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Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds on Wednesday.

Shrine opened after "purification ritual " Chennai: Taken by surprise and equally shocked after two menstruating women broke their resistance and entered the Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple to finally offer darshan, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi led by BJP and other right-wing organizations besides the Congress party announced scaling up of protests till they succeed in unseating chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The Kerala state government, run by left-wing parties, has sought to allow women into the temple - a position that has drawn the criticism of India's two largest political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Protesters shout slogans as they take part in a rally called by various Hindu organisations after two women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kochi, India, January 2, 2019.

Young women who have done online booking should also be allowed to go to the shrine and pray there, she said. The head priest shut down the temple for an hour to carry out a "purification ritual".

Sabarimala reopened after around an hour. Some reportedly set fire to tyres.

Thiruvananthapuram is now in a tense standoff that has lasted over four hours, with neither side showing any sign of backing down.

Journalists were also assaulted in Thiruvananthapuram and in the city of Kollam while clashes were reported elsewhere.

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Public bus services were suspended after protesters blocked their path and pelted vehicles with stones.

"Watching the visuals of them making their way into the shrine makes me cry in joy - how long it has taken for us to claim space, to write our way into history", wrote feminist author Meena Kandasamy on Twitter. On Tuesday, it organised a massive women's chain extending from the northern tip of Kerala to its extreme south to push for equal rights for women in all spheres of life.

September's verdict was the latest progressive ruling from the court, with judges also overturning bans on gay sex and adultery past year - posing a challenge to Modi's traditionalist BJP. He noted that there are also temples that bar men from entering. "After the apex court verdict the system was withdrawn as it would have tantamount to violation of the court order", the minister told the media.

The BJP's leader in Kerala described the women's visit as "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples", vowing to "support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists".

In 1991, the Kerala High Court had legalised the ban which forbade women of menstruating age from visiting the site because temple authorities believe it disrespects the celibate nature of the deity worshipped.

An umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups has called for a state-wide shutdown on Thursday, amid protests at several places after entry of two women into the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban, after numerous legal challenges were brought against it.

Women are still barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India.