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The organizations which throughout the season-since the shrine opened for Thulam monthly pooja, on October 17 in the just-ended year- succeeded in preventing menstruating women from entering the shrine were quite obviously unguarded when Bindu and Kanakadurga, hailing from Koyilandi and Perinthalmanna, managed to sneak into the shrine, jettisoning a tradition strictly upheld by right-wing organizations and conservatives.

Violent clashes were reported between scores of people in front of the state parliament in Thiruvananthapuram, while protests with sporadic violence were also reported in several other towns across the state.

Public bus services were suspended after protesters blocked their path and pelted vehicles with stones.

Two women enter Sabarimala temple.

Local media reported that the temple had been briefly closed for "purification" ritual after the intrusion was discovered.

The activists and women devotees who tried to trek to the shrine so far include Trupti Desai, who was held up at Kochi airport after protesters laid siege forcing her to call off her proposed visit to the temple on November 16.

Video images showed the women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, who has only one name, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed in.

Opponents of the ruling say the celibacy of the temple's presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India's Constitution, and that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed the reports and said, "Yes, it's true, the women have had the temple darshan".

An estimated 5 million women in India joined forces to form a human chain to protest gender inequality and a Hindu temple's centuries-old ban on all women of "menstruating age".

The restriction on women at Sabarimala, situated on top of a 3,000-foot (915-metre) hill in a tiger reserve that takes hours to climb, reflects a belief - not exclusive to Hinduism - that menstruating women are impure. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.

The women trekked the hill a day after the state-sponsored 620-km-long "wall of women", which was formed from Kasargode in the northern part of the state till the southern-most district of Thiruvananthapuram. We are not in the favour of changing rituals, he said, adding that the temple will have to be "purified".

On January 22, the Supreme Court will hear a petition challenging its landmark ruling on the temple.

Only those who have observed the vratha and carry the irrumude, a symbolic offering, can enter the main courtyard up 18 divine golden steps. Their entry at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

The Kerala state government, run by left-wing parties, has sought to allow women into the temple - a position that has drawn the criticism of India's two largest political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

However, the Left government remains firm in its resolve to stand by the Supreme Court verdict.


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