The Sabarimala shrine in Kerala will open on November 16 at 5 PM for the 41-day annual pilgrimage season. The Kerala government has denied protection to women devotees entering the shrine.

Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, “the shrine is no place for activism and the activists hoping to make a statement by taking up the pilgrimage will not be given police protection.”

Those who want to visit the Sabarimala temple can procure a court order to enter the temple, he added.

In 2018 a Pune-based women’s rights activist Trupti Desai tried to defy the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala shrine.

Seeking to enter Sabarimala again Miss Desai said, “I will go to the shrine after November 20 and will seek protection from the Kerala government and it is upto them to give us protection or not. Even if not provided with protection, I will visit Sabarimala for the darshan.”

Last year, by a majority decision of 4:1, the Supreme Court ended the centuries-old prohibition on women and girls between 10 and 50-or those of a menstrual age-from entering the famed shrine of Ayyappa, finding it “illegal and unconstitutional” religious practice. The court said that it is the constitutional right of every individual to practice their faith.

Supreme Court’s September 2018 verdict sparked violent protests in Kerala and more than 60 petitions were filed. The petitions argued that the temple deity is a “Brahmachari” (celibate) and “centuries-old beliefs” should not be disturbed by the entry of menstruating women worshippers.

On November 14 reading out the Supreme Court’s verdict on review petitions against the 2018 Sabarimala verdict Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said, “the question of whether women of all ages should be allowed into Sabarimala is part of a larger debate and will be taken up by a larger seven-judge bench. It includes issues like allowing Muslim and Parsi women to enter religious practice and female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.”

Pathanamthitta District Collector PB Nooh told ANI that all the basic necessities such as toilets, water kiosks, and medical emergency centres are in place. Over 10,000 police personnel have been deployed in and around the hill temple.

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation said that it has decided to deploy 150 buses to transport devotees between Pamba and Nilackal, a distance of around 18 km. The KSRTC has also arranged special services from almost all parts of the state to Pamba and Nilackal.

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