Chief priest threatens to close Sabarimala Ayyappa temple

Thiruvananthapuram / Chennai: Twenty four-year-old Kavitha Jakkala, a Hyderabad based news anchor, became the first woman between the ages of 10 and 50 to reach near the sanctum sanctorum of Kerala’s Sabarimala temple.

Another woman, identified as Rehana Fathima from Ernakulam, also joined Kavitha and her three-member crew.

Though these two women, accompanied by Inspector General of Police S Sreejith and around 80 police personnel, had almost reached the sanctum sanctorum, the government made it clear that it was not right to hurt the sentiments of devotees and insisted that the women should not be allowed to enter, as they are activists and not devotees.

The two women were 500 metres from the 18 steps — the golden steps — that lead to the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine of Lord Ayyappa when they decided to turn back.

On these steps sat about 20 priests today, chanting and clapping, ready to form a barrier if the women did make it through the last half km. The priests threatened to stop rituals and prayers and shut down the temple.

“We have decided to lock the temple and handover the keys and leave. I stand with the devotees. I do not have any other option,” said Kandararu Rajeevaru, the head priest of Sabarimala.

As the police conveyed the message to the women, they agreed to turn back. “We have told the female devotees about the situation, they will now be going back. So we are pulling pack. They have decided to return,” said Sreejith, who led the police contingent.

The house of woman activist Rehana Fathima in Kochi was vandalised by unidentified miscreants earlier today, allegedly for going up to the Sabarimala temple this morning.

Another woman Mary Sweety returned midway after she was stopped by protesters at Pamba. She said, “I don’t know about them (Kavitha Jakkala and Rehana). If women have returned, it is your drawback. I want to go there.”

State Devaswom (religious trusts) Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, “Here are some people like activists trying to enter. It’s impossible for govt to figure out who is who. We know there are two activists. One is believed to be a journalist as well.”

He added: “People of all ages will be allowed to go there. But at the same time we won’t allow it to be a place where activists can come and showcase their power. It can’t be a place where they prove certain points of theirs.”

WHO ARE THE THREE?

Women who attempted to go to Sabarimala temple amid protests have been identified as: Kavitha Jakkala, Rehana Fathima and Mary Sweety. While the first is said to be a journalist, the second is an activist and the third, it is claimed, a devotee.

THOSE TENSE MOMENTS…

Two women were 500 metres from the 18 steps that lead to the sanctum sanctorum.

They were accompanied by 80 police personnel

On these steps sat about 20 priests today, chanting and clapping, ready to form a barrier if the women did make it through the last half km.

The priests threatened to stop rituals and prayers and shut down the temple.

NT Bureau