Two women enter a temple, a country erupts

The debate over whether women of childbearing age can visit a shrine in Kerala, India, has become a battle involving caste, gender, party politics and history

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MUMBAI • Every year, for 41 days in November and December, millions of barefoot pilgrims dressed in black and carrying bundles of offerings on their heads trek through the deep forest along the Pampa River and up the Sabari hills in the southern state of Kerala.

At one of the summits is a shrine dedicated to the Hindu god Ayyappan, who, in his avatar as a prince, is often said to have defeated a terrifying demoness at this very spot.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline Two women enter a temple, a country erupts. Subscribe