The Sabarimala shrine opens on Saturday for the over two-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku season amidst confusion over the latest Supreme Court verdict to refer the bunch of petitions seeking review of the September 28 court order allowing women in the menstruating age to worship there.
Unlike last season which saw violent protests, this time CPIM and the LDF Government it leads are not keen on implementing the verdict at any cost. The right group elements and the BJP-RSS combine appears to be going soft on its agitation against young women entry on the temple premises, a move it gave up midway last time. The Government has made it clear that any young woman wanting to worship at the shrine should do so after getting a "clearance from the court".
Already, activist Trupti Desai, who could not make it last time in the wake of violent protests, has announced that she would take up the pilgrimage this season as the court, which transferred the review petitions to a larger Bench, has not stayed its September 28 verdict.
In fact, one of the dissenting judges told on Friday that the government must read the "extremely important dissent" verdict in the 3:2 narrow majority judgment.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran even went to the extent of saying that Sabarimala was not a place for activism and the government would not support those making announcements about worshipping at the shrine "for the sake of publicity". Also, police would not be provided to women activists attempting to undertake the pilgrimage.
Tantri Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu will open the sanctum sanctorum and perform the pujas on Saturday evening and Sudheer Namboothiri will take charge as Sabarimala melsanthi (chief priest) and Parameswaran Namboodiri as Malikapuram melsanthi.
According to the Government, over 10,000 police personnel would be posted in phases in and around the temple. The Pathanamthitta District Collector has said that, unlike last year, there was no reason to impose prohibitory orders.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple and has a new president in N Vasu, has said resting places with medical, water and toilet facilities have been set up at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam. Like last year, Nilackal would be the last base camp with a parking area for over 9,000 vehicles.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has decided to deploy 150 buses to transport devotees between Pamba and Nilackal. It has also arranged special services from different parts of the State.