The Sabarimala temple head priest, Kandaru Rajeevaru, on Thursday dismissed reports that the family planned to close down the Lord Ayyappa temple if women entered it to offer prayers. He was reacting at Sannidhanam, the temple complex, after some reports were widely shared on social media that they may close the temple.
However, the priest appealed to women belonging to the age group of 10-50 who were restricted as per the centuries-old traditions of the shrine, not to come to Sannidhanam.
“We have never said that the temple will be closed if women of the traditionally barred age group enter there. It is our duty and responsibility to carry out the monthly pujas and other rituals. We will not break the custom,” Kandaru Rajeevaru said.
He also said Sabarimala is a place where women are respected.
The second major deity at the hillock shrine complex is Malikappurathamma, a goddess.
“We respect the verdict of the Supreme Court. But considering the sentiments of devotees and the tradition and rituals of the shrine, I humbly request you (women) not to come to Sabarimala,” he said.
Expressing pain at the turn of events, he said it was yet to ascertain how violence had erupted at the prayer meeting protest.
He also urged everyone not to turn the temple complex, the poonkavanam (garden) of Lord Ayyappa into a “war zone”.
VN Vasudevan Namboothiri, a resident of Palakkad district, was elected the new melshanthi (chief priest) of the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple for the next one year.
He is presently serving as priest of an Ayyappa temple in Bengaluru.
MN Narayanan Namboothiri, from Chengannur, would be the new priest of Malikappuram shrine at the hill temple complex.
Both the priests were selected through a draw of lots conducted in front of the sanctum sanctorum.
They will take charge on November 17, the day the temple would be opened for the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival, Travancore Devaswom Board sources said.
On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra lifted the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.