“Ready to wait. Will come back when I am 50 years for Ayyappa’s darshan” – this was what the placard read, hanging from the 12-year-old devotee from Puducherry. This ardent devotee was denied entry because she is a girl, following the traditions of the shrine. She was visiting the shrine along with her father and entered her age as 10 in the virtual Q booking. But the women police stationed at Pamba examined the girl’s Aadhar card and found out that she was actually a 12-year-old. She was refused to proceed any further than Pamba considering the volatile situations at Sabarimala. The police apparently told her father and other relatives to proceed for their darshan without the girl.
She carried her ‘irrudikettu’ (offerings to Lord Ayyappa) confirming that she has been following the religious rituals required for the darshan. The girl, Hridyakrishnan, who hails from Thrissur said that she visited the shrine thrice and wished to go again. After the pandemonium, she told that she would visit again only after she reaches 50. Her father Harikrishnan said they are ardent devotees and follow all traditions in-line with the belief system. Earlier, two women in the barred age group of 10-50 years were stopped by the police from visiting the shrine. On Saturday, at least 10 young women from Andhra Pradesh were sent back after the temple was opened for a two-month long Mandala-Makaravillakku pilgrimage season. All these women from the restricted age group are being spotted and sent back from Pamba base camp which is at the foothills of Sabarimala, about 5kms from the main shrine.
Following the Supreme Court’s judgement upholding gender equality and fundamental right to prayer, the LDF government decided to implement the same on 28th September 2018. But right-wing protesters, supported by BJP went into a massive protest and made the situation very volatile. This year, despite there being no stay on its earlier verdict and only posted the matter to a larger bench, the government is exercising extreme caution.