Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Two Indian women entered a Hindu temple in the country's Kerala state Wednesday, the first to do so since courts there ended the longtime ban in April.
The women, identified as Bindu and Kanaka Durga, entered the historic Sabarimala temple about 4 a.m., accompanied by police officers. They left after offering prayers to the Hindu god Lord Ayyappa.
A high court in Bombay first ruled that women had a fundamental right to enter. India's Supreme Court backed that ruling in September, saying the ban was discriminatory and that women should be able to pray at the place of their choice..
The ruling attracted angry protests from Hindu traditionalists who supported the centuries-old ban against women in the temple.
"Today two women have entered the shrine," Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Wednesday. "We had given a standing order to the police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple."
M.T. Ramesh, head of the Bharatiya Janata party in Kerala, called the women's appearance in the temple a conspiracy.
"Why this midnight visit? The Kerala government has connived in this crime," Ramesh said. "It is a conspiracy between the women and the government."
Millions of women protested their continued ban from temples Tuesday by forming a human chain across Kerala. Some 5 million people participated in the silent protest, reports said.
"There were so many women and there wasn't even space for women to extend arms," Subhashini Ali, a member of the Indian Communist Party that governs Kerala, said. "If they had extended their arms, the length of the wall would have increased so much that women would be falling in the Arabian Sea."