Meeting called as Sabarimala pilgrim season set to begin

The provincial government in the southern Indian state of Kerala has called an all-party meeting on Thursday (Nov 15) to discuss ways to facilitate the entry of young women into the hilltop temple of Sabarimala and other related issues just hours ahead of the reopening of the shrine on Nov 16.

The two-month annual season called Mandala Makkaravillakku is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of devotees to Sabarimala which is witnessing a conflict after the Supreme Court on Sept 28 lifted a centuries-old ban on girls and women of menstrual age from entering the temple dedicated to a celibate deity.

The call for the meeting comes on the day when the top court agreed to review its order in January but refused to stay the ruling until a batch of review petitions are heard.

More than 500 young women have registered online for temple visit on the website of Kerala police. The state government has to enforce the top court’s order by ensuring them entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Earlier attempts by a handful of women to enter the temple were foiled by devotees who refused to permit those between 10 and 50 years of age defying the apex court’s ruling.

Police and devotees clashed over entry of young women when the Sabarimala temple reopened after the historic court ruling.

More than 3,700 people have been arrested and 546 cases were registered against them for blocking young women pilgrims from entering the temple, attacking media professionals and destroying their vehicles and equipment and pelting police with stones.