Sabarimala temple woes continue
SUCCESSIVE governments in Kerala, India, have been pressing various Union governments to demand the famed Sabarimala temple be elevated to a national pilgrim centre. But, instead, the issue is now the focus of international attention after a Supreme Court directive that women be allowed into the shrine that attracts the world’s largest pilgrimage.
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, including those from the hitherto banned age group of 10 to 50.
The Left Democratic Front government led by the Communist Party of India (CPI-M) has been trying to implement the verdict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.
The temple usually opens for five days at the beginning of every Malayalam month and from November 15 to January 20 is home to the festival season comprising the Mandala puja session and the Makaravilaku session.
Since the verdict, around three dozen women have tried and failed to go up the pathway leading to the temple after protests from the believers.
On January 2, two women managed to pay obeisance, with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirming this.
Thereafter, the Sabarimala tantri (head priest) closed the temple for an hour and conducted “purification’ rituals”, something that has never happened before during the two-month-long festival season.
Deeply hurt by the manner in which the Kerala police enabled the two women to enter the temple, an angry Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of Hindu groups that has the backing of the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, called for a shutdown the next day that led to widespread violence across the state.
Police chief Loknath Behra said on Monday close to 40 000 people had been booked for creating violence in the past few days and 1869 cases registered.
Up until Monday, 5 769 people have been arrested, of which 789 have been remanded while 4980 have been let out on bail.
In the violence, the homes of BJP Rajya Sabha member V Muraleedharan and several other BJP leaders were attacked, as were the residences of top CPI-M leaders including, party legislator AM Shamsheer.
The approximate damages caused by the violence has been estimated at around R19 million, with close to 100 state-ownedbuses also being damaged.
What has come as a shock to the state government is the strong position taken by the powerful Nair Service Society, the socio-cultural body of the Hindu Nair community, which condemned Vijayan’s role in staging a pre-scripted display of breaking the customs and traditions of the Sabarimala temple.
But Vijayan, ever since the verdict, has stood rooted to the stand that there is no other go but to abide by it. – IANS
Sabarimala temple being shut down for “purification rituals” after two women from the hitherto banned age group prayed at the temple in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta, on January 2.