Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

India opens Sabarimala temple to women who menstruate

India opens Sabarimala temple to women who menstruate

Security has been tightened all across Kerala and police arrested 30 people who were protesting against women's entry into the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala which is set to open its door to women to perform monthly puja at 5 pm on Wednesday.

Kerala Minister for Industries, EP Jayarajan, had earlier said that non-bailable warrants are being issued against those who attacked the journalists.

Some female reporters working for the electronic media were injured when the protesters turned their ire on the journalists.

The temple opened for the first time for women between the age of 10 and 50 on Wednesday, turning over the age-old custom of not admitting them based on a 28 September Supreme Court verdict.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have supported marches in different parts of Kerala over the last few days against the court order.

Kerala´s state government said it would enforce the court ruling, deploying 500 extra police to ensure free access to the remote complex which is reached by an uphill trek that takes several hours.

But many conservative Hindu devotees resented what they considered a secular intrusion into ancient religious practices. Women have been banned from the Sabarimala shrine for hundreds of years as devotees believe menstruating women are "impure" and the temple's presiding deity, Ayyappa, is celibate.

The protesters also include many women - they have participated in rallies, blocked roads and checked vehicles heading towards the temple to see if they contain women between 10 and 50.

Ms Saritha Balan, a journalist from online publication The News Minute, was kicked by protesters while accompanying devotees, she told Indian TV.

Madhavi, 40, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh, tried to enter Sabarimala temple on Wednesday but had to drop her plans and return after protestors heckled and attacked her from entering the shrine, as per local reports.

The TV journalist was sitting in her auto when the protestors surrounded her vehicle and blocked her from entering the temple. P Aji, a senior Shiv Sena leader, said that their "suicide squads" comprising men and women above 50 are ready for the supreme sacrifice. We had many such wrongful traditions.

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from entry by some, despite intensifying campaigns by rights activists against the bans. "Ayyappa needs to be respected".

Women were also permitted to enter Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah mausoleum, a Muslim place of worship, after the Supreme Court scrapped a ban in 2016.

Two women devotees could not proceed to the shrine after protests against the decision to allow women in the menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine.

In a tweet, Republic stated, "Mob of 100 smash auto, attack Republic TV's South India bureau chief Pooja Prasanna". But amid huge mobilisation by right-wing groups opposing the verdict and incidents of violence, there was not a single woman in the contested age group present anywhere near the sanctum till the time of going to press.

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