Nashik, April 21: Heralding a major change, three women were on Thursday allowed to enter the Trimbakeshwar temple, one of the 12 'Jyotirlingas' in the country, here even as locals observed a protest shutdown.
Seven women activists led by the Swarajya Mahila Sanghatana (SMS) president Vanita Gutte were permitted entry amid tight security provided by police.
Three of them stepped inside the sanctum sanctorum and offered prayers, signalling a tectonic shift in the temple policy.
"This historic, milestone development took place at dawn today. Henceforth, women shall be permitted inside the temple every morning for an hour from 6 to 7 a.m.," a beaming Gutte told the media later.
Bhumata Ranragini Brigade president Trupti Desai, who started the campaign for women's entry to all places of worship in January, welcomed the development and announced she will visit the temple on Friday.
The SMS activists had assembled at the temple door five minutes before it opened at 6.10 a.m. and devotees were let in.
Barely five minutes later, accompanied by police officials, the three women entered the temple and prayed at the sanctum sanctorum.
"In deference to the Bombay High Court orders, we provided security to the women who wanted to pray," Nashik Additional Superintendent of Police Prashant Mohite said.
This happened 13 days after women were permitted entry into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district on April 8 -- for the first time in over four centuries.
On Wednesday, angry villagers had stopped the women's groups from attempting to barge inside the temple, leading to fisticuffs in which a few activists were injured.
The police lodged cases of rioting and violence against at least 150 villagers including four temple trustees.
On Thursday, the villagers observed a shutdown to protest against the move to permit women inside the temple.