The town of Pandalam witnessed high voltage protests organised by various Hindu organisations and led by the Pandalam Royal family, as devotees sounded their opposition against verdict of the Supreme Court allowing the entry of women all ages into the famous Sabarimala temple.
Thousands of people representing various Hindu organisations walked from the Medical Mission Junction (MMJ) in Pandalam to Ayyappa temple to stage the protest. Slogans that echoed in the streets of Pandalam proclaimed that the devotees have highest authority in deciding rituals with regard to the temple and the rituals in the temple existed long before the Constitution.
The Pandalam temple is closely associated with the Sabarimala temple where the ornaments of the deity of the shrine are stored.
People from Ayyappa Dharma Samrakshana Sena, People for Dharma, Nair Service Society and the Ready to Wait movement took part in the protest. Assembling at the MMJ junction by 3 pm, they began by chanting prayers praising Lord Ayyappa.
Youngsters were seen clapping hands and singing songs for Lord Ayyappa. A large number of women also took part the protests.
"We don't want to go the temple. We have been taking the yearly vow along with the men in our family who go to Sabarimala. We will do whatever we should do,” says Sreelekha of Ambala in Alappuzha district. When we asked them what could be done against the verdict of the top court she said that they will continue resisting while her friend, Sree Subhash, echoes her opinion.
"We don't want to go the temple. The verdict is quite saddening for us, it has even put us under mental stress. We won't be able to see women entering the temple. We will seek support of all Hindus to resist the entry of women,” says Suresh Kumari of Sathamcotta in Kollam.
Talking to TNM, Ravi R Unnithan, the convenor of the Kerala State Committee of the Aam Aadmi Democratic Movement (AADM) and one of the many who participated in the protest, said, "It's not just the Hindus, people from other religions and faiths have come out in support of this protest."
Ravi goes on to say that the verdict of the Supreme Court goes against the belief of the majority.
"It’s not just the Malayalis who go to Sabarimala. It is important to note that many of the men who are Ayyappa believers from other states, once they wear the chain which marks the beginning of the vow, they do not even eat the food cooked by the women of the house. That shows how pure the practice is and how the verdict of the SC destroys the purity of the temple," said Ravi.
The speakers at a public meet at the Pandalam temple premises claimed that those who filed petition seeking entry of women are not devotees, but women who fought for it in the name of gender equality and not faith.
Meanwhile, two protest marches were held by Hindu groups in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. At 10.30 am, scores of people led by Rahul Easwar's Ayyappa Dharma Sena and other Hindu groups walked from the Hanuman temple in East Fort to the Rakthasakshi Mandapam.
Easwar, who has been very vocal about his opposition to the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple, spoke against Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising, who had appeared for the petitioners challenging the practice.
"There is proof with me that the central government has frozen foreign funds to Indira Jaising's NGO. Someone using foreign funds and then arguing this case - she is not doing it for the love of women. These people are trying to destroy temples, places of worship, and destroy culture," he claimed
Easwar then asked the gathering to take a pledge. "We respect the Supreme Court. We will not stop the feminists and other women who come to the temple with our hands. We will not push them. But prepare yourselves for they can only go to inside temple by stomping our hearts. We should be there on 17th evening when the temple opens."
The second protest in Thiruvananthapuram was led by the Antharashtra Hindu Parishad at 11 am, from Killipaalam.
"The government and anti-Hindu powers are behind this attitude. We would strongly protest it, and it's as part of our protest that the road blocks happened today, in all parts of the state. Just like Rajiv Gandhi brought an ordinance to help Muslims in the Shah Bano Begum case, just like there was an ordinance for Jallikattu, let there be one now to protect Hindu worship centres," Hari, state secretary of AHP told TNM.
During the protests, a woman called Ambili from Kottayam, poured petrol over herself demanding that Hindus be protected, no matter government is in power. She was taken away by the police, and was reportedly taken to a hospital. According to reports, she is safe.
(With inputs from Cris)
Photos from Thiruvananthapuram: Sreekesh Raveendran Nair