Sabarimala: Woman who defied India temple ban ‘attacked by mother-in-law’

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One of the two Indian women who defied a historic ban to enter a Hindu temple is recovering in hospital after her mother-in-law allegedly attacked her.

Kanaka Durga, 39, had been in hiding since 2 January, when her entry into the Sabarimala temple sparked protests.

She told police her mother-in-law beat her when she returned home on Tuesday.

The shrine was closed to women of “menstruating age” – defined as between 10 and 50 – until India’s top court overturned the ban in September.

But despite the ruling, protesters blocked any women who tried to enter.

Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini, 40, made history after they entered Sabarimala in the middle of the night escorted by policemen. But as news of their entry spread, violent protests broke out across the southern state of Kerala, where the temple is located.

The two women were forced into hiding and kept moving locations under police protection.

Kanaka Durga “was hit on her head by her mother-in-law when she returned home on Tuesday morning”, Ms Ammini told BBC Hindi.

Friends say her family did not support her decision to enter the temple and felt she had insulted their beliefs by doing so.

“They did not want her to return home because they believed she had tarnished their name. Her community too was opposed to women entering the temple,” said Prasad Amore.

A police official told AFP news agency that Kanaka Durga has registered a case against her mother-in-law, who she alleges beat her with a wooden stick, including on her head.

The severity of her injuries remains unclear.

Bindu Ammini said that although Kanaka Durga’s husband initially opposed her decision to enter the temple, he later changed his mind.

Why are women of a certain age not allowed to enter Sabarimala?

Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals.

While most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it was one of the few that did not allow women in a broad age group to enter at all.

According to the temple’s mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy. Devotees say the ban on women of “menstruating age” was in keeping with the wish of the deity who is believed to have laid down clear rules about the pilgrimage to seek his blessings.

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