The Sabarimala shrine seems to be hurtling into one controversy after another. And the latest one is by far the unholiest of them all. Supreme priest Mohanaru Kantaru has been sacked for his alleged involvement "in a sex racket".
In a strange twist, it wasn't the police who went to Kantaru but the priest who approached them, with a complaint that he'd been abducted by some people and forced to pose with a woman of dubious character.
The Erankulam police found out that the priest's story was fabricated and that he'd visited the woman's flat of his own accord.
"About six months back, this woman was arrested for immoral trafficking. We have evidence he visited her house at least 20 times," DIG A. Padma Kumar told a leading Malayalam channel.
The DIG added that Kantaru probably made up the kidnap theory after his neighbours objected to his visiting the woman and tried to manhandle him. The police will file a formal complaint against the priest on Tuesday.
Soon after the news broke, the Tranvancore Dewasom Board held an emergency meeting and decided to remove the priest from his post.
"It is unfortunate. We have removed the priest and asked his father Maheswaru Kandarau to take over his duties," said Punalur Madhu, a Board member.
Kantaru reacted to the charge saying, "The entire issue is incredible. Let the government and the Board conduct an impartial inquiry. We are not afraid."
Controversy has been dogging the shrine ever since an Astha Devaprasnam (divination ritual to gauge the mood of the presiding deity) was conducted by astrologers last month.
This was followed by Kannada actress Jaimala's confession that she had unwittingly touched the Ayyappa idol 19 years ago.