Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Sabarimala temple opened with high religious fervour on Saturday though politicos tried to score points and three women made an unsuccessful bid to worship at the shrine.
The police sent back three women devotees from Andhra Pradesh below the age of 50 after checking their identity cards on Saturday afternoon.
The women had come with a 15-member group from Vijayawada and they told the police that they were unaware of the restrictions. While Melshanti Vasudevan Namboothiri opened the sanctum sanctorum at 5 pm in the presence of tantri Mahesh Mohanaru, a leader of the renaissance movement lashed out at Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran for being “more loyal than the king” in keeping out young women from the Lord Ayyappa temple.
The regular pujas signalling the start of the pilgrimage season will be performed from early Sunday, the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikam.
A.K. Sudhir Namboothiri was installed as the new ‘Melshanti’ by performing ‘Kalasabishekam’ before the ‘moolamantram’ of Lord Ayyappa was passed on to to him. He will perform regular pujas from 4 am on Sunday.
The first leg of the pilgrimage, the 41-day ‘Mandala’ phase, will culminate with the ‘Mandala’ puja on December 27. It will be followed by ‘Makaravilakku’ with the ‘jyothi darshan’ as its highpoint on January 15.
Meanwhile, Punnala Sreekumar, general secretary of the ‘Renaissance Values Protection Committee,’ criticised the devaswom minister’s stand and said his statement that women who intend to visit Sabarimala should obtain a special order from the Supreme Court was ‘anti’-constitutional.
The court has not granted a stay on the verdict allowing the entry of young women at the temple. Therefore, for a person holding a constitutional post, making such remarks is a clear violation of Constitution and law, he said.
“He appears to be more loyal than the king,” he added.
The V.S. Achuthanandan government in 2007 and the present Pinarayi Vijayan government had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court in favour of the entry of young women. “By deviating from the stand now, the political leadership is justifying the allegations of UDF,” he added.
When the committee was promoting renaissance values, such deviations by the government would weaken their campaign, he said and sought more clarity from the government and political leadership on the matter.
While Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been guarded in his reaction to the Supreme Court verdict and the entry of young women, Kadakampally and law minister A.K. Balan have been more vociferous.
The latter had termed the verdict “highly complicated” which posed more problems to the government.
“There is no question of taking women between the ages of 10 and 50 to Sabarimala under government’s protection and security,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CPM state secretariat on Saturday said that the reports claiming that the party has taken a stand on Sabarimala issue against the backdrop of Supreme Court verdict were only part of the imagination of a section of the media.
In a statement, the secretariat said the CPM’s well stated position is that man-woman equality should be ensured in all spheres.
However, the government has to function on the basis of rules, laws and court verdicts.
It said the Chief Minister had already pointed out that clarity would be sought on SC verdict from legal experts and the government will take a stand accordingly.
The secretariat said the LDF governments had acted on the Sabarimala young women entry issue as per the High Court verdict of 1991 and till September 28, 2018 the same stand was applicable. After getting clarity on the recent verdict of the Supreme Court constitution bench, the government will discharge its constitutional responsibility of implementing the judgment.