Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The two women who defied a centuries-old Hindu taboo Wednesday by entering a temple in the Indian state of Kerala are now in hiding amidst violent protests.
The women, identified by local media as Bindu Ammini and Kankadurga, visited and prayed at the historic Sabarimala Temple in the wee hours of the morning before dawn protected by police officers.
Even though India's Supreme Court had ruled in September that the women had a protected right to pray at the temple Hindu conservative hardliners and their supporters have demonstrated angrily and sought to keep women out regardless.
"The two women asked for police help to enter the temple and we provided that to them because that was our duty," Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, told CNN Thursday. "We fulfilled our constitutional responsibility."
Vijayan blamed India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, for the violence that left one person dead Thursday, saying that their politicization of the issue incited tensions. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to side with the protesters, claiming this week that some men are barred from temples, too.
The Sabarimala Temple complex has been the scene of angry demonstrations for months as protesters fought to defy the Supreme Court's ruling. In response, some 1,300 police officers were dispatched to protect any woman who wanted to enter the temple.
"Many people ... came to enter the Sabarimala Temple (since September) but these people were blocked by the public, so they couldn't enter into the temple," Prasad Amore, one witness said. "Thousands of police were deployed at the temple premises but they were helpless."
The Sabarimala shrine is considered by Hindus as the spiritual home of Lord Ayyappa, a Hindu god of growth. Gender ban supporters believe that women of "impure" menstrual age entering the temple would be disrespectful to the god who is considered celibate.