Protests erupted across Kerala on Wednesday after two women in the hitherto banned age group entered the Sabarimala temple before dawn, with the Sabarimala Karma Samithi (SMS) calling for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday.
The temple was shut for an hour to conduct "purification rituals" after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed that Bindu and Kanaka Durga had 'darshan' at 3.30 a.m., having been stopped on December 24 by predominantly male pilgrims from entering the hill shrine.
The temple was reopened after an hour.
Scripting history, two women in their 40s entered the Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala early Wednesday and offered prayers.
Following the entry of two women at the shrine, the chief priest decided to close the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in order to perform the 'purification' ceremony before reopening in one and a half hours.
The temple which opened at 3 am was closed at 10.30 am for performing the ritual. Normally, the shrine closes at 12.30 pm.
The two women, identified as Kanakadurga (42) and Bindu (42), wearing the traditional black dress, with their head covered, are said to have climbed the hill shrine at 3.38 am Wednesday.
The women trekked to the hill a day after the state-sponsored 620 km-long human wall of women was formed Tuesday from Kasargode in the northern part of the state till the southernmost district of Thiruvananthapuram.
The video showed them entering the shrine, wearing black clothes, with their heads covered.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the two women who entered the Sabarimala temple were given police protection during their trek to the shrine.
"Earlier, women were not able to enter the temple due to certain hurdles. They may have entered the shrine today because they would not have faced any issues. It is a fact that the women have entered Sabarimala. Police have given them security," Vijayan told media here.
The police sources in Thiruvananthapuram, quoting DGP Loknath Behara, said details were being collected on the issue.
The Lord Ayyappa temple had opened for the 22-day "Makaravilakku" festival on December 30, three days after the conclusion of the 41-day "mandala puja".
The temple had witnessed protests from frenzied devotees over the entry of women in the 10-50 age group in the shrine after the CPI(M)-led LDF government decided to implement a Supreme Court order allowing women of all age to offer prayers there.
The main opposition Congress-led UDF and the BJP have been opposing the entry of young women, saying they are with the devotees.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said entry of women in Sabarimala is related to tradition while terming Triple Talaq as a matter of gender equality.
"India is of one opinion that everyone should get justice. There are some temples, which have their own traditions, where men can't go. And men don't go... In this, Sabrimala, a woman judge in the Supreme Court has made certain observations. It needs to be read minutely. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. As a woman, she has made some suggestions. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes," Modi had said.
The famed temple had witnessed massive protests against the September 28 Supreme Court verdict allowing hitherto banned age group of girls and women to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine.
A five-member constitutional bench of the apex court headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra had delivered the verdict allowing all women into Sabarimala.
However, until now not a single woman could enter the shrine owing to the widespread protests across the state.
(With inputs from agencies)