Tension prevailed at the Lord Ayyappa temple on Tuesday as nearly 200 frenzied devotees tried to prevent a woman pilgrim, whom they suspected to be of menstrual age, from entering, prompting police to register cases against them.
Though there is hardly any rush of pilgrims during the annual “Sree Chitira Atta Thirunal”, the hill temple witnessed an unprecedented flow of devotees this time when it was opened for the two-day special puja Monday evening.
Clapping and chanting ‘Ayyappa saranam’, a huge crowd of devotees surrounded Lalitha Ravi (52), suspecting her to be of menstrual age, but police intervened and escorted her out.
The woman showed her Aadhaar card to them to prove that she did not belong to the “traditionally barred” age group of 10-50 years.
Police later escorted her to the shrine to offer prayers along with her other women relatives.
Hailing from Thrissur, Lalitha came to the hill temple with 19 relatives, including women, for her grandson’s ‘chorunnu’ (rice giving ceremony).
Police at sannidhanam said that a case has been registered against 200 “identifiable” persons in connection with the incident, based on her complaint.
Despite prohibitory orders, devotees and right-wing activists gathered in huge numbers at Sannidhanam, the shrine complex.
When the situation went out of control, senior RSS leader Valsan Thillankeri, who has been camping at the shrine complex since Monday, pacified the angry agitators and asked them to maintain calm and cautioned against alleged “unruly elements”, who could intrude to create trouble at the hill shrine.
He claimed he addressed the devotees to help the police.
Valsan also courted a controversy for allegedly violating the key tradition of the Sabarimala shrine by climbing the sacred 18 steps without carrying the customary ‘irumudikkettu’ (sacred offerings to Lord Ayyappa) on his head.
TV channels aired visuals of the Sangh leader standing on the golden steps, leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
However, he rejected the charges and said that he did carry the offerings while climbing the holy steps.
The Ayyappa temple opened Monday for the second time in three weeks for a two-day special puja amid unprecedented security over apprehension of protests by those opposing the Supreme Court order, allowing women of menstrual age there.
Hundreds of police personnel, including armed commandos, are keeping a tight vigil in the temple complex and nearby areas to prevent any untoward incident.