Chaos reigns at Sabarimala as protesters block women

On a day of high drama, two young women, a journalist and an activist, were forced to abandon their attempt to enter the Sabarimala temple on Friday after protesting devotees blocked their path and the Tantri (chief priest) threatened to lock the doors to the sanctum sanctorum if the women were allowed to enter the shrine. Tension gripped Sabarimala around 7 a.m. when Kavitha, a television reporter from Hyderabad, and Rehana Fatima from Kochi reached Pampa to undertake the arduous trek to the hilltop shrine. The two women, Ms.Fatima carrying an Irumudikettu (sacred bundle), sought police protection to proceed to Sabarimala against the backdrop of the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the temple. The women, wearing helmets and flak jackets and protected by a detachment of policemen led by Inspector-General of Police S. Sreejith, reached Valiyanadappandal, barely a 10-minute walk away from the steps leading to the temple around 8.40 a.m. But the group was unable to go any further as they encountered about 300 devotees, including children, who were blocking access to the road leading to Lower Tirumuttom. Palace’s instructions Separately, the Pandalam Palace had urged the temple’s high priest (Tantri) Kandararu Rajeevaru to take effective steps to ensure compliance with the ritualistic as well as Tantric customs, traditions and practices at the Ayyappa temple. Pandalam Palace Managing Committee secretary P.N. Narayana Varma told The Hindu that he had sent a communication through a special messenger directing the Tantri to close the sanctum if any young woman violated the temple’s customs and entered its precincts. Expressing anguish over the escalating tension, Tantri Kandararu Rajeevararu appealed to women devotees in the age group of 10-50 to avoid visiting the shrine in the larger interest of restoring peace at the temple hillock. “This is my prayer to the woman devotees, with all respect to the Supreme Court order,” Mr. Rajeevaru said.

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