Hardening its stand against the entry of women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala shrine, the erstwhile Pandalam royal family Wednesday said it was not prepared for any compromise as regards the ancient rituals and traditions of the Ayyappa temple.
Speaking to reporters at Pandalam, royal family representative Sasikumar Varma rejected the Kerala governments' contention that the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) was the custodian of the temple and said it was "wrong".
"The temple is of the devotees," he said, adding, "If there is any violation of the customs and traditions, they have the right to question the same."
"We have never asked to close down the temple. We are not prepared for any compromise on customs and traditions. The family is not eyeing the wealth of the Ayyappa temple," Varma said.
On the issue of entry of women into the shrine, he said there was an attempt to "divide" the Hindu faithful on the basis of "avarnas" (lower) and "savarnas" (upper) castes.
But the Ayyappa devotees saw through it and did not fall into the trap, Varma added.
What had happened at Sabarimala over the last six days, when the temple was opened for the monthly pooja from October 17-22, was "painful", he said.
At a time when the government had failed to ensure basic facilities like accommodation, toilets and drinking water to the devotees, six young women trekked the hills with police protection, Varma alleged.
No real woman devotee in the 10-50 age group attempted to offer prayers at the shrine on the strength of the Supreme Court verdict, he claimed.
The six women, who attempted to offer prayers at the temple and were given police protection and escorted, were part of a script and a hidden agenda, Varma alleged.
Taking a dig at the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala, he said the attachment of the royal family to the temple did not change every five years.
However, they had time and again sought a hike in the allowances for the people who escorted the "Thiruvabharanam" (sacred ornaments of Lord Ayyappa) from Pandalam to Sabarimala during the Mandala Makaravillaku festival.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had criticised the Pandalam royal family and the "tantri" (head priest of the temple) Tuesday, saying the board was the legal custodian of the hill temple.
The famous Sabarimala temple, which opened for the monthly pooja on October 17 after the Supreme court order, had witnessed a stand-off over the issue with angry devotees preventing at least a dozen women in the "barred" age group from entering the shrine.
On September 28, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had lifted the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.