A complete timeline of the Sabarimala verdict Advertisement

A complete timeline of the Sabarimala verdict

From the SC ruling to women entering the shrine

By ELLE team  January 3rd, 2019

Update: At the time of publishing this article, only two women had entered the temple. On January 3, a Sri Lankan woman, Sasikala (46), also entered the shrine and offered prayers. More than a 1,000 people have been arrested in Kerala even as the state remains on edge.

A new year heralds new beginnings and change. On January 1, 2019, women in Kerala made history by forming the fourth-largest human chain ever to pledge for gender equality. Within 24 hours, 5 million women, across age and religion, took to the streets to uphold Renaissance values. This comes on the heels of the Sabarimala verdict and the violent protests that followed.

Here’s everything that’s happened so far: 

On September 28, the Supreme Court ruled that women, irrespective of age, can pray at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, overturning a centuries-old tradition that banned women of menstruating age (10-50) from entering the premises. Considering that the deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate, temple authorities believed this discriminatory practice was completely justified, despite the fact that it violated the constitutional right to pray.

Unsurprisingly, this historic SC judgement caused major uproar. 

On October 13, the Shiv Sena in Kerala declared that a seven-member ‘suicide squad’ was prepared to commit suicide if women were allowed inside the temple. Malayalam actor Kollam Thulasi also went on record to say that, “women coming to Sabarimala temple should be ripped in half”.

On October 17, the temple, which is only open on certain days of the year, re-opened its gates to devotees. The chief priest brazenly threatened violence if women tried to enter the shrine. Despite the threats, several women between 10-50 years attempted to enter the shrine but were forced to return after a certain point. Devotees staged sit-in protests and screened vehicles to stop young women. Over the next few days, many women had to return midway from the trek to the temple, despite police protection. The protestors also included women, which just goes to show that all genders can be victims of deep patriarchal conditioning.    

Finally, on January 2, three months after the apex court lifted the ban, two women of menstruating age made it to the sanctum sanctorum. Amid police protection, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, both in their forties, offered prayers at the shrine at around 3.45am. Bindu, a lawyer, and Kanakadurga, a government employee, had previously attempted to enter Sabarimala, but were stopped by protesters. They bid their time, living in a secret location, before giving it another shot. According to reports, the duo met via a Facebook page, Navothana Keralam Sabarimalayilekku, or Renaissance Kerala, where women who want to go to Sabarimala connect with each other.

As soon as news broke out, the priests ordered out devotees and shut the sanctum sanctorum for an hour-long ‘purification’ ritual. According to a news report, the sanctum sanctorum has never been closed like this before. At several places across Kerala, fresh protests erupted and a shutdown was enforced. The situation remains tense, even as the protests have left more than 100 people, including 38 policemen, injured and one dead.