Two women in their forties entered the Sabarimala temple and offered prayers on Wednesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan confirmed.
Bindu from Kozhikode and Kanakadurga from Malappuram say they entered the temple at 3:45am, reported Malayala Manorama.
“It is true that they have entered. Police had been given instructions to provide protection to any woman who wants to climb,” the chief minister told reporters.
Following confirmation of the news, the temple priest closed the holy steps through which devotees enter the shrine and began conducting purification rituals, Manorama reported. Devotees were restricted to the temple premises outside the steps.
ANI released a video purportedly showing the women inside the temple:
The incident comes a day after lakhs of women participated in the Women’s Wall organised by the Kerala government in response to protests at Sabarimala.
Bindu and Kanakadurga were accompanied into the temple by police personnel, ANI reported.
“This is treachery... The government will have to pay the price for the violation of the custom,” K Sudhakaran, vice-president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, said in a statement.
Kerala DGP Lokanath Behera said it was the police’s responsibility to provide protection to those who come to the temple. “Verifying the age and other details is not our responsibility,” he said.
Travancore Devaswom Board A Padmakumar said the board will examine CCTV visuals of the incident. He has asked the board staff and police officers at Pamba to investigate it, Manorama reported.
Bindu, a lawyer, and Kanakadurga, an activist, had previously attempted to enter Sabarimala on 24 December. The two women were 500 metres away from the temple but had to turn back due to protests.
Kanakadurga had fainted after complaining of uneasiness and agreed to return. However, Bindu had staged a sit-in protest, and later complained that the police had forced her to return.
Protestors had gathered outside the women’s houses as they trekked to the temple.
Bindu and Kanakadurga’s attempt had come close on the heels of a group of 11 women, members of the Chennai-based outfit ‘Maniti’, having to return from Sabarimala following protests by angry devotees who blocked their path.
Kerala has witnessed a series of protests since the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala. The court is due to hear review petitions in the case on 22 January.