SC opens Sabarimala to women of all ages, many unhappy

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Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 28 (IANS) The Supreme Court ruling on Friday allowing women of all ages to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala has left its priests and many others, including women, unhappy.

Some of them plan to file a review petition against the verdict that came after 12 years of legal battle and nearly a month ahead of the annual pilgrimage starting in November.

Expressing disappointment, Sabarimala ‘tantri’ (chief priest) K. Rajeevaru said: “While I will respect the court’s directive, I wish tradition and culture are allowed to continue. The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) will decide on an appeal challenging the decision.”

He said that as of now, there were no facilities in the temple complex to attend to the needs of a large number of women.

Until now, the temple, located on a hilltop in Pathanamthitta district, about 130 km from the state capital, has remained closed to women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.

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Over the years, the Left government has always supported the opening of the Sabarimala temple for all women.

TDB President A. Padmakumar said that they were now duty bound to see that the directive of the apex court was implemented.

Former TDB president G. Raman Nair called Friday a black day for Sabarimala.

“One can speak of equality and freedom but the verdict is breaking a tradition that was in existence much before the Constitution came into effect.”

The President of the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and a veteran Congress leader, Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, said that while the rule of law has to be adhered to, the traditions, culture and ritualistic practices were equally important.

“I am yet to see one woman who says she will be going to the temple while several have said they will not,” he said.

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Said businessman C.B. Shaji: “I have been going to Sabarimala for the past 30 years and for certain I will never even dare to ask my wife if she will come with me.

“There is definitely a tradition and a legend associated with the temple and any woman who knows that will not go.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said while his party believed in equal rights to all, every religious place has a culture and tradition and any breach can lead to tensions.

A spokesperson for the Pandalam Royal Family, which has an integral role in the affairs of the Sabarimala temple, Sasikumar Varma, said the palace was disappointed with the verdict.

“The long-standing traditions of Sabarimala have been changed and that is very sad. Every religious place has its own traditions and culture which have their own reasons,” he said. The Pandalam Palace is the custodian of Sabarimala temple jewels.

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Meanwhile, Rahul Eashwaran, a family member of the Sabarimala tantri, said they were deeply saddened by the verdict and would file a review petition.

“Various Hindu organisations will now get together and conduct special prayer sessions. We have time till October 16 to file a review petition.

“This is not a balanced judgement and Article 25 of the Constitution has been overlooked,” said Eashwaran.

P. Geetha, a teacher by profession and a popular face in TV debates, said she welcomed the ruling.

“The verdict is welcome and now all those women who wish to visit the temple can do so now,” she said.

But there were other women who disagreed.

–IANS

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