Sabarimala, Dec 28 (PTI) At least 260 women in the banned 10-50 age group were stopped at Pamba, the foothills of the hill temple of Lord Ayyappa here during this year’s pilgrimage season, an official of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine, said. Also Read - Metro Man E Sreedharan to be BJP's CM Candidate in Kerala Assembly Elections

Of these, while some women were from Kerala, others were from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, TDB President A Padmakumar told PTI. Also Read - Pakistan PM Imran Khan To Take Vote of Confidence From The Assembly after Facing Defeat in Senate Elections

The women were stopped at Pamba by police and devaswom officials and their identity cards checked as part of the routine drill during the 41-day ‘mandala pooja’ which concluded on December 26. Also Read - Kerala Sets up 'Sanitiser Booths' at Schools For Safety of Students as Classes Resume

“We feel that such a large number of women of the banned age group could have come either due to ignorance with regard to the restrictions or it could be part of an attempt to show that violation of traditions were taking place at the shrine,” he said.

“The board has decided to ask the central government to inquire into this. We are planning to write to the Prime Minister on the matter,” he added.

Women in the menstruating age group are restricted from offering prayers at Sabarimala because the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa is considered to be a ‘naishtika brahmachari’ (perennial celibate).

A petition challenging the temple’s custom restricting entry of women in the 10-50 age group is now pending before the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court.

The Mandala poooja marks the conclusion of the initial phase of the three-month-long annual pilgrimage season.

The shrine was closed after the rituals yesterday. It will reopen on December 30 evening for the Makaravillaku festival which falls on January 14 next year.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.