As the sun sets on the Sabarimala mountain range on Wednesday, Lord Ayyappa Temple set atop a hill will open its door to devotees to perform monthly puja. But tension mounts at Nilackal - the main gateway to Sabarimala, as vehicles and women travelling to visit the temple were stopped, raising doubts about the possibility of women entering the holy place of worship. Nilackal base camp is located about 20 km away from Sabarimala hilltop. A meeting by The Travancore Devaswom Board, a temple body on Tuesday with various stakeholders including the Pandalam royal family and Ayyappa devotees failed to come to a conclusion on the matter, according to an NDTV report.
Heavy security was deployed near the base camp at Nilackal.
Kerala: Total 1000 security personnel, 800 men and 200 women, deployed at Nillekal and Pampa base. 500 security personnel deployed at Sannidhanam. Portals of the #SabarimalaTemple will be opened today. pic.twitter.com/yxjJ1CCWzq— ANI (@ANI) October 17, 2018
For the first time, after the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to enter the holy place, the Sabarimala Temple will open on Wednesday. However, tension looms large as temple devotees on Tuesday stopped vehicles and prevented women of the "banned" age group from moving forward to the Sabarimala temple located on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats.
Women agitators, chanting 'Swamiya Saranam Ayyappa' and clapping their hands, were seen inspecting vehicles at various points en route to Sabarimala since Monday evening.
"No woman belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilackal and offer worship at the shrine" when it opens for the monthly pooja tomorrow evening, a woman agitator was quoted by PTI as saying.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in an effort to ease the situation, told reporters that no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala. After the five-day monthly puja during the Malayalam month of Thulam, the temple would be closed on October 22.