In a significant step for Hindu women in India, today two women have entered the Sabarimala temple complex in the state of Kerala. Closed to women between the ages of 10 and 50, the temple has traditionally banned women of “menstruating age,” as they are considered to be unclean. Although most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they’re not menstruating, Sabarimala is unique in its more wide-ranging ban. India’s Supreme Court overturned that ban in October, but women who tried entering the temple following the court ruling were attacked by protestors, requiring police to arrest over 2,000 people and use tear gas. Now two women, 40-year-old Bindu Ammini and 39-year-old Kanaka Durga, have successfully entered the temple, though not without incident.
“We arrived early in the morning and we had a darshan [saw the idol] for a few minutes,” Ammini told BBC. Temple officials claim the women have “defiled” the temple, and ordered it to be closed for an hour to perform purification rituals. Predictably, the move has sparked violent protests outside the state department and nationwide calls for protest.
“We had no trouble trekking to the shrine and the officials were cooperative. We left before the protestors spotted us,” Ammini explained. She noted that their entrance was made easier by the fact that they were accompanied by police, and thanks to the relatively few devotees present at the time.
Ammini and Durga are currently under police protection.