New Delhi - A 23-year-old woman in southern India cut off the genitals of a Hindu holy man who she claimed had repeatedly raped her, police said Saturday.

The 54-year-old man was admitted to hospital in the Kerala state capital Thiruvananthapuram after the attack late Friday.

The woman told the police that the holy man, who used to regularly come to her house to perform prayer rituals for her paralysed father, had been raping her for the past eight years.

"The woman said after he tried to rape her again at home, she attacked him with a knife. She fled and came to the police station where we recorded her statement," senior police officer GS Kumar told reporters.

Doctors performed emergency reconstructive surgery on the suspect. However since his penis was almost 90 per cent severed, it could not be re-attached, local media reports said, citing a hospital statement.

The police have filed rape charges against the suspect. He reportedly told the police that he had chopped his penis himself.

Activists and politicians said it was brave of the woman to take such action. It was not clear whether police would initiate legal proceedings against her.

"It's a courageous and strong act by the woman," Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters.

Sex crimes have been a focus of public attention in India since the gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi in 2012. Despite enactment of tougher laws, the attacks on women continue unabated in the country.