Social activist Trupti Desai Wednesday hailed the entry of two women in their mid forties into the Lord Aayyappa hill shrine in Kerala's Sabarimala, saying it is a "victory of equality".
Ms Desai was forced to return from the Kochi airport when she arrived to offer prayers at Sabarimala with six young women, following "nama japam" (chanting of Ayyappa hymns) protests by devotees and right wing outfits for 13 hours on November 16.
The Bhumata Brigade founder said she was happy to hear that two women in their forties had managed to reach the 'sannidhanam' (temple complex) and offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa and congratulated their effort.
"This is a big victory for our agitation. It is a victory of equality. This is a good beginning for women in the new year", Ms Desai told PTI from Pune.
"Those against women's entry had openly thrown a challenge that no women in the 10-50 age group will be able to reach the 'sannidhanam'. Their agitation has now failed", the right to pray campaigner said.
She said that temple authorities should allow women of all age groups to offer prayers at the Ayyappa shrine.
Young women who have done online booking should also be allowed to go to the shrine and pray there, she said.
"Today is a historic day for us. During the mandala puja season, many women were stopped. There was a tense atmosphere in Sabarimala", she said.
Trupti Desai said she would not be able to visit the shrine before January 20 when it closes as there was a heavy rush of pilgrims and due to her prior programmes, but added that she would go there the next time it reopens.
Ms Desai, who had spearheaded the campaign for women to be allowed into various religious places, including the Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, had sought protection to reach Sabarimala and had sent an e-mail to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking security.
The two women entered the Ayyappa temple early Wednesday and offered prayers.
Confirming their entry, the chief minister told reporters "it is a fact that the women have entered the temple".
Despite the Supreme Court's verdict on September 28 last year, permitting women in the 10-50 age group, no children or young women in the 'barred' group were able to offer prayers at the shrine following frenzied protests by a section of devotees and some right wing outfits.