SC opens Sabarimala to women of all ages; temple tantri unhappy
Thiruvananthapuram : The historic Supreme Court judgment which on Friday allowed women of all ages to enter Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala in Kerala, has left the temple tantris (priests) and those associated with it by tradition disappointed.
They 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 that starts in November.
Expressing disappointment, temple tantri (chief priest) K. Rajeevaru said: "While I will respect the court's directive, I wish tradition and culture is allowed to continue.
"The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) will decide on the appeal challenging today's decision, only after a discussion."
On whether the temple will allow women from all age groups to come for the annual pilgrimage when it opens for the two-month long season in November, he said he did not know "how it would be managed this time".
"As of now, what I can say is at present there are no facilities that are there and now the TDB will have to do the needful," Rajeevaru added.
Until now according to the rule of 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.
State Minister for Devasoms (a watchdog body of temples which oversees the functioning of all the Devasom Boards in Kerala), K.Surendran said: "This has been a long standing legal battle both in the Kerala High Court and now Supreme Court."
"The state government has nothing to do as it is the TDB which has to see that the directive is followed," the senior leader from Communist Party of India-Marxist party said.
Over the years, the Left government has always been for opening the temple doors to all women.
TDB President A. Padmakumar said that they were now duty-bound to see that the directive of the apex court is put into practice.
"We will now speak with the state government to see what needs to be done. The long legal battle is over now," said Padmakumar.
Spokesperson of 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
All the jewels of the temple is stored in the Pandalam Palace.
"Just by a verdict, the century old traditions of Sabarimala has been changed and that's very sad. Every religious place has its own traditions and culture that is practiced for its own reasons," said the palace spokesperson.
"If you look, devotees enter mosque with their footwear, but it does not happen in temples. Just like that, Sabarimala temple has its own traditions -- one of which is that all pilgrims who come to the temple undergo a 41 day penance, and that should not be forgotten," said Varma.
Meanwhile, Rahul Eashwaran, a family member of the Sabarimala tantri, said that 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 which would be done after discussing with all.
"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 batting for gender equality, said that she welcomed the judgement.
"It's understandable that people like Eashwaran oppose this and it's quite natural. The verdict is welcome and now all those women who wish to visit the temple can do so now," said Geetha.
Although she added that she did not expect the coming season from November to see a big flow of women devotees, as all along till now they were told that it was out of bound for women.