New Delhi: Days after the Supreme Court opened the gate of  Sabarimala temple for women of all ages, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday chaired a high-level meeting and discussed various arrangements to be made for female devotees. The Kerala government it was ‘impractical’ to have separate queues for women at the temple, though it decided to facilitate their visits to the Ayyappa temple by providing better facilities.

“Worshippers have to wait for 8-10 hours in long queues for darshan and women devotees also need to be prepared for the same. We cannot do anything. Those who are prepared to wait for hours in long queues only (they) need to come,” Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said.

He added, “Women devotees would mostly be accompanied by their male relatives and other worshippers. In case of separate queues, there is a possibility of them getting separated from their family members. However, separate washrooms and bathing ghats would be provided for women worshippers.” (ALSO READ – ‘Real Women Devotees’ of Lord Ayyappa Unlikely to Visit Sabarimala Temple, Says TDB Chief)

The Kerala government has also planned to restrain  devotees from staying back at the ‘sannidhanam’ after worship. “They would be encouraged to leave the shrine to avoid rush of pilgrims. With a huge rush of devotees expected, talks will be held with the temple administration to increase the darshan timings and pooja days,”PTI quoted Surendran as saying.

To enable authorities make better security arrangements and control the crowd , digital booking facilities would be introduced this year on the model of Tirupati temple, Surendran informed.

The high-level meeting was attended by Chief secretary Tom Jose, chief minister’s private secretary MV Jayarajan, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) member KP Sankardas and DGP Loknath Behara.

Earlier on Septembr 28, the top court in its 411-page verdict said the practice of exclusion of women of a particular age group being followed at the shrine cannot be regarded as an essential religious practice as claimed by the Travancore Devaswom Board(TDB), which administers the temple.

“Any rule based on discrimination or segregation of women pertaining to biological characteristics is not only unfounded, indefensible and implausible but can also never pass the muster of constitutionality,” a verdict pronounced by Justice Misra for himself and Justice A M Khanwilkar said.

Sabarimala is a prominent Hindu temple which attracts tens of millions of pilgrims every year. The hill-top shrine remains open only for a little over four months in a year and the approach is through a forested area that involves an arduous 5-km trek from the Pampa river base camp.

(With inputs from agencies)