Thiruvananthapuram: Sabarimala temple is likely to turn into a fortress on Sunday as a group of 50 women, all below the traditionally barred age of 50 years, are set to visit the Lord Ayyappa shrine. The group that comes under ‘Manithi’, a Chennai-based outfit, comprises women from different states, including Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka besides Kerala.

Selvy, a member of ‘Manithi’, told a Malayalam TV channel that they had already written to the office of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in this regard and informed about their plan to trek the hill temple.

On Saturday, the police confirmed that the women’s group will offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple. “As per the information, the group will reach Kottayam at around 10 AM. They have not asked for any special security. When they reach Nilackal, the base camp, and if there is any law and order situation, we will deal with it accordingly,” a police official told PTI.

On Friday night, a 43-year-old woman devotee from Andhra Pradesh, who came along with a group of pilgrims to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple, was stopped and sent back by police midway, citing security reasons. Earlier this week, four transgenders were stopped from proceeding towards the shrine and asked to come back dressed as men. However, they managed to offer prayers at the hill shrine under heavy police security cover.

Kerala had witnessed massive protests by devotees opposing the entry of girls and women in the 10-50 age group into the Sabarimala temple since the state government decided to implement the Supreme Court order.

Marking the culmination of the 41-day ‘vratha’ (penance), Mandala Puja, the first phase of the Sabarimala pilgrimage, would be held on December 27 at the Lord Ayyappa temple. In recent days, the shrine has witnessed a steady inflow of pilgrims as the police had eased certain restrictions even as the prohibitory orders are still in place.

Earlier this month, the Kerala High Court had appointed a three-member committee, vesting them with powers to oversee law and order and other problems faced by pilgrims during the ongoing annual season.