Sabarimala board puts freeze on temple opening, Kerala calls for talks

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The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which runs the Sabarimala hill temple, on Thursday decided not to allow devotees and dropped the annual temple festival after the temple ‘tantri’ (supreme priest) expressed serious reservations.

The Kerala government, after the temple board and the priest differed over the opening of the hill shrine, has called a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram today.

“We have decided not to allow devotees in view of the fluid situation. There are no differences between the priest family and the TDB,” said state devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran.

The state minister said some people who were adamant on opening the shrine backtracked when the government decided to go ahead with it. The minister blamed cheap politics behind the confusion and the prolonged drama.

Tantri Kandararu Mohanararu also played down differences over the issue, saying it was ideal not to allow devotees at this juncture. He cited the increase in the coronavirus cases in Kerala and the neighbouring states behind his decision.

However, all daily poojas will be held at the shrine as per tantric customs. The temple was planning to open on June 14 and a week-long festival was to follow from June 19.

Earlier, the tantri had sent a letter to the TDB commissioner and spoke to TDB chairman N Vasu about delaying the opening. The TDB, however, claimed that it did not receive any communication in this regard. The tantri is usually considered as the final word on all ritualistic matters.

The TDB, a government-appointed body, runs Sabarimala and other major temples in south and central Kerala.

“Many pilgrims swarm the temple from neighbouring states as well. It will be difficult to keep a tab on all devotees. So the festival and other functions can be postponed now,” the tantri said, adding allowing devotees at this juncture will pose a serious threat. His demand came in the wake of many Hindu organisations questioning the government’s decision to open shrines in the state.

Unveiling the graded exit plan under ‘Unlock 1’, the central government had allowed reopening of places of worship for devotees, malls and restaurants from June 8 across the country. They have been shut since March 25, when the lockdown was first imposed to check the spread of the pandemic.

The state has reported 2161 coronavirus cases with 19 deaths. At least 1238 people are undergoing treatment and more than 2 lakh people are under observation.

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