Two women, reported to be in their 40s, entered the Sabarimala hill temple in India's southern state of Kerala in the early hours of today, the state's chief minister said, raising fears of a backlash from conservative Hindu groups.
"The Supreme Court has passed the verdict that women of all age groups can enter the temple".
Repeated efforts by women to enter the temple since September have been angrily rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them away to safety.
Several women have since tried to reach the hilltop shrine but been forced back by opposing activists.
The Sabarimala temple historically barred women and girls aged 10 to 50 from entering, since a state court ruling in 1991.
Video images showed the 42-year-old women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, who has only one name, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed in.
Officials say that around five million women from various parts of Kerala had gathered across all national highways to form the chain, which stretched from the northern tip of Kasaragod to the southern end in Thiruvanthapuram.
Police were guarding the homes of the women after they left the temple and were prepared to let more women enter the temple, he said.
Extending support to the campaign, women from several organisations and social activists came together to form a almost one km-long human chain from Dadar Chowpatty to Shivaji Park in Mumbai on Tuesday evening. They have become the first women to offer prayers at Sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa shrine since the Supreme Court overturned the centuries-old tradition past year. It's clear that the women were under police protection.
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In October, devotees clashed with police leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.
The campaign was held on a 620 kilometre stretch to uphold gender equality and safeguard renaissance values against the frenzied protests barring implementation of SC verdict allowing women in all age groups pay obeisance at the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala.
The two women in their forties entered the temple early Wednesday and worshipped there, said Pramod Kumar, the state police spokesman. Local news channels reported the chief priest closed the temple for "purification" rituals after the women visited.
Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals.
"We did the trek to the shrine just like any other devotees", said Hariharan in remarks released to reporters.
What happened when women finally entered the temple?.
The Sabarimala temple is devoted to the deity Lord Ayappa, who according to legend was born from a union between two male gods.
The supreme court is to hear challenges to its landmark ruling from 22 January.