A meeting between the Travancore Dewaswom Board, the chief priest of the Sabarimala temple and the former royal family of Pandalam ended on Tuesday, after the Pandalam palace team walked out. While the board manages the temple, the erstwhile royal family enjoys traditional rights over the conduct of rituals.
The discussions were held amid protests against last month’s Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 were earlier forbidden to enter the temple.
PG Sasikumar, the president of the Pandalam palace managing committee, told reporters that the meeting was unsatisfactory. “The board said they can discuss the review petition on October 19,” he said according to ANI. “We’re upset that they’re unwilling to discuss it today. We came out of the meeting because they are not ready to accept our demands.”
“We have urged the board to file a review petition [before the Supreme Court]. Until it is disposed off the status quo [prohibition on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50] should be maintained.”
Travancore Dewaswom Board President A Padmakumar said that the board told the Pandalam representatives that they would discuss the possibility of filing a review petition on October 19 after meeting lawyers. “But they demanded to file it tomorrow,” he said. “And they walked out of talks. “They also demanded to continue the ban on women’s entry. But we told them the board is not in a position to do that. Though the talks failed we are ready to hold further discussions.”
Meanwhile, demonstrators pulled women out of a state-owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus at Nilakal, near Sabarimala, The Indian Express reported. The daily said television visuals showed some of these women wearing black dresses, usually worn by Ayyappa devotees.
The Sabarimala temple will open on Wednesday for monthly rituals. The government has supported the Supreme Court’s decision, while the Congress – which had initially welcomed the verdict – and the Bharatiya Janata Party have opposed the ruling.
On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan promised to implement the top court’s order, ANI reported. “We will not allow anyone to take law and order into their hands,” he said. “The government will ensure facilities for devotees to go to the temple and offer prayers. Government will not submit a review petition. We’ve said in court that we’ll implement the order.”
Earlier this month, the priests’ representatives had refused to participate in talks proposed by Vijayan. The National Ayyappa Devotees Association and the Nair Service Society have filed review petitions in the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, the Mahila Congress organised a meeting in Erumeli town against the top court’s order. “When we [the United Democratic Front] were in government, we submitted an affidavit in favour of the beliefs and sentiments of devotees,” Kerala Mahila Congress President Lathika Suresh said.
Another protest meeting was held by the Kerala Vellala Mahasabha community in Erumeli. Kerala BJP leaders were in attendance at the meeting, The Indian Express reported. Erumeli is an important halting point for pilgrims on the way to Sabarimala.