Sabarimala: Faith Versus Reason
With the Supreme Court passing the judgment that women of all ages can also enter the Sabarimala’s Ayyappa temple, there has been huge hue and cry about it. While staunch Hindus believed that the judgment passed by the Supreme Court has not considered the Hindu faith and belief. The pro-verdict believe it as a major victory for women and gender equality in the country. The politicians are trying to play a balancing act, they can’t go against the people’s sentiments or they can reject the SC verdict. The entire issue has turned into a bone of contention for everyone.
Meanwhile the monthly five days opening of shrine came on October 17. This was the first time the shrine opened up for devotees after the SC had passed its historic judgment. So all the focus shifted to Sabarimala and will the women between the age of 10-50 years make their historic step towards the temple? The Kerala government is bent upon implementing the SC order, while the Hindu organizations and devotees were clearly saying no to women entering.
As expected the event of women will make entry or not became a biggest spectacle for media until the most unfortunate incident killing numerous people happened in Amritsar! It was media which was making merry over the episode and reporting minute by minute. Finally they found one lady in her mid-30s trying to make way from Pamba to the hill shrine. She was escorted by police and walked 200 meters, then was forced to come back because of the protests by the devotees. The second day attempt also, apart from this woman from Andhra Pradesh, few women journalists manhandled by protestors.
On the third day, early morning two women namely Rehana Fatima, social activist from Koci and a private TV journalist Kavitha from Hyderabad reached the base camp at Pamba and told the police men to help them visit the Ayyappa temple. They made quiet an headway and were just few meters away from climbing the famous 18-steps of Ayyappa temple. But they were interrupted by devotees and priests of the temple. The head priest also made an announcement that the temple would be closed if any lady between the age group of 10-50 years lays her foot on the 18 steps.
Woman enters Sabrimala
Meanwhile a woman from Tamil Nadu was allowed inside the Sabarimala temple on Saturday after facing initial protests, as traditionalists presumed her to be below 50 years of age.
The Supreme Court on September 28 overturned a centuries-old practice that barred women of menstrual age (10-50 years) from entering the hill temple, where a celibate deity Lord Ayyappa is worshipped.
Latha, 52, accompanied by her husband and son, was stopped just as she was about to climb the hallowed 18 steps leading to the temple. The protesters presumed her to be below 50, despite her protestations to the contrary.
It was only after the intervention of state BJP leader K. Surendran and others that the devotees allowed Latha to enter the sanctum sanctorum after checking her identity card.
Meanwhile, a 38-year-old woman, Manju, presented herself before senior police officials and requested them to facilitate her pilgrimage to the temple in the light of the SC verdict. The police officials cautioned her about the risks, as Hindu traditionalists had dug their heels in, opposing the entry of women in the 10-50 age group in defiance of the SC order. However, Manju, who is the President of the Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation, would have none of it.
Finally by the time temple closed on Monday night, the daring two women were forced to return, six woman were denied entry including Manju, and the woman who allowed to enter was over 50. Moral victory for faith, while it would be a defaming response to SC verdict. What does this mean to people? In the name of gender equality are we dealing with very sensitive and sentimental issues without understanding the repercussions? Is it time our people give a serious thought about faith and its moral obligations before raking up issues? Despite many more attempts in next two days, if the women fail to enter the temple, will it mean contempt of court? Will Kerala government be charged with contempt of court since women were unable to worship at Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala?
These are few of the questions that are haunting the minds of people, they would be answered after Monday. At the end of the episode will our people learn lessons and try to keep faith away from logic and respect the sentiments of devotees!
Sabarimala is a prominent Hindu temple located on a hilltop in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. It is surrounded by 18 hills in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The temple is dedicated to Ayyappa, the God of growth. The temple attracts pilgrims from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and from various parts of the country and the world. The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja in November-December, Makara Sankranti on January 14 and Maha Vishuva Sankranti on April 14, and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
Women entry – Controversy
The ban on women entering the temple premises is being practised for centuries, as devotees consider Lord Ayappa, the presiding deity of the temple, to be celibate. In 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from Sabarimala temple as they were of the menstruating age. 27 years later on September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court lifted the ban, saying that discrimination against women on any grounds, even religious is unconstitutional.
Protests erupted across the state on the SC verdict. The protests took a political turn after BJP ally Shiv Sena warned of “mass suicides” if women set foot inside the Sabarimala temple. The protests intensified as the date of opening neared. On October 17, when the doors to Sabarimala opened, the protesters camped at the base of the trek at Pamba to stop women from entering the temple.