Women form 620km line across Kerala over temple access

Arturo Kim
January 3, 2019

The activists and women devotees who tried to trek to the shrine so far include Trupti Desai, who was held up at Kochi airport after protesters laid siege forcing her to call off her proposed visit to the temple on November 16.

A video from a local police official showed two women inside the temple with their heads covered.

Following their entry, conservative Hindu groups said they will continue to oppose women entering the temple.

This is the second time that both the women attempted visiting the Sabarimala hill shrine.

Protests with sporadic violence were also reported in several other towns across the state, local media said.

Bindu Ammini (42) and Kankadurga (44) have thus become the first women to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on menstruating women from entering the temple on 28 September, 2018.

The women trekked the hill a day after the state-sponsored 620-km-long "wall of women", which was formed from Kasargode in the northern part of the state till the southern-most district of Thiruvananthapuram. Officers escorted them to the hilltop temple because of "police responsibility to provide protection to any devotee irrespective of gender", Pramod Kumar, the state police spokesman, said.

Extending support to the campaign, women from several organisations and social activists came together to form a almost one km-long human chain from Dadar Chowpatty to Shivaji Park in Mumbai on Tuesday evening.

Police deployed tear gas at protesters in the Indian state of Kerala.

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The Supreme Court had earlier ordered the end of a longstanding ban on the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 in the Hindu shrine.

Sabarimala had previously been off-limits to women of menstrual age on religious grounds, with proponents of the ban arguing that since Ayyappa is considered celibate, allowing "impure" women into the shrine would be disrespectful.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has confirmed that two women had darshan at Sabarimala temple. Some Hindu communities regard menstruating women as unclean.

"This is a massive victory for the women of India".

The temple was opened on December 30 for the Makaravillaku festival and there has been a heavy rush of pilgrims.

The Sabarimala temple is devoted to the deity Lord Ayappa, who according to legend was born from a union between two male gods.

The possibility of more confrontations was raised by a call from an umbrella group of right-wing Hindu groups in Kerala, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, which is supported by the BJP, for a state-wide protest strike on Thursday.

In September, India's Supreme Court ruled that the ban violated women's right to equality and the right to worship.

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