Sabarimal Temple and Women

I am writng this not to just add fire to the controversy now prevailing. Let wisdom overtake emotions among devotees at this time.This is the only temple in India where religiuos harmony is prevaling.

It is most unfortunate that cinema actress Jayamala’s reported revelation that she had touched the idol of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala temple when she was 27, has sparked a controversy al over
India. All medias are giving due importance to this. It is customary that women between the age-group of 10-50 are not allowed inside the Sabarimala temple. This custom is being practiced considering the celibacy of the God Ayyappa.
This Sabarimala temple  is situated atop a hill in Kerala and houses a bachelor God called Ayyappa. It is purported that around the 14th of January, every year, a celestial fire – a Jyothi with healing powers – glows in the sky near the Sabarimala shrine. A controversy exists for this also. What is the relationship between religion and women’s rights? Should we care about the treatment of women by religions of the world? Should we be bothered when we see, even in the twenty-first century, a woman being prohibited from doing certain things, like becoming ordained or entering a temple just because she is a woman? But why does the
Temple board tell her so? It gives a smorgasbord of reasons: The eight kilometer trek to the temple along dense woods is arduous for women; Ayyappa is a bachelor God and his bachelorhood will be broken if he sees a woman; the forty-one-day penance for the pilgrimage, where one must live as abstemiously as a saint, cannot be undertaken by women – they are too weak for that; men cohorts will be enticed to think bad thoughts if women joined them in their trek; letting women into the temple will disrupt law and order; women’s menstrual blood will attract animals in the wild and jeopardize fellow travelers; menstruation is a no-no for God.
And so the list of lame reasons grows. Don’t think that no one has ever questioned the inanity of those reasons. Several Indian feminists have fought, and keep fighting, with the
Temple board in favor of the women devotees. But the
Temple board remains implacable. It is backed by enormous political clout, and poor Indian feminists, like feminists almost everywhere, must fend for themselves. It doesn’t help that many Indian women are disinterested in any feminist struggle. They think that it is presumptuous for women to defy established customs. It is hard to rally them, especially when it involves flouting tradition or religion.
Nevertheless, many brave and, sometimes, distressed women, boldly try to go where no young woman has gone before. ” Here is a report from a publication called Hinduism Today: “The ban was upheld by Kerala’s High Court in 1990, but the issue is now being raised by a 42-year old district collector, K.B. Valsala Kumari, who was ordered to coordinate pilgrim services at the shrine. A special court directive allowed her to perform her government duties at the shrine, but not to enter the sanctum sanctorum.” In December 2002, Khaleej Times reported, “Women have made this year’s Sabarimala pilgrim season controversial by entering the prohibited hill shrine…Kerala high court has ordered an inquiry to find out how a large number of women had reached the shrine in violation of court orders.” Strange, isn’t it, for the court to scribe such discriminatory orders? Fifty-four years ago, when the Constitution of India was framed, “Untouchables” – the lower-caste Indians who were believed to be “impure” and hence objectionable to God – won the right to equality and broke open the gates of temples that were closed to them thus far. Article 25(2b) was instituted specifically for them; to ensure that they could pursue their religion unhampered. This article gives State the power to make laws for “the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus”. Sabarimala is a publicly temple: Article 290A of the Indian Constitution entails the State of Kerala to pay, yearly, 4.65 million rupees to Sabarimala’s Temple board. Nevertheless, it has so far remained shut to one section of Indians – the young Indian women. And the State, instead of opening it for them, works to ensure that it remains shut to them. Now it is the best time that all concerned should sit together and discuss whether permission can be given for women to enter SabarimalaIt is ironic that this shrine, praised as “an unmatched instance of religious tolerance”, a temple open to men of all castes and religions, doesn’t tolerate most women. The society that has grown, at least outwardly, to breach “God’s decree” to keep lower-caste men out of His vicinity, is still struggling to defy “His despise” for women. especially, menstruating women.Is it so because women are still regarded impure and detestable, at least during certain times? Is it because none in power is disposed to champion women’s causes? Is it because women themselves are disinclined to unite against their discrimination? Is it because caste-discrimination is accepted to be viler than gender-discrimination? Is it because society is averse to disturbing the male-dominated hierarchy in
India? This ban on women in Sabarimala, while it appears to be a religious issue, at its core, indicates an uglier problem – the oft-dismissed and court-sanctioned oppression of women in
India.
What were the reasons and sentiments behind the human belief in the worship of God? Belief in the concept of God and worship of God are not one and the same. All those who worship God, cannot be said to have belief in the concept of God. There are many people, who think that there is no loss in worshipping God, even if such a God does not exist; but if there is one, it will bless them. The basic reason for the belief in the concept of God is the fear of death. Inability of mankind can be attributed as the next reason. The man, who set his foot on the soil of the Moon and who was able to send a missile to Mars, could neither defeat the phenomenon of death, nor could stop the natural disasters like earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclone or floods. Apart from all these during the bad cycle of life many people have to suffer from unexpected sorrows aroused from close family members, friends and colleagues. Then majority of them will start believing that this is the curse of God. Comparatively, humanity’s sufferings, disasters and losses are more than the benefits it derived from the concept of God and Religion. Great wars fought, people killed or harassed in the name of God are numerous. Don’t fear God, Love Him. In this context it is better to highlight a verse from Bhagavad Gita Mind is very restless, forceful and strong, O Krishna, it is more difficult to control the mind than to control the wind ~ Arjuna to Sri Krishna.  s/d M.P.Bhattathiry

 

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