Sabarimala temple shut for devotees for now; Kerala CM, BJP trade barbs

The Kerala government on Thursday decided not to allow devotees at Sabarimala hill temple and dropped the annual festival after the temple ‘tantri’ (supreme priest) expressed serious reservations.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it was a right decision but the Bharatiya Janata Party termed it a victory of devotees. “People who vociferously sought for temple opening backtracked after the government took a decision. Anyway, it is a good decision but many stand exposed in the process,” the CM said without naming anyone.

The government had called a meeting after the temple board and the priest differed over the opening of the hill shrine. “We have decided not to allow devotees in view of the fluid situation. There are no differences between the priest family and the Travancore Devaswom Board,” said state devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran after the meeting.

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.

The BJP termed the move a victory of the believers and said the government was forced to defer its decision. “The state government’s ploy to put the blame on the Centre was defeated. It always eyed temple income not the safety of devotees,” said state president K Surendran.

Earlier, the government said it took the decision as per the directive of the Union home ministry.

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

Meanwhile the state has reported 83 fresh cases taking the total to 2244, said the CM adding that out of 84 cases 27 are expatriates, 37 came from other states and 14 infected from primary contacts.

Five health workers and four cleaning employees are among the infected, he said. The state has reported 18 deaths and more than 2 lakh people are under observation.

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