Authorities at Sabarimala in Kerala will soon start asking women to furnish proof of age to enter the the Lord Ayyappa temple, where entry is banned for those in the age group of 10-50 years. The move comes in the wake of an increasing number of female devotees trying to enter the shrine, officials claim, reported news agency PTI. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine, said the decision was take to “avoid unnecessary arguments” between women and security officials.
“The decision was taken in view of a number of women belonging to the banned age group trying to visit the shrine recently,” TDB president A Padmakumar was quoted as saying by PTI. “Carrying an authentic age proof document will help avoid unnecessary arguments between women pilgrims and the police and Devaswom officials who carry out checks.”
The three-month long pilgrim season, which began on November 15, 2017, is currently underway. The season ends on January 14. Women of menstruation age are barred from offering prayers to the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, who is considered a ‘naishtika brahmachari‘ (perennial celibate).
Citing a recent incident of a girl from Tamil Nadu who was found to be 11-year-old trying to enter the temple, Padmakumar said the board “cannot compromise with the traditions of the shrine.” He claimed that at least 260 women have been stopped this year at Pamba.
A petition challenging the controversial age old tradition is currently pending before a Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.