Published On: Mon, Nov 5th, 2018

Sabarimala temple opens amid tight security

Sabarimala: The Sabarimala temple on Monday opened at 5 pm for a one-day special pilgrimage amid tight security.

The police have agreed to allow private vehicles from Erumely till Nilackal

The temple will close at 10 pm, and then reopen Tuesday morning before finally closing at 10 pm.

According to figures till 4.15 pm, 5,540 pilgrims had taken the pathway to the temple hilltop, compared with less than 1,000 devotees the same day last year.

The famed temple had witnessed massive protests against the September 28 Supreme Court verdict allowing hitherto banned age group of girls and women to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine. On Monday, many devotees complained and shouted slogans as the police stopped them for checking in the morning.

At 8 am, the police opened the barricade and started allowing devotees to walk to Pamba — the base town of the temple. Hundreds of pilgrims at Nilackal and Erumely were seen arguing as they faced repeated obstacles from the police for advancing.

What irked them the most was the policemen’s insistence to check their identity proofs and the need to answer several questions as they tried to reach the sanctum sanctorum that would close at 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

At Erumely, all pilgrim vehicles were stopped. The devotees protested and shouted Lord Ayyappa slogans as they arrived at a bus depot of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), demanding transport to proceed to the hilltop shrine.

“We have been asked to wait since last (Sunday) night. We are all on a pilgrimage and we have no other intention. We are not particular that our vehicles should be allowed. The KSRTC should then operate the buses to take us forward,” said an angry devotee, as others echoed his demand.

Following the growing number of protesters, the police have agreed to allow private vehicles from Erumely till Nilackal.

Vishnu Das, 70, was angry at the way the police were managing the pilgrims’ progress. He said it was the first time in his 56 years of visit to the shrine that he has been put to such difficulties.

“The police are out to create trouble and the scene here is as if it’s a battleground. The police is very intimidating. Till last year, there were no issues at all.

The visit to Sabarimala is supposed to bring solace, but this time everything has changed,” said Das, as he walked towards Pamba.

The arrangements at the temple town are such that all pilgrims arriving by their vehicles have to get down at Nilackal and then take a KSRTC bus to Pamba, about 20 kilometres, and then start the trek to the temple, situated on a hilltop.

Sreekumar Varma of the Pandalam Royal family, the custodian of the jewellery of the Sabarimala temple, said he was hurt by the way things have unfolded.

“All along it has been a peaceful pilgrimage to Sabarimala. But today the temple has been turned into a ‘police station’. It pains us all,” said Varma.

Senior BJP leaders MT Ramesh and K Surendran were spotted at the temple top and both of them said they are there as pilgrims.

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