Sabarimala Head Priest Kandararu Rajeevararu  scoffs speculation the temple will be closed, urges women from 10-50 age group not to enter the shrine

Sabarimala Sannidhanam

Dismissing speculative reports of the closure of Lord Ayyappa Temple Sabarimala by the family, if women entered the shrine to offer prayers, the Head Priest, Kandararu Rajeevararu urged women between 10-50 not to visit the hilltop shrine. While speaking at Sannidhanam, the precincts of the hilltop shrine inside the temple complex, Rajeevaru said that there were some reports rounds on the social media stating that the family planned to close the shrine permanently.

Kandararu Rajeevararu

He scoffed off all speculation and further urged the women devotees belonging to the age group of 10-50 who were denied entry as per centuries-old traditions of the shrine, not to come to Sannidhanam, the IE reported. It might be recalled that on September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra lifted the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine. Ever since, there have been sporadic protest supported by both the BJP and Congress unwilling to allow the women of all age groups to visit the shrine. The mob turned violent on Wednesday, pelting stone on the police and forcefully frisking all the vehicles that came to Pamba and Nilakkal and sent women belonging to age group of 10-50 away from the temple. The angry mob also let loose violence, attacking media reporters as well. The police clamped curfew and arrested many leaders including the Hindu activist, Rahul Easwar on the charge of instigating the crowd.

“We have never said that the temple will be closed if women of the traditionally barred age group enter the shrine. It is our duty and responsibility to carry out the monthly pujas and other rituals. We will not break the custom. Sabarimala is a place where women are respected. The second major deity at the hillock shrine complex is Malikappurathamma, a goddess. We respect the verdict of the Supreme Court. But considering the sentiments of devotees and the tradition and rituals of the shrine, I humbly request you (women) not to come to Sabarimala,” Rajeevaru appealed.

Expressing pain at the turn of events, the head priest said it was yet to ascertain how violence had erupted at the prayer meeting protest. Rajeevaru also urged everyone not to turn the temple complex, the poonkavanam (garden) of Lord Ayyappa into a “war zone”.

Rahul Easwar, Photo: Twitter

VN Vasudevan Namboothiri, a resident of Palakkad district, was elected the new melshanthi (chief priest) of the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple for the next one year. Namboodhiri is currently serving as priest of an Ayyappa temple in Bangalore. MN Narayanan Namboothiri, from Chengannur, would be the new priest of Malikappuram shrine at the hill temple complex, noted the report. Both the priests were selected through a draw of lots conducted in front of the sanctum sanctorum. The new priests will take charge on November 17, the day the temple would be opened for the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival, quoting Travancore Devaswom Board sources, the report added.