Tens of thousands of women form 385-mile human chain in protest over Indian temple’s refusal to let females ‘of menstruating age’ enter
- Tens of thousands lined roads across the southern state of Kerala on Tuesday
- The 385-mile human chain was in protest to a ban on women at Sabarimala
- The Sabarimala temple authorities deem women ‘of menstruating age’ impure
- On Wednesday two women secretly entered the temple causing outrage
Tens of thousands of women formed a 385-mile human chain over an Indian temple’s rejection of women ‘of menstruating age’.
They lined up across the southern state of Kerala on Tuesday, where there is an ongoing row over access to the Sabarimala temple – one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines – which is off limits to ‘impure’ women.
Footage shows the staggering number of the ‘women’s wall’ which even surprised its organisers, Kerala’s governing Communist Party of India.
Two women secretly entered the Sabarimala temple on Wednesday, breaching a blockade formed around the site by devotees who have been enraged by an Indian Supreme Court decision to overturn a ban on women aged between 10 and 50.
Indian women stand in a line to take part in the human chain in Kochi in the southern state of Kerala on New Year’s Day
Indian women hold out their hands as they stand in a line to take part in the ‘women’s wall’ in Kochi in Kerala on Tuesday
Men worshipping at the Sabarimala shrine in the southern state of Kerala in October 2018; the famous temple had been off limits to women between the ages of 10 and 50 who were deemed ‘impure’ until a Supreme Court ruling overturned the ban in September
Video showed the two women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed into the temple on Tuesday
Share this article
The pair entered the hilltop temple in Kerala state just before dawn under police protection and left undetected, officials confirmed.
As soon as news of the breach spread, the temple head priest ordered the shrine closed for a purification ritual – reflecting the old but still prevalent belief that menstruating women are impure. It reopened after around an hour.
Sabarimala has been the centre of an increasingly angry showdown between Hindu traditionalists who support the longstanding ban and women activists who have been forced back several times from the temple.
Video showed the women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, who has only one name, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed into the temple.
Indian police escort Kanaka Durga (centre bottom) and Bindu (centre top) on December 24, 2018, after their group of women were rebuffed by hard-line activists during an effort to reach the Sabarimala temple; they entered secretly under police protection on Wednesday
Video taken by a motorcyclist shows the colossal scale of the thousands of women lining the streets in the southern state of Kerala on Tuesday
Women across the state answered the Communist Part of India’s call to the ‘women’s wall’ as the row continues over access to the Sabarimala temple
A column of thousands of women extends along the side of the road in Kerala on Tuesday
‘We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate,’ one of the women, who both remain under police guard, later told reporters.
Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said: ‘It is a fact that the women entered the shrine. Police are bound to offer protection to anyone wanting to worship at the shrine.’
The defiant act is certain to set off a new furore in India over gender.
The Supreme Court on September 28 overruled a decades-old ban on women of menstruating age at Sabarimala, which is a four-hour uphill trek from the nearest village.
Repeated efforts by women to enter the temple after the ruling have been rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them out.
In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women formed a human chain across Kerala to back the demand for women’s access to the temple. Media reports said some were heckled and stoned by right-wing activists.
The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on January 22.
Many Hindu groups as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fiercely oppose the court ruling.
Women of all ages joined together in a show of strength in protest to their ban from the Sabarimala temple
Women raise their hands in a pledge to fight gender discrimination as they form part of a 385-mile human chain in Thiruvananthapuram, in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Tuesday, January 1
Indian police beat a Hindu activist as he protested against a Supreme Court verdict revoking a ban on women’s entry to the Sabarimala shrine in October
Hindu devotees throng around the famous Sabarimala shrine in the southern state of Kerala after a four-hour uphill trek to access the site in November 2018
They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the Sabarimala temple’s deity Ayyappa was celibate.
Modi’s government did not immediately react to the women getting into the temple, but activists celebrated.
‘Watching the visuals of them making their way into the shrine makes me cry in joy – how long it has taken for us to claim space, to write our way into history,’ wrote controversial feminist author Meena Kandasamy on Twitter.
Rahul Easwar, a right-wing activist in Kerala, condemned the state authorities for helping organise the secret operation.
‘Such cheap tactics are unbecoming of a state government,’ he said on Twitter.
Women are still barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India. The entry of women at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.
The gold-plated Sabarimala temple complex sits atop a 3,000-foot metre) hill in a forested tiger reserve.
Legend has it that Ayyappa was found abandoned as a baby. A king of the Pandalam dynasty, which still manages the temple operations, found and raised him.
At the age of 12 Ayyappa emerged from the forest riding a tigress. The boy fired an arrow which landed at the site where the temple is now located.
Source: Read Full Article