Indian temple set to allow entry to females who menstruate

18 October, 2018, 00:15 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Mob attempts to block first entry of women of menstruating age to sacred Hindu temple

Last month India's Supreme Court overturned a ban on females of menstruating age - judged between 10 and 50 years - entering and praying at the hilltop temple in the southern state of Kerala.

Unfazed by violent protests, Madhavi, a gutsy woman from Andhra Pradesh in her 40s, tried to climb the Sabarimala hills to reach the Lord Ayyappa temple but was forced to return to Pamba, menaced by agitated male devotees.

The Supreme Court on September 28 had ruled that women will be allowed entry into Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

Kerala has been tense as the gates of Sabarimala shrine open on Wednesday.

While women devotees were stopped from entering the temple, multiple reporters were mobbed and attacked in Nilakkal. In the morning, another woman devotee, Leby, was reportedly stopped from entering Pamba at Pathanamthitta town, some 40kms away. Pathnamthitta district police SP said that they will not allow any protests at Nilakkal. But the protesters bullied and attacked some devotees and journalists elsewhere.

Police have tightened security in the area by deploying more cops. Twelve people were arrested and 15 hospitalised with injuries suffered during the clashes, the police said.

Pooja Prasanna of Republic TV, who was attacked by protesters, said that she was assaulted even when she was surrounded by cops.

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"I am here to protest the Supreme Court decision", said engineer Anisha S., 23, one of a group chanting religious slogans.

While most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it is one of the few that does not allow women in a broad age group to enter at all. National TV showed protesters wearing black and saffron turbans running after their cars, violently pounding and kicking the vehicles in a bid to stop them from proceeding to Pamba from Nilakkal on way to Sabarimala. Stones were also pelted at Police vehicles.

It was an intimidating atmosphere for journalists - one can only imagine what it was like for any women wanting to attend the temple.

This enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with thousands protesting in the days before the scheduled opening on Wednesday afternoon.

The Kerala government has said it will uphold the supreme court ruling.

While CM Vijayan has assured that his government does not want a showdown with devotees and blamed "Sangh Parivar" outfits for orchestrating the protests, the BJP has maintained that the government is responsible for the "sorry state" in Kerala.

In Thiruvananthapuram, the meeting between Travancore Devaswom Board and the pro-tradition group comprising tantris and Pandalam ex-royals on Wednesday to find a via media solution fizzled out over whether the board would prefer a review petition before the Supreme Court. Up to 50 million devotees visit the temple each year.

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