A '620km human chain' - Indian Women Rally for Equality

Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality (PHOTO)

The temple has been at the centre of weeks of showdowns between Hindu devotees supporting the ban and women activists who have been forced back several times from Sabarimala.

It was not immediately clear how the two women managed to evade the traditionalists early on Wednesday. They asserted that protests will be scaled up till Vijayan is unseated.

India's Supreme Court in September ordered the authorities to lift the ban on women and girls of aged between 10 to 50 years from entering the temple, which draws millions of worshippers each year.

The women - Kanakadurga (44) and Bindu (42) - wearing the traditional black dress with their heads covered climbed the hill shrine at 3:38 am Wednesday.

Lakhs of women stood should-to-shoulder across the national highways, creating a 620 km-long human "wall" from the northern end of Kasaragod to the southern tip in Thiruvananthapuram.

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Temple officials, who say the women have "defiled" the temple, had closed the sanctum for an hour in order to perform "purification rituals".

Yesterday, there was more trouble when tens of thousands of women formed a human chain across Kerala state to back the demand for women's access to the temple. They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the deity Ayyappa was celibate.

The women, who are now under police protection, can be seen leaving the shrine in videos that have been circulating on WhatsApp.

The Kerala police lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannon in a vain attempt to break up a street fight between BJP activists and CPI (M) workers in front of the Government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

Kerala former chief minister V S Achyuthanand has stated that the government has taken wrong step in the Sabarimala row which will lead to the downfall of Pinarayi Vijayan government, which will soon turn into reality.

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"This is a massive victory for the women of India". The fact that the chief priest did not take the permission of the Travancore Devaswom Board (which administers the temple) or the state cabinet before conducting the rituals raised the urgency of the matter. "Some believe that's because such women are impure".

The event dominated the conversation on social media, where users kept sharing powerful images of women standing up for their rights.

An estimated one million Hindu pilgrims travel to the Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala annually.

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

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's claimed the issue of the Sabarimala temple was more about religious tradition than gender equality.

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