Pathanamthitta: A young Dalit woman has come out claiming that she visited the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, amid a stand-off between the ruling Left Democratic Front and a section of devotees, backed by Sangh Parivar outfits, over implementing a Supreme Court verdict on women entry to the hill shrine.
Manju, a native of Kollam, made the claim in a Facebook post, which was removed later. She said she did the darshan without any police protection.
There is no official confirmation about her Sabarimala visit.
A video of Manju standing on the premises of the sanctum sanctorum was posted on a Facebook page titled "Navothana Keralam Sabarimalayilekk" (Rennaisance Kerala to Sabarimala). In the video, Manju is seen in the attire of an old woman with grey hair. Manju is a leader of Dalit Mahila Federation. Though she had tried to trek the Sabarimal hills on an earlier occasion also, she was turnmed away by protesting devotees.
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, including those from the hitherto banned age group of 10 to 50 years.
The Left Democratic Front government led by the CPI(M) has been trying to implement the verdict even as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and several Hindu groups are up in arms against it.
Ever since the verdict, around three dozen women from the hitherto banned age group have tried and failed to go up the pathway leading to the temple, following protests from the believers.
At dawn on January 2, two Keralite women in the hitherto banned age group managed to pay obeisance, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirming this.
Thereafter, the Sabarimala tantri (head priest) closed down the temple for an hour at 10.30 a.m and conducted "purification' rituals" something that has never happened before during the two-month-long festival season.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hill temple, sought an explanation from Tantri (priest) Kandararu Rajeevaru for closing the temple and performing purification rites after two women-- Bindu (42) and Kanakadurga (44), entered the temple on January 2.
A Lankan woman below 50 years also succeeded in gaining entry into the Ayyappa shrine on January 4.
While sources in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office and police confirmed that the 47-year-old Lankan woman Sasikala did indeed enter the shrine and offered prayers, the woman maintained she was turned away by police and that she could not offer prayers.
However, police later released CCTV visuals of the woman and her husband Sarvanan inside the shrine. But it is not clear if she climbed the "pathinettampadi" (holy 18 steps) to reach the sanctum sanctorum.