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The women who tried to make history at Sabarimala Temple

Last updated on: October 23, 2018 10:10 IST
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Since the temple opened at least 13 women have attempted to enter the shrine, but fallen short despite their valiant attempts.

They came, they tried, but they couldn’t conquer.

Women in the “barred” (read: menstruating) age group have been forced to retreat by agitated protesters as they tried to enter the Sabarimala temple.

The women were hoping to make history by entering the temple gates after the Supreme Court, on September 28, in a strongly-worded judgment, ruled that women of all ages must be allowed into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple ending a ban that prevented women and girls between 10 and 50 years from entering the shrine. 


Since the temple opening, at least 13 women have attempted the trek to the hilltop shrine starting at the Nilakkal base camp, but none of these women were successful. While some were heckled, threatened and forced down the hills, the others voluntarily aborted their trek following intimidation by protesters.

IMAGE: Libi C S was among the first women to try to enter the Sabarimala temple on the day that its gates were opened. However, after being heckled, she gave up on her efforts. Photograph: Libi CS/

A young woman named Libi C S was among the first women to try to enter the Sabarimala temple on the day that its gates were opened.

Libi in a Facebook post had said that she would be try to visit the Ayyappa deity, but protesters blocked her at a bus stand in Pathanamthitta, 65 km from the temple.

Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to climb the Sabarimala hills to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba, menaced by agitated male devotees.

IMAGE: Police escort Madhavi and her family members after she was heckled by protesters while she was seeking entry to the Lord Ayyappa Temple on Oct 17. Photograph: PTI Photo

She had decided to make the trek along with her family. However, even though she was surrounded by the police on her way to the temple, the heckling didn't stop, which forced her to abandon her plans.

Delhi-based Suhasini Raj, along with her colleague, a foreign national, tried to enter the temple on the second day.  They managed to go past the Pamba gateway, just before the climb to the hilltop shrine, but was stopped midway by angry protesters who formed a human wall before her.

IMAGE: Police escort Suhasini Raj, a Delhi-based New York Times journalist, to Sabarimala Temple. Raj had to return mid-way after violent protests. Photograph: PTI Photo

Raj said that her trek to the temple wasn’t one of faith, but she was simply trying to do her job.

Describing how the protesters were, she was quoted as saying, “I had reached half way and then the protests grew stronger. I was hit by a stone and then we decided to return. The police had provided us all the security.”

Last Friday, Sabarimala temple complex witnessed high drama and tense when two women reached the hilltop with heavy police escort, but had to return before reaching the sanctum sanctorum following massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees.

Kavitha Jakkal, a Hyderabad based reporter, reached the Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy 'pathinettam padi' (the 18 sacred steps), leading to the sanctum sanctorum.

IMAGE: Kavitha Jakkal being taken to the temple after being surrounded by police men. The Sabarimala priest reportedly, locked it and she had to return mid-way. Photograph: PTI Photo

Dressed in riot gear and a yellow helmet, Jakkal would have been the first from the menstruating age group to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple.

Along with Jakkal was activist Rehana Fatima. She too, would have made history if it hadn’t been for the angry protests by devotees, including senior citizens.

IMAGE: Activist Rehana Fatima, who was along with Jakkal, close to entering the temple was later expelled from the Muslim community. Photograph: PTI Photos

Fatima was expelled from the Muslim community after her attempt to enter the shrine. The activist’s house was also vandalised by unidentified persons while she was away trying to climb the holy hills on Friday. A case has also been registered by the police in Pathanamthitta against the activist for hurting religious sentiments.

Mary Sweety, 46, from Kazhakoottam near Thiruvananthapuram, was turned away within minutes of Rehana and Kavitha beginning their trek back. She said she did not seek any police protection to complete the temple visit. 

“I go to church, mosques and temples. And I want to see Lord Ayyappa,” she told reporters. Police however escorted her to the control room where they reportedly told her they couldn’t provide protection for her trek up to the temple. 

Six women were prevented from the entering the Sabarimala temple Sunday by a large number of devotees of Lord Ayyappa as the stand-off over entry of women of menstrual age into the famous hill shrine continued for the fifth day. 

IMAGE: Balamma, from Andhra Pradesh, was brought to a hospital after she complained of uneasiness. She was heckled by protesters as she tried to enter the temple. Photograph: PTI Photo

Balamma, 47, identified to be from Andhra Pradesh, reached up to the ‘Nadappandhal’ close to the sanctum sanctorum, but was prevented by the devotees chanting “Swamiye Saranam Ayyapa” while five others were stopped en route to the hills.     

The woman, who complained of uneasiness, was brought to a hospital. 

Earlier, the protesters prevented two women, in their 40s, at the foothills itself. The women were accompanied by their relatives.    

The police, who took the women to the safety, said the two informed them that they came to Sabarimala without knowing the customs of the temple. 

IMAGE: At least 13 women have tried to enter the Sabarimala temple, but they have not been successful. Photograph: PTI Photo

After the women were brought Nilackal, the base camp, they gave in writing to the police that they did not want to break the centuries-old custom of the temple. 

On Monday, Bindu, a Dalit activist, who was proceeding to Pamba at the foothills of Sabarimala temple, was forced to retreat by agitated protesters. 

When the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus she was travelling on with police personnel was about to reach Pamba, a group of Bharatiya Janata Party workers and those opposing the entry of girls and women aged between 10 and 50 years into the temple, blocked the road and forced her to alight. She was then escorted to safety in a police jeep.

-- With inputs from PTI

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