Did a woman enter Sabarimala? Social media abuzz with speculation

Mob attempts to block first entry of women of menstruating age to sacred Hindu temple

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The Sabarimala Temple opened to the public for the first time since the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter and offer prayers to the deity Lord Ayyappa.

The fundamentalist Hindu Shiv Sena party, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government, backs the campaigners. Thousands protested in the days running-up to the scheduled opening on Wednesday afternoon.

Madhavi, 40, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh, tried to enter Sabarimala temple on Wednesday but had to drop her plans and return after protestors heckled and attacked her from entering the shrine, as per local reports.

A total 30 people have been arrested in Pamba -- nine on Tuesday and 21 so far on Wednesday, in connection with protests against the entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple.

Crew of various TV news channels were asked to leave the place. At one point, she feared for her life. Though police personnel formed a cordon around her, she was kicked on her spine, while a woman protester hurled a bottle at her.

"No one should be able to change the way this temple has functioned for centuries", he said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, V Nandakumar, Chief Communications Officer at Lulu Group, said: "We have a strict and zero tolerance policy with regard to our staff misusing social media to spread malicious or derogatory comments which might hurt religious sentiments".

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Petitioners who appealed to the Supreme Court to lift the ban said that this custom violated equality guaranteed under India's constitution. "We want to save our traditions. Ayyappa needs to be respected".

Aji warned, "Our members will be stationed around Sabarimala temple and if women who are barred try to enter gates, then our suicide squad will engage in mass self-killing".

The protesters also include many women - they have participated in rallies, blocked roads and checked vehicles heading towards the temple to see if they contain women between 10 and 50.

Supporters of the ban have been angered by the state government's decision not to seek a review of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Protesters turned away at least two female devotees who tried to enter the shrine, maintaining a centuries-old tradition that women of menstruating age can not enter the temple because the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate. A 100-strong mob attacked a woman who was trying to enter the temple at Nilakkal enroute Sabarimala. Up to 50 million devotees visit the temple every year.

State Devaswom Minister, Kadakampally Surendran, who held a review meeting at Sannidhanam (temple complex) on the three-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku-festival beginning from November 17, said the government would face the agitation politically.

He claimed to have the support of several "scientists" that concurred with the view that the "positive energy" in a temple can be polluted by the entry of menstruating women.

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