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The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala on November 17 witnessed a heavy rush of devotees. The temple opened for the annual two-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku puja pilgrimage season which began on November 16.

The police on November 16 said at least 10 women, who were part of a 30-member group from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, were sent back from Pamba base as they were in the “barred” age group of 10-50 years.

“We checked their identity cards and found that they were in the barred age group and informed them about the current situation in Sabarimala. They did not proceed further,” a police official said.

The temple has reopened just days after a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court referred to a larger bench the matter related to the entry of women into Sabarimala and other issues related to various faiths.

Social activist and Bhumata bridge leader, Trupti Desai, who was not allowed to offer prayers last year and had to return from Kochi airport due to protests from devotees, said in Mumbai that she would be visiting Sabarimala on November 17.

Early this year, two women in the barred age group Bindhu and Kanakadurga had trekked the holy hills and offered prayers at the shrine, scripting history on January 2.

The devotees from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other neighbouring states, who were allowed to visit the Sabarimala shrine from 2 pm, climbed the sacred 18 steps to the temple with the “irumudikettu” (sacred bag containing the offerings to the Lord) after the priests performed the “padipooja”.

Resting places for the devotees at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam have already been set up along with medical, water and toilet facilities. Over 10,000 police personnel would be deployed in phases in and around the Lord Ayyappa temple for security purposes during the pilgrimage season.

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