Thiruvananthapuram: Over 550 women have booked online to attend Makaravilakku annual festival at Sabarimala, according to a report filed by police IT Cell to the DGP on Friday.
The online booking for darshan at Sannidhanam started on October 30. Pilgrims can book darshan time and date as well as KSRTC bus tickets from Nilakkal through sabarimalaq.com.
The portal is promoted on official websites of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry police.
The authorities expect to see massive rise in the number of pilgrims who opt for the virtual queue facility this year. Around 16 lakh people had visited Sabarimala in 2017.
TDB does a U-turn
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has decided to submit to the Supreme Court that it is in favour of allowing women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, making a U-turn from its previous stance supporting the traditional ban on women in the 10-50 age group from entering the shrine.
The Supreme Court would hear the petitions seeking review of its verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the temple on November 13.
The TDB has also decided to engage senior counsel C Aryama Sundaram to defend its stand in the apex court in place of Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Senior advocate Bina Madhavan, who had been representing the Board ever since the apex court started proceeding with the case, chose not to appear for the party citing flip-flops on the part of the TDB. She will be replaced by Adv. P S Sudeer.
The Board will have to make its stance clear when the Supreme Court takes up the writ and review petitions, seeking the exclusion of women in the 10-50 age group from the temple, for hearing.
The TDB has prepared comprehensive reports on the difficulties it confronted while implementing the court order and the situation prevailing in Sabarimala. TDB commissioner N Vasu will hold discussions with the senior lawyers engaged by the Board in New Delhi on Saturday.
The shift in stance of the TDB, which had been supporting the ban on allowing women to enter the Sabarimala temple for over two decades, was unexpected. When a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment, ruled in favour of allowing entry of women of all ages to worship at the temple, the board had strongly opposed the lifting of the restrictions, and countered that the prohibition was based on customs followed for the past half century.
The TDB had also kept itself away from the disputes over filing review petitions to challenge the judgement.
The changing stand taken by the successive LDF and UDF governments on the matter had come under scathing criticism by the Supreme Court.
In February 2016, when the Oommen Chandy-led UDF was in power, the state had defended the ban, telling the court that beliefs and customs of devotees cannot be changed through a judicial process. In November 2016, after the LDF returned to power, the government changed its stand in favour of throwing open the gates of the temple to women of all ages.