Two women in their 40s wrote themselves into history on Wednesday morning when they became the first in menstruating age to offer prayers to the famous Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district, after the Supreme Court verdict.
The woman, 44-year-old Bindhu Ammini and 42-year-old Kanakadurga from Malappuram and Kozhikode districts, trekked the 4-km long traditional path from Pamba, the foothills, to Sannidhanam, the Sanctum Sanctorum, in the wee hours of Wednesday with police protection.
As news of two women praying at the shrine emerged, the tantris of Sabarimala Temple closed the Sanctum Sanctorum and performed ‘purification’ rituals. The temple, which was shut at 10.30 am, reopened at 11.30 am after an hour-long pooja.
The women, who arrived at Pamba on Tuesday morning, approached the police seeking protection to pray before Lord Ayyappa.
“The police gave us protection and ensured that we have darshan of Lord Ayyappa. We began our journey from the foothills at 1.30 am and prayed before the god at 3.30 am,” Bindhu told DH over the phone.
Though the women climbed down the hills in the traditional path along with male devotees, they were quickly taken to a “safe location” by the police. “We can’t disclose our current location since there are threats for our life,” she said
They had made a failed attempt to visit the temple on December 24. Kanakadurga was reportedly went hiding after the incident.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that nothing strange in the incident as the government was always ready to provide protection for the women devotees.
Minister A K Balan said that the government will continue to protect the women devotees if more people wish to visit the shrine.
While the ruling CPI-M slammed the priests for violating the Supreme Court order by performing rituals after the women entered the temple, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai likened Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who implemented the Jizya tax on non-Muslim subjects.
Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar accused the government of being scared of the male devotees. “It is absolute shame that police secretly did all these. Why are they scared? Whom are they scared of? Why do they have to do things in secret?” he asked.
This is the first time that women in menstruating age entering the temple after the Supreme Court in September allowed them to pray at the shrine. Earlier attempts by women were foiled as violence broke out.
Women in the age group of 10-50 have been barred from praying at the temple for last two decades after a Kerala High Court verdict and male devotees follow a strict vegetarian diet and observe 41-day ‘viradham’ (fast) before beginning their 4-km long trek to get a darshan of Lord Ayyappa.
On Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan led government joining hands with nearly 100 organisations in the state had organised a 650 km long ‘Women’s Wall’ to demonstrate its strength.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview to the news agency ANI on Tuesday, had said that Sabarimala issue is a matter of tradition while Triple Talaq Bill is related to gender equality.