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September's verdict was the latest progressive ruling from the court, with judges also overturning bans on gay sex and adultery previous year - posing a challenge to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's traditionalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Two women braved a centuries-old ban on entering a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala on Wednesday, sparking protests by conservative Hindu groups outraged by their visit. Durga added, "We are not scared at all". The women - protected by police - entered Sabarimala around 3am local time on Wednesday. Reuters reports that thousands took part, while other local news outlets put the number at hundreds of thousands, and other local outlets estimated the figure was in the millions.

The "Women's wall" was conceived in the backdrop of frenzied protests witnessed in the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala after the Kerala government chose to implement the Supreme Court verdict, allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at the shrine.

"We gathered to express solidarity for gender equality and what our sisters were doing in Kerala".

"The government will provide protection if any women come forward to enter the temple", Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said.

"After the entry of the two women, communal forces have unleashed violence across the state".

Two women on Wednesday entered one of Hinduism's holiest shrines in south India becoming the first to go into Sabarimala temple since the Supreme Court ordered the end of a longstanding ban on women aged between 10 and 50, a state chief minister said. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds on Wednesday.

There were protests in several other cities in the state, media reported. "We hope that the state's secular and democratic section of the public would protest strongly and extensively against these communal forces", it said.

A tense standoff lasting more than four hours in Thiruvananthapuram was ongoing, with neither side showing any sign of backing down as rival groups shouted slogans. "The government will have to pay the price for the violation of the custom", K. Sudhakaran, vice-president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, said in a statement.

Women are still barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India. The BJP will support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists. He said that the women had gone to Sabarimala with the help of CPM leaders.

Meanwhile, at the pilgrim centre, the Sabarimala Tantri Kandararu Rajeevarau with the blessings of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family conducted a "purification ritual" at the shrine after the entry of Bindu and Kanakadurga.

He said that the government could not prevent women from entering the temple after the 28 September verdict of the Supreme Court. "And men don't go", Modi told Indian media.

Meanwhile, the police have stepped up security across the state in view of the hartal called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi on Thursday and the appeal issued by merchants associations to defy it.


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