break on December 27 and the temple doors would be closed on January 20

The two-month-long festival season at the famed Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala kicked off on Friday with the opening of the temple doors at 5 p.m amidst unprecedented security and new guidelines from the police for the pilgrims.

The new season would take a three-day break on December 27 and the temple doors would be closed on January 20.

The temple town last month and early this month witnessed protests by Hindu groups and temple management following the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.

The apex court on Tuesday refused to stay its earlier verdict, making things more complicated and forcing the Kerala government to reiterate its earlier stand that they would have no other option but to abide by the verdict.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) have already announced that they will go to any extent to protect the traditions of the temple.

Around 5,000 police personnel have been posted in and around the temple town and all pilgrims will be put through stiff security checks, before they are allowed to walk through the pathway that leads to the temple, located at a hill top.

The sanctum santorum of the temple was opened on Friday after the customary pujas performed by the temple tantri and chief priests.

The new guidelines that the police have issued include that no pilgrim would be allowed to stay back at the temple premises after the doors of the temple close every day at 10 p.m.

All the shopkeepers in and around the temple and those located on the pathway have been asked to down their shutters when the temple closes at night every day.

The Pathanamthitta district administration has now clamped prohibitory orders in and around the temple town for seven days.

Leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala said following the floods that hit the temple town in August and September, lots of damages took place but the state government has failed to restore the facilities necessary for a smooth pilgrimage.

"The only thing happening in Sabarimala is tough security checks and new guidelines have been brought in...never seen before. What's most painful is that due to the strict security issues, certain rituals which the pilgrims were able to do freely till now, will no longer be possible. Things are bad in the temple town," said Chennithala.

But State Minister for Devasoms, which looks after temples, Kadakampally Surendran, while speaking to the media at the Nilackal base camp near the Sabarimala temple on Friday said they have set up the best facilities for the pilgrims, given the limitations.

"After the floods, there has been a ban on construction and despite that they have been able to put up all the required facilities. We request all to cooperate to make the pilgrimage season a success," said Surendran.

Meanwhile, around 800 women in the hitherto banned age group have registered for temple visit and now all eyes are on how the police deal with those opposed to breaking the temple traditions.

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