The Kerala police lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannon in a vain attempt to break up a street fight between BJP activists and CPI (M) workers in front of the Government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
Kerala had witnessed massive protests by devotees opposing the entry of girls and women in the 10-50 age group into the shrine after the CPI (M)-led LDF government made a decision to implement the apex court verdict allowing all women to offer prayers at the temple.
September's verdict was the latest progressive ruling from the court, with judges also overturning bans on gay sex and adultery a year ago - posing a challenge to Modi's traditionalist BJP.
Police with batons also charged at protesters who were trying to enforce a shutdown of shops in the area called for by the Sabarimala temple hierarchy. A few policemen were injured after protesters targeted them with stones.
Modi's government did not immediately react to news of the women entering the temple, but activists celebrated. The temple itself was closed for over an hour for "purification".
Up to 50 million Sabarimala devotees visit the temple every year.
One of the women, who both remain under police guard, later told reporters: "We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate". A spokesperson for the Opposition Congress party, K Sudhakaran, described the two women entering the temple as "treachery" and that the left-wing state government "will have to pay the price for the violation of the custom".More news: Russian Federation detains United States citizen suspected of spying
Desai, who had spearheaded the campaign for women to be allowed into various religious places, including the Shani Shingnapur temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Mahalakshmi Temple and the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, had sought protection to reach Sabarimala and had sent an e-mail to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seeking security.
"The Supreme Court has passed the verdict that women of all age groups can enter the temple".
State BJP president PS Sreedharan Pillai alleged that the entry of the women shows that they have cheated and betrayed the Hindu devotees. They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the deity Ayyappa was celibate. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.
Later, media reported that the temple had re-opened.
The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban, after numerous legal challenges were brought against it. "There was a tense atmosphere in Sabarimala", she said.
Many Hindu groups as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party fiercely oppose the court ruling. He pointed to other Hindu temples and ceremonies where men are not allowed to attend.
India's Supreme Court ordered a lifting of the ban in September.