Woman Decides Against Sabarimala Visit, Says Husband Made Her Come

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Thousands of pilgrims visited the shrine to offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa on Monday.

Sabarimala:

A 30-year-old woman who had reached the Pamba base camp with plans to enter the Sabarimala shrine turned back on Monday in the face of mounting protests by right-wing groups.

Anju — a resident of Chethala in Alappuzha district — later told police that she was not keen on visiting the Lord Ayyappa temple, and had come only on her husband Abhilash's insistence that she accompany him and their two minor children on the pilgrimage.

The family was still waiting at the police control room when the temple shut its doors at 10 pm. No other woman between 10 and 50 years came that day, police said.

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The Ayyappa temple opened for the second time in three weeks for a two-day special puja on Monday morning amid unprecedented security to prevent protests against a Supreme Court order allowing women of all age groups into the shrine. However, that did not deter thousands of pilgrims — all males or women of non-menstrual age — from visiting the shrine to offer prayers to the celibate god. Head priests Kandararu Rajeevaru and Unnikrishnan Namboothiri jointly opened the portals of the sanctum sanctorum around 5 pm.

The temple will open again on Tuesday for the "Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal" puja, marking the birth anniversary of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last king of Travancore.

Last month, Sabarimala and several surrounding places witnessed violent protests by right-wing groups and opposition parties as around a dozen women tried to make their way to the temple. This morning, Kerala BJP president Sreedharan Pillai was heard saying in a viral video that the agitation was part of a "strategy" to win power in the state. "The Sabarimala issue is a golden opportunity for us," he appeared to be saying. "This, for us, is a strategy. After seeing how this would develop, all of us will come to our side."

Frequent frisking and inspections by police did not go down well with devotees and right-wing activists, who protested at several places on Monday. Visitors also complained of lack of amenities at the base camps damaged in unprecedented floods that hit the state two months ago.

(With inputs from PTI)

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