Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed on Wednesday two women below the age of 50 did enter the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district under police protection, in a first after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on menstruating women inside the shrine.
Bindhu, a lawyer, and activist Kanakadurga are the first women in their 40s to offer prayers the Sabarimala temple after the Supreme Court in September last year allowed women of all ages to enter the shrine breaking the centuries-old ban against those menstruating.
Before them, no women between the age of 10 and 50 could enter the temple amid violent protests by devotees in the temple complex and throughout the state.
“It is a fact that two women entered the temple. Earlier, their trekking was foiled due to inadequate security. Police are duty-bound to give them protection,” Vijayan said.
The chief minister was referring to their efforts to enter the temple two weeks ago, which was foiled by angry devotees. After that police reportedly advised them not to make their pilgrimage plan public and offered them all help if they come discreetly.
The two said they offered prayers at the hilltop shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa at 3:45 am and came back to Pamba, the base camp, at 5 am. They claimed they came in men’s attire and two dozen police officers in plain clothes accompanied them.
Reports said both came in an ambulance and police discreetly made arrangements for them to reach the temple. The women have also released pictures of them worshipping at the temple.
Bindhu said they entered the temple avoiding the 18 holy steps, considered most sacrosanct part of the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
“We approached police on Tuesday and they promised all help,” said Bindhu.
Kanakadurga’s brother Bharthan said she left home a week back saying she was planning to go to Thiruvananthapuram for some work. She is a native Angadipuram in Malappuram.
Police have tightened security at their houses after they visited the shrine.
Congress working president K Sudhakaran said the women’s entry was conspiracy was hatched by the chief minister and that he will have to pay a heavy price for hurting religious sentiments of lakhs of devotees.
The president of the Travancore Devasom Board, which runs the temple, A Padmakumar said he came to know about it through media reports. He said the board will examine CCTV visuals.
The tantri or the supreme priest of the temple Rajeevaru Kandararu said he will comment only after confirming the incident.
The temple and its base camps have been witnessing protests ever since the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court allowing women of all ages to the worship at the temple. Traditionalists, who believe the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate, had opposed the court verdict and stopped women who tried to enter the temple.