Two women enter flashpoint India temple

Kerala government employee Kanakadurga and Prof. Bindu Ammini at Angamaly from where they were taken to their native place after having a darshan on Wednesday

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Video footage shows them entering the temple premises through the staff gate on the northern side at 3.48 a.m. and moving out through the seemingly empty barricade in front of the temple sopanam at 3.50 a.m. Policemen in mufti escorted them.

Earlier, in the last week of December, they had tried to trek to Sabarimala but had been blocked by massive protests.

The temple had witnessed protests from frenzied devotees over the entry of women in the 10-50 age group in the shrine after the CPI (M)-led LDF government chose to implement a Supreme Court order allowing women of all age to offer prayers there. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Administrative Reforms Commission chairperson VS Achuthanandan witnessed the wall in the capital.

Following this, the temple priests have shut the temple down for purification rituals. "It is the responsibility of the police to give protection to those who come and we did it".

The Women's Wall demonstration comes less than a week after BJP-backed right-wing groups organized their own human chain to protest the Supreme Court verdict. The Travancore Devaswom Board, the administrating board of the Sabarimala temple, however, claimed ignorant of the development.

CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had earlier said that 50 lakh women were expected to take part in the event. If they have entered the temple today, there must not have been any hurdles. One of the ways to enter the temple is to climb 18 holy steps and, according to the temple's website, this is a sacred activity and no pilgrim can climb them without undertaking a rigorous 41-day fast. On December 24 previous year, the two women had unsuccessfully tried to offer prayers at the shrine. Bindu hails from Kozhikode, while Kanakadurga is from Malappuram district in Kerala.

Police have provided security to the homes of the two women fearing possible protests.

While most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it was one of the few that did not allow women in a broad age group to enter at all. However, India's Supreme Court struck down the ban in September, saying that it violated gender equality laws.

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