Demonstrations were called for after violence from male devotees of the Sabarimala temple forced several women to abandon attempts to enter the temple. They called it the “women’s wall” or “vanitha mathil” in Malayalam.
Women had attempted to enter the temple in defiance of a religious ban that prevented women of menstruating age from entering the Hindu temple even after the Supreme Court had ruled that women must be allowed to enter.
The demonstrations were reported to be the largest public gathering of women for the cause of gender equality in India ever. Estimates put the number of women participating to be somewhere between 3.5 million and 5 million. Women lined up along Highway 66, a long stretch of road running along India’s west coast. Women stood together and spanned a stretch of 385 miles.
On Wednesday, the day after the gender wall demonstration, media outlets reported that two women were able to enter the temple under police escort secretly in the early morning.
Right-wing reactionary groups took to the streets Thursday against the women’s entry, and violent protests erupted. State police arrested 745 people. A third woman visited the temple amid protests.