On the second day of 2019, three months after the Supreme Court’s contentious verdict allowed women of all ages to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, and a day after women across Kerala formed a 620 km-long women’s wall, two women finally made it inside the sanctum sanctorum before dawn.
The two women, Bindu and Kanaka Durga, both under the age of 50, entered the shrine accompanied by police personnel, on Wednesday at 3:45 am, as reported by ANI. This comes after three months of persistent protests led by right-wing Hindu groups against the ruling, despite prohibitory orders and heavy security which have led to over 2,000 arrests in addition to sporadic violence and a heady political tussle.
The temple was reportedly closed for an hour at 10:30 am for purification rituals after Bindu and Kanaka Durga broke centuries-old tradition and offered their prayers to the perennially celibate deity Lord Ayappa.
It reportedly opened in the afternoon while protests against the women’s entry gathered further steam across the temple town. The police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons as protests and clashes erupted across Kerala. Violent clashes were reported between scores of people in front of the state parliament in Thiruvananthapuram.
Bindu informed local media that they had paid obeisance from the VIP lounge and did not climb the 18 sacred steps to the shrine. Police had not attempted to send them back, she said. There was no media glare and very few devotees were around at the time, which apparently facilitated the “sneak
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan later confirmed the women’s accounts, saying, “Two women below 50 entered Sabarimala today.” Calling it a victory for women, he told reporters in Kochi that the state government “has been consistently saying that it will provide security to women who wish to enter Sabarimala”.
Both women had attempted to enter the temple on December 24 as
The standoff so far
The Supreme Court in September had noted, “The country has not accepted women as partners in seeking divinity.” “Subversion of women on biological factors cannot be given legitimacy. Certain dogmas have resulted in
Since then, the temple has opened its gates for a total of three times and each time, women pilgrims of menstruating age were barred from entering the temple by fierce mobs, comprising mostly right-wing “self-appointed” guardians of tradition. They flagged cars and buses carrying devotees, intimidated pilgrims, including women who were above 50, and snatched the religious offerings they carried.
Protestors fervently chanted Lord Ayappa’s prayers as a form of
The historic entry into the temple comes a day after lakhs of women in Kerala formed a 620 km-long “women’s wall” across 14 districts of the state to send a message of gender equality. The “
The idea of forming a women’s wall came from a meeting of the representatives of 178 Hindu
State minister for health and family welfare, K.K. Shailaja, was the starting point of the wall in the northern Kasaragod district, while senior CPI(M) leader and Politburo member Brinda Karat stood as its concluding link at the southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram district. At Edappally, one of the busiest traffic points in Ernakulam district in central Kerala, scores of women lined up on the side of NH 66 and took a pledge to work preserve gender equality in the state. Nuns of the Jacobite faction of the Christian Church also took a stand against patriarchy.
In an interview with BBC Hindi, a young demonstrator said, “This is a great way of saying how powerful women are, and how we can empower ourselves and help each other. Of course, I support the move to allow women of all ages into the temple. I don’t think tradition or any kind of backwardness should stop women. Those who want to pray must have the right to pray.”
How the government responded
Vijayan stated on Facebook, “The women’s wall has become the largest women movement in the country to protect their rights enshrined in the Constitution and defend the attempts to deny them gender justice. This wall is a warning to the conservative-communal forces, which try to deny women their legitimate rights and renaissance values. The women’s wall has emerged as a loud announcement that Kerala women are with the progressive thought.”
The state’s Congress unit, however,
The latest movement and the Sabarimala row have garnered considerable attention from global media, offering a good boost to Kerala’s left-wing coalition government and its progressive image.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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