She also said that women will visit the temple after November 20, and will not return without entering the temple. The portals of the hill shrine, located in a reserve forest in Western Ghats in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, were opened for the two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku pilgrimage season around 5 pm. The rest of the pilgrims were allowed to proceed further.
Though there is no stay on the five-member bench verdict of 2018 which allowed the entry of women of all ages in the temple, legal experts say that with numerous crucial aspects of that judgment having been referred to the larger bench, the government should not take a hasty decision.
Earlier on Saturday, 10 women from Andhra Pradesh were denied entry into the Sabarimala Temple while the Kerala government remained non-committal about offering protection to women devotees.
New priests AK Sudheer Namboodiri (Sabarimala) and MS Prameshwaran Namboodiri (Malikapuram) then took charge.
Women's rights activist Trupti Desai has claimed that the Kerala government is working "completely against" women.
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The Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala opened on the second day of the annual Mandala Pooja on Sunday, days after the Supreme Court deferred a verdict on a petition seeking review of its judgment allowing the entry of women between the age of 10 to 50 years into the shrine, referring the case to a larger seven-member bench.
However, the police officers who verified the women' ages claimed the devotees chose to abandon the plan to trek uphill to Sannidhanam "on their own volition" and were not compelled to go back, The Hindu reported.
Supporters of the ban on women of menstrual age entering argue that because Ayyappa is considered celibate, allowing "impure" women into the temple is disrespectful. While hearing the review petitions in October 2018, the Supreme Court explicitly stated that the verdict stands and has not been stayed, but no such specific mention has been made as part of the latest decision. However, devotees would be able to visit the Sabarimala shrine from November 17. The latest decisions of the government and the political leadership have eased the pressure on the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) which manages the Sabarimala temple.
"As we need some clarity on young women entering the temple after the recent Supreme Court order, we have asked for legal advice", he said. The unprecedented floods in August previous year had played havoc with the pilgrimage season with most of the facilities for the devotees being destroyed.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala, is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level- Sabarimala.