This concludes the first Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season since the controversial September 28, 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple.

Sabarimala sanctum sanctorum closes after tumultuous two-month pilgrimage season
news Sabarimala Sunday, January 20, 2019 - 16:12

The Sabarimala temple sanctum sanctorum has officially closed after the two month long Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival. The temple’s major annual pilgrimage season concluded on Saturday after the Guruti ritual. This was the first Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season since the controversial Supreme Court ruling on September 28, 2018 allowing women of all ages to enter into Sabarimala temple. 

The temple had opened for the pilgrimage season on November 15, 2018. The government, through the Pathanamthitta District Collectorate, had imposed curfew under section 144 of the IPC, in and around Sabarimala hill ever since November 14, and extended it every three to four days until after the Makaravilaku puja on January 14, 2019. Several individuals, including BJP State General Secretary K Surendran, had been arrested from Nilakkal for violating prohibitory orders issued there over the two-month period. 

The imposition of curfew in the region was bitterly protested by the Congress and the BJP in Kerala, with UDF MLAs boycotting and disrupting several sessions of the Kerala Legislative Assembly over the past two months. Congress and BJP leaders staged protests at various locations, including at Nilakkal at Sabarimala and outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.

The BJP had called a relay hunger strike outside the Secretariat, partly in protest of the curfew, and also against the denial of bail and alleged arbitrary arrests of its party members. A man named Venugopal Nair immolated himself, allegedly over the Sabarimala issue, at the BJP’s protest venue outside Secretariat on December 12, 2018. 

The two-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season saw several failed and successful attempts by women below the age of 50 years to enter the hill shrine, most notably by advocate Bindu and civil supplies employee Kanakadurga, who conducted prayers at Sabarimala on January 2, 2019. This attempt led to the call for a state wide hartal in Kerala on January 3, which saw widespread violence Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram, Vadakkara, Thrissur, Kannur and Kasaragod among other places. A Sabarimala Karma Samithi worker named Chandran Unnithan also died in stone pelting between rival political factions on the evening of January 2 at Pandalam. 

The state government has submitted a list of 51 women below the age of 50 years and had allegedly entered Sabarimala temple this pilgrimage season to the Supreme Court. However, this list is currently being revised after it was found that some of those mentioned in the list were not women, or were actually above the age of 50 years. 

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