But Sabarimala Temple has long been off-limits to almost half the world’s population.
Women aged between 10 and 50 are considered impure by the hardline Hindu men who come to the temple to worship.
“Women cannot follow the rituals,” says Aswani Dev, an ardent devotee. “A woman is an object that jeopardises the mind of a man.”
But now some female devotees have had enough.
Emboldened by a recent court decision to revoke the ban on women, law professor Bindu Ammini, and her friend Kanaka Durga became the first women to enter the forbidden temple since the Supreme Court ruling.
“My fight is for gender justice … against the fact that women face discrimination just because of menstruation,” Bindu tells 101 East. “And against the society which believes in such regressive customs. That is why I entered the temple.”
But Bindu’s actions enraged Hindu hardliners. Violent demonstrations ended in thousands of arrests and the death of a protester.
Death threats forced Bindu to leave her family and go into hiding. She now has 24-hour police protection.
Yet she remains as determined as ever.
“I’m not somebody who runs away out of fear … There are many who support me now. Now I am stronger than ever before.”
101 East meets the brave women challenging tradition in the name of equality and the men determined to stop them.
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Source: Al Jazeera