SABARIMALA/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Oct 19 - The Sabarimala temple complex witnessed high drama and tense moments on Friday when two women reached the hilltop with heavy police escort but had to return before reaching the sanctum sanctorum following massive protests by Lord Ayyappa devotees.
As the two were returning, a 46-year-old woman also made an attempt to trek the forest path from downhill Pamba to the temple complex located five km away but retracted following protests from devotees.
In a significant development, the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the shrine said it would approach the Supreme Court to defuse the tense situation prevailing in the State after the government decided to implement the apex court order on entry of women of all age groups into the shrine.
In an advisory, the Union Home Ministry has asked Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to tighten security in view of the continuing protests against the SC verdict.
Earlier in the day, when the two women, one identified as a Hyderabad-based reporter in her late 20s, and a Kochi-based activist reached the hilltop, a large number of devotees blocked them at Valiya Nadappandhal, the queue complex located a few metres away from the holy �pathinettam padi� (the 18 sacred steps), leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
The devotees, including senior citizens and children chanting Ayyappa mantras, protested the entry of women of menstrual age group into the shrine. Tension was defused after the women agreed to return as the State government made it clear it did not want to take them to the Sannidhanam, the temple complex, by using force against the protesting devotees. The �tantri� (head priest) also took a firm stand and said he would close the temple if the women were escorted into the sanctum sanctorum.
Though the women had earlier insisted they should reach the shrine, police later convinced them about the gravity of the situation and conveyed the stand taken by the government and the head priest.
If they had reached the shrine, they would have been the first women from the menstruating age group to visit the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala after the apex court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.
Inspector General S Sreejith, who led the police team escorting the women, later told reporters that the women expressed their willingness to go back. � PTI