THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a fresh twist to the Sabarimala temple controversy, the Mala Araya tribal community will file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the hill shrine.
The Mala Araya community is believed to have established the shrine, which was taken over by the Pandalam royal family and later by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).The Akhila Thiruvithamkoor Mala Araya Maha Sabha (ATMAMS) will file the petition through P N Vijayakumar, former district judge and chairman of the Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.Sabha general secretary K K Gangadharan said the state government decision to not file a review petition against the SC verdict has disappointed community members.
“Several rituals and customs of the temple, including the age bar, are part of tribal culture and traditions. They should not be altered,” he said. “The 41-day vruta or abstinence is part of the tribal culture. Women in our sect, as in most other tribal communities, would not visit temples during menstruation. The vruta and restrictions for women were part of our culture, which were approved by the Pandalam royals and the thantri.”
Until the previous decade, Mala Araya residences had a separate hut nearby where women would stay during their menstrual period and delivery, he said.Gangadharan said the Sabha will request the apex court to provide immunity for the age-old custom of restricting women of menstrual age at the shrine under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.
The Sabha will also demand to reinstate the tribe’s rights at the shrine. They include the right to light the makaravilakku, conducting the then abhishekam (bathing the idol with forest honey) and pooja rights at sub-shrines like the Karimala temple on the Sabarimala trekking path.“The Pandalam royals and Thazhamon thantri family always honoured our culture. It was the TDB that did not show any regard for our rights and customs,” he said.
Gangadharan suspects that the portrayal of the age-old tradition as a rights issue is aimed at tarnishing the image of the shrine. “There is no ban, but a restriction. Last year, more than four lakh women visited the shrine,” he said.