Pinarayi Vijayan holds meeting over Sabarimala verdict

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday held a meeting over the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that threw open the Sabarimala temple to all women, and discussed steps to welcome women this upcoming season.

“The meeting has decided to increase facilities at various camps en route to the temple. At the Nilackal base camp, we have today decided to increase pilgrim facilities from 6,000 to 10,000. There will also be a special enclosure for women,” State Minister for Devasoms (a watchdog body of temples which oversees the functioning of all the Devasom Boards in Kerala), K.Surendran told the media here after the meeting.

He said the toilets for women will be in a different colour.

“Facilities at the bathing enclosure in river Pampa will also be increased.”

The Minister said that while online booking for ‘darshan’ is already available on the temple website, authorities are also trying out ways for booking via mobile apps.

“We have decided to increase the lighting facilities all around the temple town. Under the new scheme of things, all vehicles will be parked at Nilackal and from there pilgrims will have to take the bus service. Twenty-five per cent of all buses would be kept aside for women,” said Surendran.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asked Vijayan not to show any haste with regard to the judgement which has allowed women of all ages to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.

“There is no doubt that the apex court ruling should be adhered to, but it has also come as a shock to others… The state government should explore all options and not implement the verdict in a hurry,” said Chandy.

Sasikumar Varma, a spokesman for the Pandalam Royal Family, which has an integral role in the affairs of the Sabarimala temple, said the palace was disappointed with the verdict and on Tuesday they will stage a protest by reciting hymns at the Pandalam temple.

Senior CPI-M leader, A.Padmakumar, who is also President of the Travancore Devasom Board, on Monday disapproved the verdict, saying that no female members from his family would go to the temple.

State Bharatiya Janata Party President P.S.Sreedharan Pillai told the media in Kozhikode that the state government was not taking into account the feelings of a huge number of believers in the tradition of the temple.

“We will support the believers and be with them. The state government should consider coming out with an ordinance to protect the concerns.”

On September 28, in a 4:1 judgment, the apex court said the ban on women in the menstruating age group, whose presence in the Lord Ayyappa temple was considered to be “impure”, violated their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantee of equality.

Until now, girls below 10 years and women over 50 years were allowed to visit the hilltop shrine, located in the Western Ghats and about 130 km from Thiruvananthapuram.

The temple is hugely popular in southern India.