Tuesday 25 January 2022
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Sabarimala issue: Attempt to destroy centuries-old custom, say Kerala Tribals

The tribal chief, who is called as Mooppen, said considering menstruating women impure is a Dravidian custom and is associated with the worship of nature by the tribal people

Nilackal(Kerala): Tribals living in the hills around Sabarimala alleged that the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board were trying to demolish centuries-old customs by allowing entry of women in the 10-50 group into the famous Sabarimala temple.

They claimed that restrictions imposed on women in the menstruating group were part of a custom prevailing in tribal societies living in the forests in Kerala.

They also claimed several rights of the tribal communities over the Sabarimala temple and the places associated with the hill were forcibly taken away from them by the authorities of the government and the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the temple.

“The Devaswom Board has even taken control of tribal Gods and devasthanams in various hills around Sabarimala,” said 70-year-old VK Narayanan, chief of the forest-dwellers in the Attathodu area.

He alleged the authorities were trying to demolish centuries-old tribal custom associated with the temple.

“Look at our skin. We are tribals. Our custom is being demolished by those institutions which are duty-bound to protect them,” he said.

The tribal chief, who is called as Mooppen, said considering menstruating women impure is a Dravidian custom and is associated with the worship of by the tribal people.

He claimed access for the general public to the Sabarimala temple started only in the beginning of the 20th century and earlier only royals and priests used to trek once in a year during Mandala-Makaravilakku season to the hills for performing poojas.

“We will not let any impure woman enter into poonkavanam — sacred forests of Lord Ayyappa,” 58-year old tribal woman Omana said Tuesday evening as she checked pilgrims’ vehicles heading to Pamba to ensure that no woman in the group of 10 and 50 years was travelling in them to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Like Omana, dozens of tribal and Dalit women and children living in the hills around Sabarimala had assembled at Nilackal, keeping vigil at the main gateway to Sabarimala, and other pockets on the way to the hill shrine to ensure that not a single woman in the group of 10 and 50 years goes to the temple violating the age-old custom associated with it.

on Wednesday removed protesters increasing its presence in Nilackal base camp, 20 kilometres from Sabarimala, following incidents of the vehicle checks by devotees, preventing women belonging to the “banned group” from trekking the holy hills.

The tribals and Dalits believe that if the women in this particular -group climbed the hill violating the custom would bring a bad omen for them.

The tribals feel that some vested interests were utilising the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala to play politics over the issue.

The women said they could not agree with the top court verdict permitting women of all groups to enter the shrine.

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