With the annual Mandala Puja just days away, protests again broke out in the temple town here in Kerala on Sunday as 11 women from the hitherto banned age group of 10 to 50 years, reached Pamba, to trek uphill and pay obeisance at the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
The women from Tamil Nadu are adamant they will not return without praying at the temple.
Sabarimala has been witnessing protests by Hindu groups since the September 28 Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple, including those from the hitherto banned age group.
Around two dozen women from that particular age group have already tried and failed to go up the pathway leading to the temple after the top court's verdict, following protest from the Ayyappa devotees.
The 11-member Tamil group that reached the base camp around 5.30 a.m on Sunday, have, however, and stayed put at the Pamba base camp.
Hundreds of angry protesters also equally adamant, have been chanting slogans to not allow the temples customs to be breached. Just a few metres away from the women devotees, the protesters were seen singing Lord Ayyappa hymns, asking the women to retreat.
"We will give our lives to protect the customs and traditions of the Sabarimala temple. Under no circumstances will these women be allowed to go up the hill," said angry pilgrims.
The group of women led by Selvie, an activist belonging to the Maniti Women's group were squatting on the pathway demanding police protection to ascend the hill.
"We came after the Kerala government had assured that we will be allowed to pray at the temple. We will not go back without praying at the temple. The police should ensure protection to us to pray," said Selvie.
The women faced the first hurdle when priests here refused to take part in the ritual that every Sabarimala pilgrim undergoes when they prepare the holy kit that is carried on the pilgrims head.
Following which the women prepared their holy kit on their own.
The present two month long pilgrim season began on November 16 and compared to the previous ones have seen an uneasy calm. The number of pilgrims have dwindled drastically and temple revenues have also dipped.