The Kerala Government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it is in favour of allowing all women into the Sabarimala temple, making a U-turn from its previous stance which supported the traditional ban on women's entry to the shrine.
According to ANI, the court listed the matter for next hearing on 20 February, 2017 as the state government differed from its previous stance and told the court that it is ready to allow women entry into the temple.
The Supreme Court ruled in February this year that no temple can bar the entry of women devotees except on the basis of religion. The court had then asked the Kerala government to file its affidavit in response to a petition challenging the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple's custom of prohibiting the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 years.
The previous state government had then defended the ban on entry of women in Sabarimala temple, telling the court that beliefs and customs of devotees cannot be changed through a judicial process and that "the opinion of the priests is final" in matters of religion.
The Congress-led UDF government had also withdrawn the "erroneous" stand of its predecessor, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which had stated in an affidavit in November 2007 said "it is not fair to deny a section of women from entering Sabarimala temple". However, soon after the government was seen towing a cautious line as Minister for Temple Trusts K Surendran had earlier said that they will take a considered view of the issue and not rush into taking any decision.
"It may be that the Left government (2006-11) had taken a stand about allowing the entry of women into Sabarimala temple, but today we are in 2016 and we now feel that no decision need be taken in a hurry on this," Surendran had said in May this year.
However the Sabarimala temple trust has all along maintained a hard line stand that it does not wish to allow entry of females in the age group of 10 to 50 into the temple. The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) maintains that the custom of the temple has been in effect for the past 800 years and the temple does not wish to change it.
"We are of the firm view, that the apex court will not allow to alter the traditions, and in case that happens, we are certain that no women in the age group 10 to 50 will come to the temple because beliefs will always be adhered to," TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said.
Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at 914 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple is four kilometres uphill from Pamba river in Pathanamthitta district. The temple bars the entry of women who have attained puberty.
With inputs from agencies