On September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court opened the doors of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala to women of all ages.
Previously, the temple management restricted entry to women between the ages of 10 to 50 years–the tentative years from when a girl hits puberty to when a woman hits menopause. But in a landmark verdict, the apex court overturned this rule. You can read in detail about the verdict here.
The state government seems to extend its support to this verdict and how! Within three days, the government has announced the facilities it will provide to make the pilgrimage safe and comfortable for women.
1. The bus service that runs between Nilakkal and Pamba in Kerala, will now have reserved seats for women so that they can join in the pilgrimage with the men. Kadakampally Surendran, the Minister for Cooperation, Tourism and Devaswom (socio-religious trusts), said that 25% of the total seats will be reserved for women.
2. Pamba will also have separate bathing ghats for women to increase security and comfort for them.
“There is already a separate bathing ghat for women and children on the banks of Pamba river. Anticipating the rush of more women, the ghat will be expanded and made bigger,” the minister said.
3. A route to the temple goes through a forest. Dark, isolated patches may be unsafe for women, and the state government is planning to improve the lighting there to make them secure.
4. Since the pilgrims so far were largely men, there were fewer toilet facilities for women. After this verdict though, the authorities are planning to add women-friendly toilets on the way to the temple.
5. Surendran also mentioned in a press conference, that these arrangements would be ready for pilgrims planning to visit the temple during the first five days in the Malayalam month of Thulam, which is likely to fall between the second and third week of October.
6. The Kerala government has also said that it will deploy female police force at the temple, now that the number of women visiting will increase by a large margin.
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7. Even so, the authorities will not have separate queues for women and men at the temple. “We cannot do anything about people waiting too long in queues. When I visited the Thiruvairanikulam Temple, I saw women waiting in queues for darshan for almost eight hours. So in my opinion, only those who can brave long waiting queues should make the pilgrimage,” said Surendran.
8. As an alternative to long queues, devotees can avail the digital booking facility called the “Virtual Q”, wherein the desired time slots of the temple visit can be booked in advance, minimising the queue at the temple.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)