The shutdown was called following “detention” of a few religious leaders the previous night from the Sabarimala temple premises.
Among the detained on Friday night was Hindu Iykavedi (HI) President and senior BJP leader K.P. Sasikala, who was proceeding towards the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
Following her detention, Hindu Iykavedi leaders called for a shutdown backed by the state BJP.
Sources said Sasikala, carrying the customary holy kit ‘Irumudi Kettu’ on her head, was stopped by the police near the temple and was told not to proceed further as the temple had closed at 10 p.m. But she refused.
She was taken into preventive custody and till Saturday afternoon she was lodged at the Ranni police station, sources said.
Over a thousand of her supporters cordoned off the police station and chanted Lord Ayyappa’s hymns as conciliation talks progressed.
Shops and other businesses were forced to down their shutters by HI, BJP and Sangh Parivar activists.
Barring private vehicles, public transport vehicles stayed off the roads. Schools and educational institutes were closed for the day.
At Kozhikode the husband of a woman TV journalist, who is also the son of a top CPI-M leader, was injured in an attack allegedly by Sangh Parivar supporters.
In another incident, angry CPI-M and Sangh Parivar supporters clashed in a village near the state capital.
The intensity of the shutdown came down by late afternoon after Sasikala was given bail, and as per her demand, the police dropped her back to the temple town.
Kadakampally Surendran, State Devasom Minister, said it was “shameful” that a shutdown was called on an important day of the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
“Generally, protestors during the festival season of the Sabarimala temple spare Pathanamthitta district (where Sabarimala is situated) from the shutdown because it causes difficulties for the pilgrims. This shutdown was called by those who are trying to create trouble in the temple town,” said the CPI-M Minister.
State Congress president Mulapally Ramachandran alleged the CPI-M-led government had a secret deal with Sangh Parivar forces.
“Sasikala has a few cases involving inflammatory speeches registered against her. The police chose to arrest her at Sabarimala to glorify her. The Sangh Parivar successfully used the Ayodhya issue and is now trying to exploit the Sabarimala temple on similar lines,” said Ramachandran.
State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai told the media in Kozhikode on Saturday that no one knew why Sasikala was detained.
“Things are becoming clear that the Pinarayi Vijayan government wants to destroy Sabarimala by coming out with rules that will affect the traditions of the temple,” said Pillai.
“We are talking with leaders of other states. There will be a huge protest against this, not just here, but everywhere else,” warned Pillai.
The Sabarimala temple opened its doors at 5 p.m. on Friday for two months.
The temple town has witnessed protests by Hindu groups since September 28 when the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the temple that hitherto banned girls and women aged between 10 and 50.
The apex court this week refused to stay its earlier verdict.