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Women form human chain in Mumbai to support Kerala 'Women's Wall'

02 January 2019

It came as protests broke out after two women secretly breached a blockade to enter the Hindu Sabarimala temple, which is a major pilgrimage site, in part of an ongoing row earlier on Wednesday.

The temple in Kerala state has been at the centre of a prolonged showdown between Hindu devotees supporting the ban and women activists who have been forced back several times from Sabarimala.

Soon after some local TV news channels aired visuals of the two women trekking to the hilltop temple, Chief Minister Piranayi Vijayan, whose LDF government is weathering a storm of protests over his determination to enforce the apex court verdict, announced they had indeed offered prayers at the shrine.

The temple, which attracts millions of Hindu pilgrims each year, is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, "a Hindu god who devotees believe is celibate and can not have contact with women of menstruating age", writes NPR's Lauren Frayer. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.

Identified as Bindu and Kanakadurga, the women began the trek to the temple at midnight with police escorts and reached the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine at 3.45 am, reports said.

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Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said on Monday that women's issues were "part of the party's class struggle", reported the Indian Express.

Despite the top court's verdict, women were not allowed to enter the temple with a string of protests taking in and around the Sabarimala temple.

Before Bindu and Kanakadugra stepped into Sabarimala, there have been stories of privileged women being permitted to enter the shrine.

BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai said that the state government has conspired to facilitate the entry of the two women to Sabarimala. They have become the first women to offer prayers at Sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa shrine since the Supreme Court overturned the centuries-old tradition a year ago.

Menstruation is rarely discussed openly in India and menstrual blood is considered impure by many communities. Bindu and Kanakadurga, both in their forties, set foot in the shrine in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, with police protection.

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These two women have protected India's constitutional rights and smashed the walls of patriarchy.

Media reports said the head priest had ordered the temple closed for "purification". "It should not be treated as any discrimination towards women as there is no ban on women's entry to Sabarimala". We followed our legal right as women.

Of course, I support the move to allow women of all ages into the temple.

The women avoided the traditional Pathinettam Padi route and the 18 holy steps, and also had come discreetly.

According to the temple's mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy.

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An official from India's ruling party, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), called for a counter-protest.

Women form human chain in Mumbai to support Kerala 'Women's Wall'