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Two Women Enter Indian Temple That Banned Women for Centuries

Two women in southern India made history Wednesday by entering a temple where women of childbearing age have not been allowed for centuries. The women, both in their 40s, were able to enter the temple after India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all women have the right to worship there. However, the decision set off intense protests by religious conservatives and represented a crucial test for the rule of law in India. The renowned Sabarimala temple is a Hindu shrine to Lord Ayyappa, a deity who is considered celibate, and tradition forbade women of menstruating age from entering. The temple draws tens of millions of visitors each year. After the ruling, over a dozen women tried to enter the temple but turned back due to threats of violence from protesters. Bindu Hariharan was one of the women who successfully entered the temple Wednesday around 4 a.m. “We did the trek to the shrine just like any other devotees,” Hariharan said in a released statement. More protests broke out after news of the women’s entry spread, and the temple was shut down for an hour to carry out a “purification ritual.”