The Kerala Chief Minister’s Office on Friday claimed that a 46-year-old woman from Sri Lanka entered the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala last night to offer prayers. The woman, however, said that police had stopped her from entering the temple despite her reaching close to the 18 sacred steps that lead to the shrine.
The Chief Minister’s Office said it has released CCTV footage from the temple to confirm that the woman had entered it. According to The Times of India, CCTV visuals showed the woman, Sasikala, walking around the sannidhanam or temple complex. The footage showed the woman carrying the irumudikettu (sacred offering) and a man accompanying her leaving the sanctum sanctorum. They were seen around the sannidhanam around 10.45 pm, according to the time stamp on the footage.
Sasikala, however, told reporters at Pampa – an entry point to Sabarimala – that she was not allowed to worship at the temple. “I am a devotee. I wanted to pray, I had completed the 48-day vratham (penance), who are they [police] to send me back?” she is heard telling reporters.
According to Asianet News, police said protests had erupted against Sasikala entering the temple at Marakootam, which is a kilometre away from the sanctum sanctorum. Sasikala, however, said devotees had not protested against her entry.
She told ANI that she went up to the holy steps and was not allowed to go further. “I have a medical certificate,” she said. According to Mathrubhumi, the woman, while seeking protection from police to enter the temple, said her uterus had been removed and she provided medical documents to prove her claim. Traditionally, women of menstruating age have not been allowed to enter the temple, until a Supreme Court order in September had done away with the rule.
Sasikala’s husband told media that they went only till Marakootam, reported The News Minute. He said policemen in plainclothes retreated when they saw a camera crew. He said Sasikala was stopped while he and his son made the darshan.
The state had observed a shutdown called by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sabarimala Action Council, an umbrella group of Hindu organisations, on Thursday after two women below the age of 50 entered the temple the previous day. The protests turned violent and left one person dead and scores injured.