Two woman devotees, below the age of 50, finally entered the Sabarimala temple on early Wednesday morning — in a first after the temple was opened to women between the age group of 10-50 following the September 28 Supreme Court verdict, on October 17.
The jubilation, however, could not last long as the temple has been shut down for an hour for “purification rituals”.
Bindu, 44, from Perinthalmanna and Kanaka Durga, 42, from Kannur, began their climb towards the abode of Lord Ayyappa at midnight and reached the shrine only after 3.45 am on Wednesday.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed the development.
He told reporters, “There have been protests earlier. But today two women have entered the shrine. We had given a standing order to the police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple.”
The two women were accompanied by a group of policemen in civil uniform.
A viral video showed the women entering the shrine, wearing black clothes, with their heads covered.
The Kerala Police, however, said it was looking into the media reports.
The police sources in Thiruvananthapuram, quoting DGP Loknath Behara, said details were being collected on the issue.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) President A Padmakumar said he had no information about the two women offering prayers at the temple.
TDB officials have been asked to view CCTV footage to verify their claim, he said.
Bindu and Kanakadurga had tried visiting the temple late last month too, but failed amidst massive protests. The women were then blocked by protestors at Appachi medu, located 2 km away from the Sabarimala temple.
The few police personnel who were accompanying the two women couldn’t resist the protestors who lay on the ground chanting prayers. They were forced to return amid protests.
The development came close on the heels of the building up of a 650-km long ‘women’s wall’ in the state.
Lakhs of women filled the roads from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday and took a pledge to protect the renaissance value and uphold gender equality.
Although the wall was organised by the state’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) against the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala, the women’s pledge reportedly had no reference to the shrine.
The Kerala government had been facing heat from both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party over its efforts to implement the Supreme Court verdict.
The Sabarimala shrine has been in the eye of storm ever since the top court declared unconstitutional a Kerala law that banned entry of menstruating women into it and threw it open for women of all ages.
The opening of the temple gates was marked by massive protests across the state. Several women, including journalists, devotees and activists who attempted to enter the shrine, were forced to return by protestors.
Priests and devotees strongly believe the ban on women between 10 and 50 years should stay as the deity Lord Ayyappa is celibate. They have resorted to protests in October, November and December and have forced woman devotees, wishing to visit the shrine, to return.
The police has since been on high-alert and tight security arrangements have been made whenever the temple is opened for monthly ‘pujas’.
DEVASTATING, SAYS BJP
The BJP has termed the entry of women into the shrine “devastating”.
Amit Malviya, in-charge of BJP’s national Information and Technology, tweeted: “Have the Communists desecrated Sabarimala shrine by facilitating entry of women of restricted age group into the temple? Devastating, if true.”