After a day-long high drama, the doors to the Lord Ayyappa temple closed on Tuesday night after a two-day-long special puja, but no girl or woman pilgrim in the traditionally barred age group of 10-50 could offer prayers at the shrine.
Melshanthi (chief priest) Unnikrishnan Namboothiri closed the portals of the sanctum sanctorum after rendering the 'Harivarasanam', the lullaby for Lord Ayyappa, the celibate deity.
Earlier, hundreds of devotees witnessed the 'padipuja', an auspicious ritual, by standing below the sacred 18 steps, chanting Ayyappa mantras.
The doors of the shrine will now open on November 17 for the three-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku celebrations when lakhs of devotees from the country and abroad visit the place every year.
The temple was opened Monday for the annual 'Chitira Atta Thirunal" puja to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last king of Travancore.
Meanwhile, RSS leader Valsan Thillankeri and a temple board official stirred up a controversy on Tuesday after they allegedly climbed the sacred 18 steps without carrying the customary "Irumudikettu" (offerings carried by devotees for the deity) – a violation of tradition.
Television channels aired visuals of Thillankeri at the golden 18 steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum without the "Irumudikettu", though the RSS leader claimed that he had not violated any customs.
Member of Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) KP Sankaradas said a probe would be conducted. But later much to his embarrassment, visuals of him climbing the holy steps on Monday surfaced.
Sabarimala tantri (head priest), Kandararu Rajeevaru said only the tantris and members of the erstwhile Pandalam Royal family could climb the steps without "Irrumudikettu."
Reacting to the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said its leaders were going to the temple complex without following the customs and traditions.
BJP-RSS were not interested in maintaining the purity of Sabarimala, he said at Kozhikode.
"I am not a person who goes to the temple. Even then, when I visited Sabarimala recently, I went to the sannidhanam without climbing the holy steps as I had not carried the Irumudikettu," he said.
Sabarimala temple witnessed a high drama earlier on Tuesday when about 200 frenzied devotees tried to prevent a woman pilgrim from entering the hilltop shrine suspecting her to be of menstrual age and allegedly attacked a cameraman of a Malayalam television news channel.
Ignoring prohibitory orders, devotees and right-wing activists gathered in huge numbers at Sannidhanam, the shrine complex, following which a senior state RSS leader addressed them using a microphone to bring the situation under control.
Though a rush of pilgrims is hardly witnessed during the annual "Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal", the hill temple saw an unprecedented flow of devotees this time when it was opened for the two-day special puja Monday evening.
Clapping and chanting 'Ayyappa saranam', a huge crowd of devotees surrounded Lalitha Ravi (52), suspecting her to be of menstrual age, but police intervened and escorted her out.
The woman showed her Aadhaar card to them to prove she did not belong to the "traditionally barred" age group of 10-50 years though the Supreme Court has allowed entry of girls and women of all age groups.
The police later escorted her to the shrine to offer prayers along with her other women relatives.
(With PTI inputs)