The Supreme Court of India delivered what some would call “A Landmark Judgement” on gender equality by lifting the Entry age restriction between the ages of 10-50 for women into the temple. This rather seemed like an outgoing publicity stunt by CJI Mishra before his retirement rather than taking the right stand. The Supreme Court by declaring an age-old tradition of Sabarimala temple as violative of gender equality has effectively insulted the entire diaspora of devotees who had been following these traditions strictly for generations. As such if you carefully read about the restrictions they don’t put a blanket ban on entry of women of all ages rather only during the menstruation period of their lives. The Supreme court is the supreme judicial authority and the institution having the last say in any matter, this one rather seemed to be taken in haste and not considering every aspect of it. Moreover, the SC earlier in many cases has refused to interfere in religious practices and traditions unless and until they were against the fundamental rights of a person. It is stated in the judgement that the restrictions imposed are violative of Article 15, 25 and 26 of Constitution of India, but that in my opinion is untrue as it would have been violative if there was a blanket ban on the entry of one gender rather these are restrictions on women for a particular number of years moreover Kerala is one state where almost everybody is educated enough to understand their rights and violations of them. Women of Hindu Households in the state from centuries have been complying with the rule strictly without any problems or complaints or pressure from their male counterparts. Why?
The reasoning for non-entry being told to every Hindu Malayali no matter whether male or female is strong enough to keep them from speaking out against it or file a plethora of cases in courts to get those restrictions removed. The Court, unfortunately, went with the public narrative I feel without looking into the present arguments more carefully. It is also feared that this is not going to sit well with the majority of ayyappa devotees and has a potential to spiral out into full-fledged violent protests and riots. With one stroke of his powerful pen, CJI Mishra has effectively declared traditions of malayali’s being followed from generations into a joke without observing due caution. The Supreme Court of all I feel the sanest rational institution in the country which shouldn’t act like some netizens of facebook, there is a hell of a lot of difference between media trial and trial and justice given by the courts of this country. The judges I feel didn’t analyze the gravity of this situation properly and the sentiments of worshippers being affected by this. Sabarimala isn’t the only temple on this planet there are hundreds of temples both big and small within the state that allow entry to everyone irrespective of their age, gender or body status. Why is the court and some citizens of this country obsessed with this one temple and why has the court interfered in the affairs of some while leaving others , if our traditions are to be interfered with then women should also be allowed entry into the inner sanctum in mosques and be made priests and reverends in churches , why provide preferential treatment at the cost of others.
The main reasoning behind the restriction is that :
Hindu Temples unlike a mosque or a church, house deities which are considered living entities presiding over that temple radiating positive energy in all directions. There are rituals especially in Sabarimala that symbolize the same. Example “Harivarasanam” is sung during the “Deeparadhana” Ceremony to put lord Ayyappa to sleep just before the temple closes for the day. The positive energy radiating in all directions when absorbed by the devotees is what is believed to bring good health and fortunes to them. On the other hand, a woman who is menstruating which is basically her body flushing out waste so that it doesn’t cause any infections in the body. Generally, when it’s the time of the month for a woman we say she is down, she is irritated in pain sometimes or generally speaking in a distressed state of mind during this period. So if a woman enters the temple premises the positive energy may clash with the negative one and is believed to bring serious bad luck even the possibility of death in the near future apart from the purity factor of course.
Every Devotee in order to enter the Temple must complete certain rituals to convert a person into an “ayyappa swami” himself. That is the reason people greet other inside the temple not by their names but rather by calling each other swami/swamini. This ritual lasting 41 days is done to purify the person undergoing it and teach the person to let go of material things and ill feelings even if it is for a short period of time. This is also a caveat for women who as they in no possible way attain the required amount of purity if they are undergoing menstruation. It’s not rocket science as for how can you be sure when your own body is undertaking waste disposal every single day during periods. Even men undergoing this ritual cannot sleep with their wives during these periods, no sexual relations, no meat consumption, only eat after taking bath and completing the morning prayers etc are the strict rules one has to follow to attain purity to be eligible to visit the temple.
This supposed judgment given in support of women’s rights has managed to upset the majority of Hindu women in the state who are staunch ayyappa devotees. The following are the excerpts from a post written by a practicing Gynecologist based in Trivandrum in News18.com –
“The highest court in India cannot or should not interfere with the religious sentiments of people. Religious traditions are greatly respected and are meant to be upheld. And I am sure that not even one true female Ayyappa devotee will enter the temple despite the verdict. For us Keralites, this temple is not a tourist place. It’s a place where customs and traditions have been upheld by the devotees and followed for centuries. What would one gain by breaking age-old traditions?”
“I, as a woman, have never felt it was discriminatory to be barred from entering Sabarimala. The respect I have for the temple and its customs are much more than the need for gender equality. Today, I do feel that gender equality can be attained at so many levels in life, rather than bringing the religious angle to it. For example, gender equality at the workplace would make matters so much smoother for women. Why don’t people pay importance to that?” “When the law of the land takes religious matters into its hand, things get a little dangerous. Maintaining religious harmony is tricky.
Breaking age-old traditions are not progressing. This tradition does not break anyone’s dignity. The sanctity and individuality of Lord Ayyappa should be maintained for generations to come.”
“When I can walk back to my house, at night, feeling safe, without any lecherous stares or catcalls from men, that is a victory. The day men stop objectifying women, is the victory. That is progress. Entering a sacred 12th-century old temple, which restricts women devotees from the age of 10-51, through the bombshell verdict of the court, is not my fundamental right.”
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Already it’s brewing up a riot in the state with the communist state government adding fuel to the fire by not going for a review petition against the said order and amending the dewaswam board laws to allow a nonhindu to head the board that manages all the Hindu temples in the state. These appalling and reckless actions by the Pinarayi government combined with their lax efforts during the floods will definitely prove costly for him and his party in the next elections and may even lead to BJP coming to power in the state , which would be a never before seen phenomenon as the state has always been a congress and communist stronghold , BJP just existed nobody even thought about them let alone voting for them but this time under these exceptional conditions the Hindu population of this state is angry enough to make even this extremity seem like likely possibility.