Two women in their 40s entered the Ayyappa temple in Kerala on Wednesday to offer prayers. Massive protests had prevented dozens of women from entering the shrine until now despite the Supreme Court allowing the entry of women of menstruating age in September.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed the entry of the women and said police were given orders to provide “all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple”.
8.26 pm: Communist Party of India General Secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy says women should enter the shrine openly and not in secret, reports the Hindustan Times.
8.22 pm: “Since the floodgate is open now, we feel more women will offer prayers at the temple,” Bindu tells the Hindustan Times. “It is our right.”
8.21 pm: Bindu Ammini says she and Kanaka Durga did nothing wrong and are not afraid of the repercussions. “We have the support of the police and administration,” she adds. “We hope initial outbursts will settle after some time. Some quarters are dubbing us as Maoists but that is not true.”
8.18 pm: Bindu Ammini, one of the women who entered the shrine, tells the Hindustan Times that after their failed attempt on December 24, the police said they would provide them security if they visit the temple discreetly. She denies reports that claimed they wore dressed as men during their visit to the shrine. “That is not true,” Bindu Ammini adds. “Of course, we were wearing loose clothes and covered our faces partially as asked by the police.”
7.10 pm: BJP state president PS Sreedharan Pillai says Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is a “modern-day Aurangzeb who wants to destroy Hindu temples”, The Indian Express reports. “The ruling administration in Kerala consists of cheats,” Pillai claims. “The way the women were taken to the temple smacked of an planned, organised conspiracy. The stand of the BJP has been vindicated. The ruling CPM was out to destroy the traditions of Sabarimala. Ayyappa devotees and the larger public will react strongly to this.”
7.05 pm: Violence breaks out in many parts of the state, with the police resorting to baton-charging in Thiruvananthapuram, Palakkad and Kasargode.
7 pm: The Travancore Devaswom Board says it will take action against the priest for closing the temple to carry out “purification rituals”, reports the Hindustan Times. “We are not aware of the decision to close the temple,” says board member N Vijaykumar. “We will seek explanation from him.”
4.25 pm: The United Democratic Front announces it will observe a “black day” on Thursday.
4.23 pm: Incidents of road blockades are being reported from several parts of the state. Many private buses have stopped their services in Kozhencherry – stones were also thrown at a bus in Kollam.
4.18 pm: Protestors attack the taluk office in Muvattupuzha, with violence also being reported from Palakkad and Neyyattinkara.
The police have detained several protestors in Alappuzha, including BJP District President K Soman.
4.16 pm: Workers of the BJP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) clash outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, Online Manorama reports. Police cane-charge protestors and resort to firing tear gas to disperse them.
3.26 pm: Every woman has the right to worship, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat tells PTI. “[The] two women wanted to worship and they were enabled to do so and given the security required [by the Kerala government],” she adds.
2 pm: Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha protestors show black flags to Kerala Health Minister KK Shylaja, Mathrubhumi English reports. They were taken away by the police. In Kasargod, the protestors block traffic on the national highway.
1.55 pm: The Sabarimala Karma Samithi, a platform created by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has announced a strike on Thursday.
1.50 pm: The police in Thiruvanathapuram stop five BJP Mahila Morcha members protesting against the entry of the two women into the temple, from entering the Kerala state secretariat, ANI reports.
12.40 pm: Alleged BJP workers attack mediapersons in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.
12.30 pm: Violence has been reported outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.
12.20 pm: Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran says he was not aware of the two women entering the temple, reports Malayala Manorama. “Even the world came to know about their entry after the women posted their video on WhatsApp,” he says.
12.15 pm: Police increase security at the house of the two women who entered the shrine, reports Mathrubhumi.
12.10 pm: Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly Ramesh Chennithala says it was “absolutely right” for the temple priests to close the temple for purification, reports News 18. “It is not a closed chapter as SC [Supreme Court] is to consider a review petition,” he says.
12.04 pm: BJP’s Kerala unit General Secretary MT Ramesh claims Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has “desecrated Sabarimala temple”, reports News 18.
11.58 am: Yuva Morcha workers wave black flags at Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran who was visiting the Parthasarathy temple in Guruvayur, reports Malayala Manorama.
11.51 am: The BJP unit in Kerala calls for a two-day protest in the state, reports Hindustan Times. BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai asks devotees to register their protest only through democratic means.
11.45 am: Ayyappa Dharma Sena president Rahul Easwar blames Kerala Police for protecting the women, reports Malayala Manorama. “It’s absolute shame that police secretly did all this,” he says. “Why are they scared? Who are they scared of?”
11.39 am: The Ayyappa temple reopens after purification rituals. The shrine was closed for an hour.
11.37 am: Kerala Director General of Police Lokanath Behera says it is the responsibility of police to protect those who visit the temple. “Verifying the age and other details is not our responsibility,” he says, according to ANI.
10.46 am: Communist Party of India (Marxist) Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan says the chief priest of the temple has challenged the Supreme Court order by closing the temple for purification.
10.30 am: The Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala shuts for purification rituals after the entry of women, reports ANI. “It should not be treated as any discrimination towards women as there is no ban on women’s entry to Sabarimala,” says temple chief priest Kandararu Rajeevararu, according to The Hindu.
9.25 am: Travancore Devaswom Board President A Padmakumar says he had no information about the two women offering prayers at the temple, reports PTI. He says Devaswom board officials have asked to review CCTV footage to verify the women’s claims.
9.17 am: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirms that two women entered the shrine. “We had issued standing orders to police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple,” he says, according to ANI.
9.10 am: One of the women, Bindu, says they offered prayers from the VIP lounge and did not climb the 18 sacred steps to the shrine, reports Mathrubhumi News. She says the police did not attempt to send them back and that devotees at the temple recognised them, but did not protest their entry.
9 am: Two women in their 40s entered the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala around 3.45 am on Wednesday to offer prayers. The women, Bindu and Kanaka Durga, were accompanied by police personnel. They had attempted to enter the temple on December 24 as well, but had failed to do so.
This was the first time women offered prayers at the hill shrine after the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple.