Protesters stop women at Sabarimala base camp ahead of temple opening, Travancore Devaswom Board meets

New Delhi, News24 Bureau, Oct 16: There was a big standoff between the devotee bodies and Hindu outfits protesting entry of women of all ages being allowed at the Sabarimala temple on Tuesday. The temperatures are rising ahead of the hill shrine’s opening on Wednesday.Travancore Devaswom Board meets ahead of opening of Sabarimala Temple tomorrow.The Sabarimala Temple, opening on October 17 evening, would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly pooja of Malayalam month of 'Thulam'.Heavy security arrangements were put in place across the capital city, especially on the routes through which the BJP foot march passed.Kerala has been witnessing a series of agitations by various devotee groups and Hindu outfits for some days demanding that the sanctity of the temple rituals be protected.On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.In another development, the Travancore Devaswom Board has convened a meeting of various stakeholders of the shrine including the Tantri (head priest) family, Pandalam royals and Ayyappa Seva Sangam.The meeting, called to discuss the preparations of the three-month-long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season starting from November 17, was expected to discuss the recent Apex court order also.The shrine will reopen on Wednesday for monthly rituals.BJP activists, including a large number of women and children, marched to the administrative hub, Secretariat here, chanting mantras of Lord Ayyappa and holding the garlanded pictures of the deity.The mammoth foot march, which started last week from Pandalam, was in protest against the Left government's decision to implement the top court order without considering sentiments of believers and Lord Ayyappa devotees.The BJP has also alleged that the attempt to implement the judgement was a "conspiracy" to destroy the hillock shrine, where lakhs of people from the country and abroad visit during the three-month-long pilgrim season beginning mid-November.