A group of elderly women arrives at the Sabarimala temple on Tuesday. (Photo: PTI)
A case was registered against 200 people after a woman above menstrual age was allegedly manhandled at the Sabarimala temple shrine on Tuesday, even as the Sangh Parivar members staged a protest when a few young women reportedly approached the steps near the sanctum sanctorum of the hill shrine, suspecting them to be of “traditionally barred” age group of 10-50 years.
Lalitha Ravi, 52, from Thrissur, had come to attend her grandchild’s ‘choroonu’ (rice feeding ceremony) at the Ganapathi temple in Pamba on Tuesday, when rumours over her age triggered protests at the Sannidhabam. Subsequently, a crowd surrounded the woman even as police tried to escort her, leading to a minor scuffle.
The woman was later taken to the Sannidhanam hospital where she clarified to reporters that she was 52 years old. According to a PTI report, the woman also showed her Aadhaar card to prove she did not belong to the “traditionally barred” age group of 10-50 years though the Supreme Court has allowed entry of girls and women of all age groups.
Pilgrims later lined up as a human chain and escorted her to the temple.
Pathanamthitta: Devotees trek from Nilakkal base camp towards Sabarimala Temple, in Pathanamthitta. (PTI Photo)
Meanwhile, Sangh Parivar members staged protests at the temple as four women, including Lalitha, reportedly approached the steps near the sanctum sanctorum of the hill shrine. The protesters reportedly also targeted camerapersons trying to report the shooting visuals of the protest.
The cameraman, identified by newsagency PTI as Vishnu of a Malayalam television channel, was allegedly manhandled by the crowd forcing him to take refuge on the roof of a building.
The police, however, claimed that no young women had approached them seeking protection on the second day of the ‘Chithira atta vishesham’ rituals – a two-day special puja held annually to celebrate the birth of the last king of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma.
A controversy also broke at the shine over an alleged violation of tradition by RSS leader Valsan Thillankery, who climbed the sacred 18 steps without carrying the customary “Irumudikettu” (offerings carried by devotees for the deity). Thillankery admitted that he had violated the tradition at the temple and said he had “handed over my travel pouch to another pilgrim to help a few other devotees to climb the steps. We are ready to face any situation for protecting the sanctity of the temple”.
Thillankery, who was leading the agitation at the shrine, later said the devotees would go down from the hill shrine only after the temple is closed tonight.
Sabarimala HIGHLIGHTS: Police stopping private vehicles headed to Pamba at Nilakkal. (Express Photo/Vishnu Varma/File)
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan later targetted the BJP saying the party did not have any intention to protect the traditions and rituals at the temple. “Even Sangh Parivar leaders are violating the rituals and traditions. BJP’s intention is to create violence. I don’t go to temples. But, recently I had gone to Sabarimala temple without climbing the sacred steps. That is how we respect the traditions,” he said in Kozhikode.
The otherwise low-key festival, had witnessed an unprecidented turn out of devotees this year. According to the Devaswom board officials, around 20,000 persons had visited the temple during the two days — it normally attracts fewer than 1,000 pilgrims.
“Usually, pilgrims return after darsan, but this time they have been camping at temple premises since Monday evening. It seems the agitators wanted to ensure that no young woman came to the temple taking advantage of the usual poor turnout in these two days,” sources said.
The temple doors will close at 10 pm on Tuesday. It will reopen for the popular ‘mandalam’ festival on the first day of the month of ‘Vrischikam’, celebrated in mid-November.