Opposition Congress and the BJP on Wednesday lashed out at the CPI (M)-led LDF government and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after two women in their 40s entered the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. India's Supreme Court a year ago voided the ban on women aged 10-50 from entering the temple.
The Supreme Court ruled on September 28 that the decades-old ban on women of menstruating age at Sabarimala, which is at the top of a hill a four-hour trek from the nearest village, was illegal.
Police sources confirmed to the Times of India that plain-clothed police personnel accompanied the two women inside the temple. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.
The temple head ordered the shrine closed for a purification ritual after news of the women's entry spread.
Bindu, one of the women who entered the temple on Wednesday, was threatened by right-wing protesters earlier and her house was vandalised, said Selvi.
Malappuram resident Kanakadurga, 46, and Kozhikode local Bindu said that they began climbing the steps to Lord Ayyappa shrine around midnight and reached the temple at 3:45 am for darshan. Even today, not many local women enter the sanctum sanctorum in the Shani Shingnapur temple, another place of worship where women were recently permitted to enter. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
One must not forget that several women in the state had also protested the SC verdict and participated in "Ready to wait" campaigns; many of them continue to believe that menstruation is indeed impure and that the onus of protecting a god's celibacy falls on them and not the deity.
Devotees have been enraged by an Indian Supreme Court decision to overturn an earlier ban on women aged between 10 and 50. Some Hindu communities regard menstruating women as unclean. Over a dozen women tried but were stopped by a wall of protesters less than a km from the temple's entrance.
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Across cities and towns, menstruating girls and women are not allowed to prepare food, enter a temple or touch an idol. "Police offered us protection from Pamba, the foothhills", she told a TV channel.
Expressing solidarity, thousands of men also lined up parallel forming a second human "wall".
The supreme court is to hear challenges to its landmark ruling from 22 January.
The temple was closed for "ritual purification" for nearly one-and-a half-hours before opening for the devotees, reports said.
According to the temple's mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy.
In an October speech, BJP president Amit Shah called on women to respect the sentiments of other temple devotees.