Hundreds of thousands of women formed a wall that stretched nearly 400 miles along India’s southern state of Kerala on Tuesday to support the right of females to enter a Hindu temple.
Local government officials said more than 5 million people helped the “women’s wall” stretch 385 miles, according to CNN.
The demonstration occurred after two women defied a longtime ban that prevented females of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple, which is considered one of the holiest sites in Hinduism.
India’s Supreme Court lifted the temple ban on women of menstruating age in September, but Sabarimala has refused to abide by the ruling, according to Reuters.
A video posted online by Asian News International showed the women, Bindu and Kanaka Durga, rushing into the temple at around 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday.
#WATCH Two women devotees Bindu and Kanakdurga entered & offered prayers at Kerala’s #SabarimalaTemple at 3.45am today pic.twitter.com/hXDWcUTVXA
— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2019
The news service noted that previous attempts from women to enter the facility have been blocked by its devotees.
The Guardian reported that the women, who are both in their 40s, exited the temple after offering prayers to the deity Lord Ayyappa, who is considered celibate. The temple was later closed for one hour so priests could “purify it.”
The move sparked protests from both supporters of a woman’s right to access the temple and opponents who believe they should be blocked from entering the holy site.
Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a crowd of protestors outside government buildings state capital of Thiruvanthapuram, according to The Guardian.
The news outlet also reported that the police intervened in confrontations between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist party workers.
The BJP, a conservative party, opposes the right of woman to enter the temple. The communist party, which rules Kerala, supports women’s right to enter.
The head of BJP in Kerala, PS Sreedharan Pillai, said the women’s visit was “a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples,” according to The Guardian.