Tens of thousands protest in India over flashpoint temple

Tens of thousands protest in India over flashpoint temple

Tens of thousands protest in India over flashpoint temple

Outrage grew after two women - backed by a landmark court ruling - entered a shrine which has historically been forbidden to females of menstruating age.

Bindu also said that they did not ascend the 18 holy steps but got their darshan through the VIP lounge.

On the same day, thousands of women took part in the state-wide protest by forming a 620 kilometer (385 mile) human chain, termed the "women's wall", calling for gender equality and access to the Ayyappa temple. They asserted that protests will be scaled up till Vijayan is unseated.

As an estimated 50 lakh women lined the streets of the southern state from Kasargod to Vellayambalam on Tuesday to uphold gender equality, two women devotees of menstruating age scripted history by praying at the Sabarimala temple, which saw frenzied protests since the state implemented the Supreme Court decision allowing women of all ages to pray at the shrine. The video showed them entering the shrine, wearing black clothes, with their heads covered.

Police were guarding the homes of the women after they left the temple and were prepared to let more women enter the temple, he said.

The women's claims have not been verified yet. They argue that the court has ignored their belief that the deity Ayyappa was celibate. Protesters blocked several roads and threw stones at law enforcement officials, sparking clashes, said Kumar, adding that police fired tear gas to quell the violence.

Kerala has become the venue of an angry showdown between Hindu traditionalists and supporters of September's supreme court ruling which ended a longstanding ban on women aged between 10 and 50. "We had issued standing orders to police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple", Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Kerala's capital city, Trivandrum, on Wednesday.

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

Devaswom Minister Surendran said that the government was unaware of the visit of the two women to the Sabarimala temple. The controversy over Sabarimala is not the first time the entry of women in religious spaces has sparked debate in India. Some Hindu communities regard menstruating women as unclean. The entry of women at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

The gold-plated Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple complex sits atop a 3,000-foot (915-metre) hill in a forested tiger reserve. The temple is dedicated to the god Ayyappan, believed to be the son of Shiva and Vishnu.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)'s Kerala state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai called it "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples", and said his party will "support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists".

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