Women defy centuries-old ban by entering Sabarimala temple

Women defy centuries-old ban by entering Sabarimala temple

Millions of women in the southern Indian state of Kerala formed a 620-km human chain on New Year's Day amid a simmering row over granting menstrual-age women access to a historic Hindu temple. The court ordered the temple to immediately admit women of all ages, but since then, "hundreds of thousands of protesters, male and female devotees and some right-wing Hindu politicians have turned out to block women from approaching the temple", NPR previously reported.

On Wednesday, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, entered around dawn, BBC News reported.

The head of Kerala's left-wing government, Pinarayi Vijayan, said the "women's wall" was aimed at protecting women's constitutional rights to equality. "It is to be done openly, everybody should accept, that's our view", CPI general secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy said.

Religiously fueled protests escalated in the Indian state of Kerala on Wednesday, with police charging Hindu worshipers with batons and using tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades to disperse rioters in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram.

Repeated efforts by women to enter the shrine after the ruling have been rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them out.

The women reportedly arrived at Pamba, the base station, around 1 am on Wednesday and held darshan around 3.30 am.

"This is a great way of saying how powerful women are, and how we can empower ourselves and help each other", protestor Kavita Das told BBC Hindi.

The police sources in Thiruvananthapuram, quoting DGP Loknath Behara, said details were being collected on the issue. Given the early hour, it's likely there were no protesters and only a few devotees. The women in their 40s were accompanied by police personnel, added ANI. Since the purification ceremony was on, devotees were asked to move out of the shrine. Traditionalists, who believe the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate, had opposed the court verdict and stopped dozens of women who tried to enter the temple.

The two women are identified as Bindu from Kozhikode and Kanakadurga from Malappuram. Per the BBC, protesters have since attacked women who've attempted to enter the temple.

And in a rare aligning of rivals, the India National Congress Party also called for protests, according to Reuters. The women - protected by police - entered Sabarimala around 3am local time on Wednesday.

The event dominated the conversation on social media, where users kept sharing powerful images of women standing up for their rights.

Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals.

The temple has historically banned women of "menstruating age" - deemed to be between 10 and 50 - from entering on the grounds that menstruating women are "unclean".

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