Travancore Dewaswom Board President A Padmakumar on Sunday said only “women activists” will visit the Sabarimala temple following the Supreme Court’s verdict on September 28 allowing women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter the shrine.
“During the last annual pilgrim season, devotees had to stand in queue for over 17 continuous hours on a particular day due to the unprecedented rush,” Padmakumar, who met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday, told PTI. “Is it possible for women to trek kilometres through the forest path and stand among the packed crowd? Only some women activists are expected to trek the holy hill in the name of the verdict.” He claimed that “real women devotees” who respect the temple’s traditions and will not visit.
Padmakumar said the top court only considered the “constitutional, fundamental and gender issues” while ruling on the matter. It should also have thought of the “unique geographical aspects and specific circumstances” at the shrine, he argued.
After meeting Vijayan, the board president said he would request the Centre to grant the board 100 acres of forest land to comply with the court’s order and create more amenities for devotees. The board, which is likely to meet on October 3, will also consider filing a review petition as it would be difficult to implement the order, he added.
Padmakumar said some of the existing toilets and lodging facilities at the site can be demarcated for women devotees. The board is also planning to set up a new dormitory to accommodate at least 10,000 people. “The work will begin by January and will be completed by the next pilgrimage season in 2019,” he added.
Padmakumar said the shrine’s management would provide all possible facilities for women devotees who will reach the shrine from October 16, when the temple opens for the three-month annual pilgrimage season.
Meanwhile, the state Congress unit, which had backed the verdict, made a U-turn on Sunday. Ramesh Chennithala, the Opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly, said the Vijayan-led government and the Travancore Dewaswom Board should file a review petition. “It now seems that the verdict was based on wrong arguments and divergent views taken by the Left Democratic Front government and the board,” he tweeted. “I concur with the view that rationality should not overtopple [sic] faith.”