The Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala’s Sabarimala is set to open for the monthly pooja on Monday and this had kept the security personnel on their toes in the backdrop of violent protests over entry of women of menstrual age last month after the Supreme Court permitted women in the 10-50 age group to offer prayers at the shrine on September 28. At least 12 women had made a vain attempt to trek the hills soon after the verdict, however, had to return midway amid violent protests and threats from temple authorities to shut down the shrine.
According to a Kerala police release, 1,500 personnel, 100 of them women, are keeping vigil at Sabarimala and nearby areas from Pamba to Sannidhaman. A 20-member commando team has been deployed at Sannidhanam, Nilackal and Pamba, the release said. Meanwhile, the BJP's state unit said its president PS Sreedharan Pillai has received a death threat. Tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru and chief priest Unnikrishnan Namboodiri will open the temple doors and light the lamp at the 'Sreekovil' (sanctum sanctorum) on November 5 at 5 pm.
Besides the usual poojas, "Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal" special pooja, will be held on Tuesday and the shrine will be closed at 10 pm. A prohibitory order under section 144 CrPc banning assembly of four or more people had come into force at Pamba, Nilackal, Elavungal, and Sannidhanam from midnight Saturday till Tuesday midnight. Barricades have been erected at many places en route to Nilakkal and police personnel are allowing vehicles only after checking, according to report in the DNA.
Kerala had witnessed widespread protests by devotees after the state government made it clear that it was bound to implement the top court’s verdict on the entry of women of all ages into the temple. The shrine had witnessed high drama after around a dozen women in the 10-50 age group were prevented by protesting devotees from entering it after the temple doors were opened for monthly pujas between October 17 and 22.
The temple will again be opened on November 17 the three-month-long ‘Mandalam-Makaravilakku’ festival, when VN Vasudevan Namboothiri, a native of Palakkad district, who was elected as the new ‘melshanthi’ (chief priest) of the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala for the next one year, will take charge. Namboothiri is currently serving as the priest of an Ayyappa temple in Bengaluru. MN Narayanan Namboothiri, from Chengannur, would be the new priest of Malikappuram shrine at the Sabarimala temple complex. Both the priests were selected through a draw of lots conducted in front of the sanctum sanctorum.