Sabarimala (Kerala): The famed Sabarimala Temple that resembled a fortress a year ago, wore a quiet and peaceful look on Saturday as it was all set to open for the two-month long festival season.
Compared to the last season, no prohibitory order has been clamped in and around the temple town this time.
Though the Supreme Court on Thursday gave a 3:2 verdict referring the Sabarimala review pleas to a larger bench, it maintained that it has not stayed the September 28, 2018 order that allowed women to enter the temple.
This time, the Kerala government has however, made its position clear that they will not make any effort to see that women were taken to the temple to pray.
Last year, the police provided security to women who faced stiff resistance from the activists of the right-wing forces who chased them away.
According to tradition and custom of the temple, women in the age group of 10 to 50 are not allowed to enter.
Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra told the media that everything was in place and he would be meeting the advocate general to get a first-hand knowledge of Supreme Court verdict.
“Today, we will be observing things and depending on the situation, things will be reviewed,” said Behra.
At 5 p.m., the temple’s sanctum sanctorum will open with a new priest taking over and also present would be the temple tantri and other officials of the Travancore Devasom Board (the body that looks after temples in the state).
The temple will officially open for pilgrims on Sunday at 5 a.m. The devotees were now waiting at the Nilackal base camp and would be sent to the Pamba base camp.
On Saturday morning at the first point of entry at Nilackal, only 300 policemen were present compared to the 1,200-strong police force last year.
The security at Pamba base camp has also been watered down.
Vasudevan Nampoothiri, the outgoing chief priest of the Sabarimala temple, said he was a much-relieved man seeing the present security arrangements, unlike the previous year.
“I went through some tough times when the season opened last year and it was scenes that were never witnessed in the temple. I did what I am supposed to do and things are very clear, the tradition and culture of every religious place should be respected and hence there is no place for women, in the banned age group to come,” he told the media.
The incoming chief priest A.K. Sudheer Nampoothiri also echoed the feelings that tradition and culture should be respected and adhered to.
“We are all certain that things will be smooth this season and I will be doing my job. Beliefs cannot be described in one sentence as traditions have to be respected in full and there is no way women who cannot come here, can be allowed to enter,” he added.
Temple tantri K. Mahesh Mohanaru wished all pilgrims a happy pilgrimage.
Even as the Kerala government has made its stand very clear, the police, however, are not taking the security arrangements lightly.