Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Two women enter Sabarimala, temple shut down

Two women enter Sabarimala, temple shut down

The authorities legalized the traditional ban in 1972, but the move was revoked by India's Supreme Court in September.

Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, devotees of the temple deity, Lord Ayyappa, entered around dawn.

The government-sponsored "Women's Wall" in Kerala turned out to be significant in terms of massive women's participation.

Temple officials say the women have "defiled" the temple.

Following this, the temple priests have shut the temple down for purification rituals.

Protests erupted in cities throughout Kerala later Wednesday, and Reuters reports police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of protesters in the state's capital of Thiruvananthapuram.

"We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate", one of the women later told reporters.

Thousands of women formed a human chain across the state of Kerala in southern India on Tuesday, in support of a court order overturning a partial ban on women entering one of Hinduism's holiest temples, witnesses said. Their journey to the hill began from Pamba at 1:30 am and got their darshan by 3:30 am. "We have to reject these ideas", she added.

"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.

Traders' organisations have said they will not cooperate with the shutdown and sought police protection to open their establishments.

Police with batons charged at demonstrators who were trying to enforce a shutdown of shops and businesses in the area called for by the Sabarimala temple hierarchy.

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It sits atop a steep hill and every year, millions of male devotees trek up the hill, often barefoot, to visit the shrine.

"This is against gender equality, is anti-women and a naked violation of the Supreme Court".

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which spearheads the coalition government, said Tuesday's demonstration was organized to "fight against divisive forces" of the BJP and its ideological mentor organization, the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Families of the two women have since denied this. The women - protected by police - entered Sabarimala around 3am local time on Wednesday.

Menstruation is rarely discussed openly in India and menstrual blood is considered impure by many communities.

It came as protests broke out after two women secretly breached a blockade to enter the Hindu Sabarimala temple, which is a major pilgrimage site, in part of an ongoing row earlier on Wednesday.

According to the temple's mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy - and hence the ban.

The few who did try were forced to turn back.

In October, devotees clashed with police who arrested more than 2,000 people.

Why has the issue become so political?

State BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai alleged that the entry of the women shows that they have cheated and betrayed the Hindu devotees.

In recent weeks Hindu traditionalists - backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - have prevented attempts by women to access the hilltop site, with some hardliners turning violent.

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