A day after millions of women stood together in the Indian state to form a almost 400-mile-long human chain to call for equality, two women made history-and sparked protests and a call for a state-wide shutdown-when they entered the Sabarimala temple in the state of Kerala in the early hours Wednesday.
Kerala had witnessed massive protests by devotees opposing the entry of girls and women in the 10-50 age group into the shrine after the CPI (M)-led LDF government made a decision to implement the apex court verdict allowing all women to offer prayers at the temple.
A tense standoff lasting more than four hours in Thiruvananthapuram was ongoing, with neither side showing any sign of backing down as rival groups shouted slogans. Police also resorted to lathi charge in Palakkad after the protests turned violent. A few policemen were injured after protesters targeted them with stones.
After the ruling, more than a dozen women between the ages of 10 and 50 attempted to enter the temple.
Two women braved a centuries-old ban on entering a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala on Wednesday, sparking protests by conservative Hindu groups outraged by their visit.
The women who entered the temple premises were in their 40s, according to Reuters partner ANI.
"We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps, but went through the staff gate", one of the women, who both remain under police guard, later told reporters.
The leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the entry of the women into the shrine "hurt" the sentiments of devotees. Sasikala said the protests would continue till Pinarayi Vijayan resigns as chief minister.
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In September, India's Supreme Court ruled that the ban violated women's right to equality and the right to worship. They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the deity Ayyappa was celibate.
The development comes hours after lakhs of women in Kerala stood should-to-shoulder across the national highways, creating a 620 km-long human "wall" from the northern end of Kasaragod to the southern tip here on Tuesday as part of a state-sponsored initiative to uphold gender equality. Bindu said that they would trek to the temple since the cops had promised to escort them to the Sannidhanam.
The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on 22 January.
Legend says that the goddess Malikapurathamma asked Ayyappa to marry her.
The incident prompted officials from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, the party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to call for protests.
It was one of a string of recent decisions to have eaten away at some of India's traditions, including outlawing bans on gay sex and adultery past year.
Women activists believe that Bindu and Kanakadurga could enter the temple safely because there were no protestors at Sabarimala.
India's Supreme Court ordered a lifting of the ban in September.