Sabarimala: 500 women of ‘barred’ age register online for deity darshan
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As the row over allowing women of childbearing age entry into the Sabarimala temple continues to simmer, at least 500 women between the ages of 10 and 50 years have applied online for darshan during the three-month annual pilgrimage season starting November 17.
A virtual queue system (sabarimalaq.com) operated by the Kerala police is in place to control the flow of pilgrims during the season. Registrations on the portal started three days ago. So far, at least 350,000 pilgrims have registered for darshan, of whom 560 are women of reproductive age, according to Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) officials familiar with the matter.
According to the officials of TDB, which runs the temple, at least 1.6 million pilgrims availed themselves of the free virtual queue facility last year. Although majority of the pilgrims do not bother with online registration, at least 30% do so to avoid standing in snaking queues for six to eight hours.
The queue for online pilgrims is separate. Once a pilgrim registers online using any government-issued identity and provides requisite details, a receipt is issued mentioning the timing of the trek from the base camp at Pambha.
On September 28, the Supreme Court had issued an order allowing women of all ages entry into Sabarimala. The temple witnessed violent protests when it opened twice since the verdict, first on October 17 and then during the just-concluded Sree Chithirayattam festival. At least 15 women have been blocked from trekking to the hilltop shrine by protesters from fringe outfits.
Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has vowed to implement the top court order but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress are backing the sections protesting the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple, on the grounds that the presiding deity, Lord Ayappa, is celibate.
The TDB has decided to submit an affidavit in the Supreme Court favouring the entry of women of all ages into the temple. Earlier, there were serious differences between the TDB and the state government. “We are dutybound to go by the verdict of the Supreme Court,” said TDB member Shankardas.
All eyes are now on the Supreme Court, which will take up review petitions against its verdict on November 13. But political parties are in a race to exploit the issue. On Thursday, senior BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa flagged off the ‘Save Sabrimala’ ratha yatra to Pathanamthitta from Kasargode. Congress leaders, including K Sudhakaran and K Muralidharan, are leading rallies from five places in the state against the top court order.
■ Supreme Court to take up review petition on November 13.