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Dubai: Vidya Rajeev, a 35-year-old Dubai-based expatriate from Kerala said the men in her family observe the Sabarimala fast every year. She told Gulf News: “I agree with the protests taking place in Kerala, as a believer I won’t go. I like to think that I am a modern educated woman, but I respect religious traditions and ancestral rituals. I do understand other women’s desire to go, but personally as a believer, I would not go.

“I have grown up hearing my grandmother telling us stories of the birth of Ayappa, his celibacy and his promise to Malikapurathamma, who according to popular belief, wanted to marry Ayappa but could not. Ayappan told her he would marry her only when new first-time worshippers stop coming to his temple. It’s out of empathy for Ayappa’s commitment and Malikapurathamma’s eternal wait, that I choose not to go.

“One can pray from anywhere, inside their homes and in thousands of other temples that women can enter without issues, I cannot understand the fight for this one place.”

However, Rajeev’s reasons are not strictly religious. She added: “Visiting Sabarimala requires rigorous fasting for 45 days and difficult lifestyle and dietary changes, which I cannot comply with. Moreover, there are many hurdles we face during the hard on-foot trip up the mountain to the temple. It can get very crowded and uncomfortable.”