Sabarimala (Kerala): The famed Lord Ayyappa temple here opened Wednesday for the five-day-long monthly poojas in a surcharged atmosphere of protest over the Supreme Court verdict permitting entry of women of all age groups.
Amid chanting of 'swamiye saranam Ayyappa' mantras, the 'melshanti' (chief priest), Unnikrishnan Namboothiri and 'tantri' (head priest), Kandaru Rajeevaru opened the portals of santum sanctorum of the shrine at 5.00 pm and lighted the ceremonial lamp.
As per the custom, no poojas would be held this evening and the shrine would be closed at 10.30 pm.
This is for the first time that the hill temple, located in the evergreen forests of Western Ghats, opened after the apex court lifted the ban on menstrual age women visiting the shrine.
Earlier in the day, a woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to climb the Sabarimala Hills to reach the temple but was forced to return to Pamba, the base camp, intimidated by agitated men devotees.
Liby, a young woman from Kerala's Alappuzha, was also prevented from proceeding to the shrine at Pathanamthitta bus terminal.
The day witnessed tense moments at Pamba and Nilackal at the foothill as protesters opposing the Supreme Court order turned violent and clashed with police, which resulted in baton-charge by the latter.
Stones were pelted at police vehicles and buses.
Several persons including an old woman was injured in the stone-pelting and connected incidents.
Some women journalists were heckled and blocked from proceeding toward here by the protesters who also attacked their vehicles.
From Thursday onwards, regular poojas and other rituals like 'ganapathi pooja' and 'neyyabhishekam' would be held till October 22, according to the schedule.
The selection of new chief priest of the temple and that of the adjacent Malikappuram shrine would be held Thursday.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran and Travancore Devaswom Board President, A Padmakumar were among those present before the sanctum sanctorum when it was opened. (PTI)