Kerala Religious Trusts Minister Kadakampally Surendran on Friday hailed the Supreme Court's verdict allowing entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple as "historic", while the shrine's head priest called it "disappointing".
The Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa, said it was bound to implement the judgment.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra by a 4:1 verdict lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine, saying it amounted to gender discrimination and violated rights of Hindu women.
Noting that the judgment marked the culmination of a long-drawn legal battle, Kerala Dewaswom minister Surendran said it was now for the TDB to implement it and to ensure protection of the women visiting the shrine.
PWD Minister G Sudhakaran said the verdict protected the constitutional rights of women.
Kerala's Left Front government had favoured the entry of women of all age groups into the temple.
The state government's stand is not just with regard to the Sabarimala temple but all places of worship, Surendran said, insisting there should be no discrimination.
Templetantri Kandararu Rajeevaru said though the verdict was "disappointing", the management accepted it.
"I respect the court verdict. It is very difficult to arrange special facilities for women in the present context. The board has to make arrangements," he said.
TDB president A Padmakumar also told reporters the board will implement the court's verdict.
When asked if the board was happy with the judgeent, he said it was not the question of its happiness or disappointment but "we are bound to implement it and we will implement it".
Padmakumar said the board will take steps to provide necessary facilities to women devotees after consulting the state government.
TDB member K P Sankara Das said the LDF government had taken a stand on women's entry into the temple and it was not possible for the board to take a different view.
Shashi Kumar Varma, a Pandalam royal family member, said the verdict was "painful" for it.
"Every temple has its own tradition and ritual practices and these have now changed with the court verdict," he said.
The Pandalam royal family is known for its kinship with Lord Ayyappa. Legend has it that one of the Pandalam kings had found an infant Ayyappa crying on the banks of the Pamba river, taken him home and raised him like a son.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the verdict had to be implemented though different temples had their own customs and traditions.
Though women's rights activists in the national capital and elsewhere were jubilant at the verdict, some common women in Kerala were guarded in their response.
"Ayyappa is our God. Small children and elderly women are being allowed to worship. We are prepared to wait till we cross the restrictive age," a young woman said.
"This is a Hindu custom. I do not want to offer prayers violating this tradition and custom," said another.
The temple was open to public from September 16 to 21 with restrictions on the entry at Pampa-Triveni due to the damage to the foothills of the shrine caused by floods last month. It will open again on October 16.
Photograph: Dipak Kumar/Reuters.