Some women have earned the wrath of Sabarimala devotees by arriving at the banks of Pamba river when the idol of Ayyappa, a brahmachari in penance, was taken out for a ceremonial procession at the end of the 10-day annual festival on Monday.
The women, said to be wives and daughters of VIPs, witnessed the procession and worshipped the idol when it was brought on the back of an elephant.
The incident has angered the devotees since the shrine is prohibited to women between 10 and 50 from time immemorial as per the belief that their presence offends Ayyappa, who had vowed to remain a bachelor.
The Kerala high court has taken serious note of the 'invasion'. Acting on reports, a division bench of the court comprising Justice S Sankarasubban and Justice A Lakshmikutty has directed the Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the shrine, to submit a report by Friday.
Board commissioner Dr N Babu said in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday that the board has started an inquiry and will submit the report within the prescribed time.
The Ayyappa Seva Sangham, an organisation of devotees, has alleged complicity of senior officials of the board and police in allowing the women to the prohibited area. Sangham general secretary N Sreenivasan told the rediff.com that the incident has hurt the religious sentiments of the devotees.
"It should not have happened. Officials, who are duty-bound to protect the sanctity of the shrine, have failed in their duty. Women in such large numbers had never entered Sabarimala in the past," he said.
The Devaswom and other agencies connected with Sabarimala have successfully resisted the pressure from various corners asking for the lifting of ban on women between 10 and 50.
The matter was settled once and for all when the high court upheld the practice after taking the opinion of the Devaswom Board, the thantris, various Hindu organisations and sanyasins.