CPM ministers on Sunday locked horns with the erstwhile royal family of Pandalam over the latter’s direction to the Sabarimala thantri (priest) that the temple should be closed down if women of menstruating age enter the shrine.
Last week, when police managed to take two young women near the temple, thantri Kandararu Rajeevaru had threatened to shut it down. The adamant stand of the thantri stemmed from a direction from the erstwhile royal family, which once owned the temple as its family property but handed it over to the government in 1949.
CPM leader and Public Works Minister G Sudhakaran said Kerala society should debate about the stand of the thantri and royal family. “How can a thantri threaten that he could close down the temple in the manner a shopowner says during a hartal. What is the right of the royal family to issue such a direction,” said Sudhakaran.
It was during Sudhakaran’s tenure as the Devaswom minister in 2006-2011 that the then LDF government informed the Supreme Court that Kerala favoured the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala.
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Another CPM leader and Energy Minister M M Mani said the royal family and the thantri should realise that monarchy is over. “They should understand that a democratic government is in office now. The thantri, who threatened to close down the temple, is only a salaried person,” said Mani.
The royal family’s executive committee president, Sasikumara Varma, said his family has the right to give a direction to the thantri to close down the temple. “Those who have doubt about the power of the family can inspect the documents. The thantri had accepted the direction realising our right to do so,” he said.
The Pandalam family has been at the forefront of the agitation against the Supreme Court order lifting the age bar on entry of women to Sabarimala.
A day ahead of the closure of the temple after the monthly ritual, four women aged below 50 were prevented from going to the temple on Sunday. The women, hailing from Andhra Pradesh, were stopped on the forest path from Pamba to the temple. Unlike the young Kerala women, who attempted to go up the hill shrine, the women from Andhra Pradesh did not put any resistance when protesters approached them.