Sabarimala temple row: Ahead of annual pilgrimage season, Travancore Devaswom Board to meet stakeholders to quell protests

Amid continuing protests on the Sabarimala issue, The Travancore Devaswom Board, a temple body which manages the Lord Ayyappa shrine has invited various stakeholders for a meeting on 16 October to discuss 'various aspects', including preparations for the annual pilgrimage season, beginning in November.

 Sabarimala temple row: Ahead of annual pilgrimage season, Travancore Devaswom Board to meet stakeholders to quell protests

A protest against the Supreme Court verdict in the Sabarimala case. PTI

As various Hindu outfits and Lord Ayyappa devotees have been staging protests over the last few days all over Kerala against the implementation of the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups into the shrine the call for talks is considered an attempt for a consensus.

The board has invited tantries (temple priests), Pandalam royals and devotee groups to the meeting. TDB president A Padmakumar said the meeting is scheduled to be held on Tuesday at its headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. Besides the Tazhamon tantri family and the Pandalam royals, various stakeholders of the Sabarimala shrine, including Ayyappa Seva Sangam, Ayyappa Seva Samajam, tantri mahamandalam and Yoga Kshema Sabah would be invited for the talks, he said.

"TDB has no prejudice over any matter related to Sabarimala...Let them come and share their views. We will take a suitable decision on all aspects regarding the temple after that," Padmakumar told reporters. The members of the Padalam royal family and tazhamon tantries later said a collective decision would be taken soon on whether to attend the TDB meet or not. The three-month-long annual 'Mandalam-Makaravilakku' pilgrimage season of the Sabarimala Temple will begin on 17 November.

Meanwhile, various devotee groups and Hindu outfits took out protest marches in different places across the state, demanding that the sanctity of the temple rituals be protected. The BJP-led NDA's 'Long March', which started last week from Pandalam in protest against the CPM-led LDF government's decision to implement the top court order without going for a review, reached the capital city Sunday.

Thousands of BJP activists also on Monday marched to the secretariat here to protest the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups entry into the Sabarimala shrine. BJP activists, including a large number of women and children, marched to the administrative hub, Secretariat here, chanting mantras of Lord Ayyappa and holding the garlanded pictures of the deity.

The mammoth foot march, which started last week from Pandalam, was in protest against the Left government's decision to implement the top court order without considering sentiments of believers and Lord Ayyappa devotees. The BJP has also alleged that the attempt to implement the judgement was a "conspiracy" to destroy the hillock shrine, where lakhs of people from the country and abroad visit during the three-month-long pilgrim season beginning mid-November. An array of senior leaders of NDA including actor-turned MP, Suresh Gopi, Bharatiya Dharma Jana Sena chief Thushar Vellappally, were in the forefront of the march, led by BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai.

Pillai said if the state government failed to resolve the issue at the earliest, the BJP-NDA's agitation would take a new turn. "We will meet each villager in Kerala and chalk out a massive agitation plan to protect the Sabarimala Temple, its centuries-old traditions and the sentiments of Lord Ayyappa devotees," he said. Claiming that their first phase of the Sabarimala stir was a major 'milestone,' the BJP said if the CPM-led LDF government does not find a solution in the next 24 hours, the party-led NDA would chalk out a 'massive' agitation plan to reach their goal.

The CPM-LDF government, which has decided to implement the ruling, held a meeting to evaluate the preparations carried out for pilgrims at the temple which will open on 17 October.

Meanwhile, actor-turned-MP Suresh Gopi flagged off the rally at Alamkode town. "Each BJP worker will fight till his final drop of blood is shed to protect the sanctity of the centuries-old tradition of Sabarimala," party state president PS Sreedharan Pillai said addressing the rally. The march, which crisscrossed the southern districts of the state, would conclude before the state Secretariat, the state's administrative hub on Monday.

Hundreds of activists of Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP) also took out a rally, urging the state and Union governments to address the concerns of devotees of Lord Ayyappa. AHP president Pravin Togadia called for a hartal in the state on 18 October if the Left government implements the apex court order. "We demand that the state government file a review petition in the Supreme Court. Till that petition is pending, they should not implement the court order," he said addressing the rally. If the state fails to do so, the AHP would announce a hartal in Kerala from 10 pm on 17 October to 18 October, he said.

Warning that AHP would expand the agitation to other parts of the country, Togadia demanded that the Centre come out with an ordinance to overcome the apex court order. A group of Yuva Morcha activists took out a march to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's residence at northern district of Kannur. Police blocked the agitators by putting up barricades a few kilometres away from the residence.

On 28 September, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine. Since then, thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees have been protesting continuously, taking to the streets of Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to protest against the implementation of the apex court verdict. However, the Kerala government had refused to file a review petition in the case and said that it will take appropriate measures to implement the top court's order.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Oct 15, 2018 14:18:54 IST