An authentic age proof document will be required from now on for women visiting the famed Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala in Kerala, where the entry of female devotees in the age group of 10-50 is banned. The decision has been taken by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine. The age proof has been made mandatory during the ongoing pilgrim season in view of the increasing instances of women devotees trying to trek to the hillock shrine defying restrictions.
TDB President A Padmakumar said that any document will be accepted for the same including the Aadhaar card. “The decision was taken in view of a number of women belonging to the banned age group trying to visit the shrine recently,” he told PTI on Thursday. “Carrying an authentic age proof document will help avoid unnecessary arguments between women pilgrims and the police and Devaswom officials who carry out checks,” he added.
The final leg of the three-month-long annual pilgrim season will end on January 14, with the Makaravilakku festival. Women in the menstruating age group are restricted from offering prayers at Sabarimala.
Padmakumar justified the decision by saying that a girl from neighbouring Tamil Nadu had tried to visit the shrine along with her father and other relatives recently. “Those who carry out checks had expressed doubts about her age. Though her father argued that she did not belong to the banned age group, the security personnel did not allow her,” he said.
He said that finally the ID card was produced which revealed that girl is just 11-year-old. “We cannot compromise with the traditions of the shrine,” he added.
Women police personnel and the female staff of TDB jointly carry out checks at Pampa, the foothills from where the devotees begin their trek to the hillock shrine. Padmakumar also recalled that at least 260 women in the banned 10-50 age group were stopped at Pamba during this year’s pilgrimage season, which began on November 15 last.