Two women enter Hindu temple in India, breaking years-long ban

Two women enter Hindu temple in India, breaking years-long ban

Two women enter Hindu temple in India, breaking years-long ban

Cloaked in black veils and shrouded in early morning darkness, two women of menstruating age group made history on Wednesday when they stepped into the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa, breaking a centuries-old tradition defying dire threats from the Hindu right. Clashes broke out between protesters and the police in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, on Wednesday afternoon.

The two women entered the temple before dawn yesterday - the first time that females aged 10 to 50 have set foot inside since the Indian Supreme Court overturned a ban in September past year.

The attempts to enter the temple and resulting protests have become a flashpoint as some Hindu hardliners in the nationalist BJP-led country try to defend what they see as core values in Hindu-majority India. Police also resorted to lathi charge in Palakkad after the protests turned violent.

Earlier, the Kerala state president of the BJP described the visit to the temple by the two women as "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples". Hours later, the chief priest or the "thantri" abruptly closed the temple doors for about an hour to conduct the purification rituals. Noted activist G Mallika viewed this as a clear indication that the trouble in Sabarimala was created by right-wing activists who entered the hillock disguised as devotees. "Police are bound to offer protection to anyone wanting to worship at the shrine", he said. "They were able to enter the shrine today", Vijayan said.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) appeared to disapprove of two women of menstruating age group entering the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala "secretly" on Wednesday and said it should have been done "openly".

Traditionalists have also argued that the temple deity, Ayyappa, was celibate.

In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.

On Tuesday, the state government backed a protest by thousands of women, who formed a 620 km (385 mile) human chain, termed the "women's wall", in support of "gender equality" and access to the temple. We are not in the favour of changing rituals, he said, adding that the temple will have to be "purified".

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban, after numerous legal challenges were brought against it.

At 12 Ayyappa revealed his divinity when he emerged from the forest riding a tigress.

Only those who have observed the vratha and carry the irrumude, a symbolic offering, can enter the main courtyard up 18 divine golden steps. He said he would only do so if first-time devotees decide not to visit him - which has never happened.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party opposes the Supreme Court's decision. He pointed to other Hindu temples and ceremonies where men are not allowed to attend.

Women activists believe that Bindu and Kanakadurga could enter the temple safely because there were no protestors at Sabarimala.

However, the Left government remains firm in its resolve to stand by the Supreme Court verdict.

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