“Knew Life Would Be In Danger, But…”: First Women To Pray At Sabarimala

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Bindu Ammini (left) and Kanaka Durga prayed at the Sabarimala Temple this week.

Kerala:

Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, the two women in their 40s, who made history by defying threats from right-wing groups and offering prayers at Kerala's Sabarimala temple this week, have told NDTV that even though their move may have endangered their lives but it was their constitutional right. "I knew my life will be in danger but I still wanted to go into the temple. We are proud that we have made it easier for women who want to go to Sabarimala now," Kanaka Durga said.

"We went into temple because it's our constitutional right," Bindu said. "It's about devotion but it's also about gender equality," Kanaka added.

Bindu and Kanaka defied an ancient ban on entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Wednesday, sparking protests and calls for a strike by conservative Hindu groups outraged by their visit.

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The shrine of Lord Ayyappan at Sabarimala in Kerala has long banned the entry of women of menstruating age.

The Supreme Court in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women or girls of menstruating age from entering the temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year.

But the temple refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit it had been blocked by thousands of devotees.

"It's a very small section of people who are protesting in Kerala and are violent. A lot of people have supported us and respected us. It's parties who are trying to play politics," Bindu said.

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Violent protests by right-wing groups erupted across Kerala after two women prayed at the Sabarimala temple.

On Wednesday, before daybreak, the two women arrived at the basecamp for the temple in a fuel tanker, lying down by the side of the driver, sources said. They were escorted by plainclothes police and went in through a side gate without any devotees noticing.

Currently, given the threat to their lives, they are being kept under protection of the state police and groups they described as "progressive people seeking to uphold constitutional values".

After Bindu and Kanaka's visit, a 46-year-old Sri Lankan woman become the third to enter the Sabarimala temple on Friday.

The hill temple, which pays homage to the celibate god Ayyappan and draws millions of worshippers a year, is one of a few in India that bar entry to girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50, saying that menstruating women are impure.

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