Sabarimala, women and the state

I am no expert on religion or the state.

However, when a temple goes all up in arms about women polluting their sanctum sanctorum – it pisses me off. No point in trying to force a revolution though. To me, the issue is simple. Does the state (centre or state) give any funds to Sabarimala temple or the board? Is the government a board member? Is the government providing security at the temple?

If they are – then it’s the taxpayer’s money that is going to support an institution that discriminates on the basis of sex. Against the constitution, isn’t it? Especially because it’s not a minorities institution. (I could be wrong here – but am venturing into murkier waters.) That, is not acceptable to me. Cut state funding. Make sure it becomes totally un-cool to go to a temple that is discriminatory. A private club has the right to deny admission. But if you receive state funding, you are no longer private.

In the end it’s simple. The more resources women control, the more difficult it will be for any institution to alienate them. Because women will merely find another avenue to give or to pray. Religion is flexible enough to allow for dissent. In the end – temples will have to be less discriminatory because of sheer economic and financial reasons.

Why does it matter you ask? Why don’t women just ignore religion? Because religion is inherited wealth as well. No way am I going to give up on any legacy that I have a right to. Women should be able to go Sabarimala or Timbuktoo not because they want to, but because they have a right to.

83 Comments

Filed under Culture, Gender

83 Responses to Sabarimala, women and the state

  1. Does it really matter whether the temples get state funding or not? Discrimination is discrimination no matter how you put it.

    It just needs to be stopped. In temples, you see discrimination all the time. In Mantralayam, brahmins and non-brahmins are made to sit seperately in different halls and given food and the food given itself varies. You can only do some pujas if you are a brahmin. I’m a brahmin but when I see such discrimination, it makes me so mad.

    A long time ago in America, Blacks were not allowed into the same church as whites. They didn’t have a church. This was after the civil war, after slavery had been abolished. But now, they are treated equally. We need to make sure all kinds of discrimination – between men and women, or brahmins or non-brahmins needs to be stopped.

  2. Swapna: Being a female Brahmin is no good as far as I know. It gets you as far as the temple door. :)

    The abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights movement (while addressing a similar mandate) were in two different centuries and had different reasons. Abolition of slavery in the US had a lot to do with the state of economy and the Civil War. It was a larger political instrument to control the South. Civil Rights movement is traced between 1955 and (roughly) 1970. This is not to say that the former’s legacy did not have a massive impact on the latter. However – the connection between the two is not as simplistic. Nor do I think it provides an accurate analogy.

    When you say

    We need to make sure all kinds of discrimination – between men and women, or brahmins or non-brahmins needs to be stopped.

    Who exactly do you mean by “we”? You and me? People who think like you? Because it is the “right” thing to do? Or because it is a Non-Brahmin’s “Right”? Please understand – I fully respect your sentiments and intentions – am just trying to demonstrate the futulity of absolutism.

  3. Froginthewell: Lol! When did I say I was fair!?!

  4. froginthewell

    My bad. But please read my comments modulo personal remarks. What I perceive as hatred/double standards against religion ( which to me represents absolute truth and the purpose/whatever of existence ) sometimes makes me make blind emotional statements. I guess my mail arguments hold good irrespective of those.

  5. Aditya Srinath

    I was nudged into reading this “impassioned clamour” for rights to enter a holy temple, by my “dumbstruck” pals east of the bay. My faith in the construct of IQ and its range of values stands reinforced having read this thread (tongue – in-cheek). The ETS can spend less time now garnering material for its tests,having an abundant supply of it here for all its sections except quantitative aptitude :-)

    Water finds its level — a message left with no traces of humility !

  6. Let me try to understand this correctly..

    For forms sake, lets say, I am a misogynist, and I refuse to entertain any female guests in my home. Can the government force me to entertain any woman – desirous of an equal footing in a male dominated society – to wage her battles in my home ?

    The answer clearly is No. Women or men who do not like me being a misogynist can call me names, refuse to deal commercially with me, but they can not force me to entertain female guests in my home. Unless, ofcourse, any aggrieved party can convinsingly claim that they are put to undue hardship by my not entertaining them.

    1) What is the undue hardship being caused to women in general by the Sabarimala temple, which is a private entity taken over by fiat by the State Govt., refusing them entry ? (*)

    2) The state has a responsibility to provide security to all its citizens. Even the murderers, rapists and what have you. There is no reaon why the state should ask its employees to look the other way if my house is being burgled because I hate women and wont let them in my house.

    —-
    (*) Claiming that temples are centers of power and pelf and you are excluded from it if not allowed in does not cut any ice. You are not *entitled* to hold a stake in a political or social organization by default. Infact, if a groups fundamental character is violated by your becoming a part of it – you are violating that groups freedom to exist. For instance, in the US, a gay person *can not* demand a membership in a fundamentalist christian club if the club chooses to deny that membership.

    —-
    Lastly, I agree with you that not allowing females entry in temples, or not allowing them to become priests etc is incorrect, but people you and I disagree with have rights too. Your rights can not be enforced by usurping the rights of others.

  7. Neha: Actually, it is about wanting to do something. By your own argument, private institutions have the right to discriminate (I’m not quite sure where we ended up on the question of whether the temple is state-funded – I thought I saw someone say that its wasn’t; if it is, it shouldn’t be), so the only way we can get discrimination to stop, without setting up a police state, is by moving demand elsewhere. As long as people continue to want to go to Sabrimala, the priests there have every incentive to use the power this gives them to discriminate against women. I don’t understand why anyone would put up with that kind of disrespect. Why wouldn’t you just say, “you won’t let me in – well, scr*w you, I’ll go to a temple that does want my custom”. If we are protesting this discrimination in any way, the right way to do it, in my opinion, is not to demand that women be let in, which will only feed the ego of the priests who are behind this discrimination, the right way to do it is to encourage everyone to boycott the temple, so that the temple itself becomes irrelevant. As I understand your argument, you agree with all of that. But how is boycotting something / encouraging others to boycott something not about wanting to enter the temple?

    Groucho, with or without his uterus, was clearly being flippant. But the irony still holds – by demanding entry to clubs that exclude us (or others) we ratify the very power that is keeping us out. Unless we actively encourage people to shun discriminatory institutions – there’s no reason for them to “naturally” perish. And surely we can do better than “hope that their patrons find their refusal irritating or annoying”. We can make take active steps to make sure that they do.

    Just to be clear – I’m not asking why should women want to go to this temple? I’m asking, why should anyone want to go there? You say religion is “inherited wealth” (I tend to see it more as inherited cost, but whatever) – but why would you want to inherit an institution that’s non-inclusive and discriminatory. Why wouldn’t you want to destroy it instead? Patriarchal traditions are ‘inherited wealth’ too – do you really want women to get their equal share of them? I agree with almost everything you say in your post. I’m just disturbed by the fact that you seem to be content to leave the ‘economic forces’ that will shut the temple down in the absence of state funding more or less to chance. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just call for everyone, men and women, to boycott the temple till it’s forced to shut down.

  8. Will someone please let me know who this Falstaff dude is? Is he Dilip’s mama payyan?

  9. Falstaff: We clearly see power differently. I see institutions that are inherited. Unfortunately patriarchy is embedded in them. I don’t wish to give up on these institutions.

    I am no one to decide what women who want to go to Sabarimala should do. Boycott isn’t picketing. You merely stop patronizing a place till the institution realizes its loss of market – and changes. To force change on an institution that doesn’t receive government funding is to impinge on someone’s rights too.

    Why would you question what another person wants? Why would I question another’s faith? I am concerned about my rights. I am not here to sit on a pile of virtue am I? Women are not idiots. They can want whatever they want. (Even if someone is an idiot.)

    Neha’s NoteAditya Srinath – Next time you leave a comment, please know that your wife comments very regularly here. It won’t be hard for me to state who you are and link to your blog. Have the courage to own up to who you are in a public domain. Editions and Abridged versions aside.
    Sudeep: I don’t understand. Where is the conflict? A person’s right to not be robbed is different from a person’s right to admit someone in their house.

  10. Neha: See my post on the subject at 2x3x7. I think the key difference is that you see ‘patriarchy’ and ‘institutions’ as two distinct things, and therefore believe that you can remove the patriarchy without destroying the institution. I see them as fundamentally intertwined and inseperable.

    I’m not ‘forcing’ anyone to do anything. I’m simply trying to understand why anyone would want to pray in a place that clearly does not want them. Obviously people have a right to act like idiots – I’m just saying that as far as I’m concerned wanting to be part of an institution that demeans you is idiotic. There’s a difference between questioning what someone else wants and stopping them from doing it.

    You say once the institution loses market share it’ll change. Maybe, maybe not. My point is, once we’ve taken our patronage elsewhere, why do we care whether Sabarimala shuts down / opens its gates to women. It’s irrelevant to us, isn’t it? And if it isn’t, if you care so much about Sabarimala that you’ll go running there the minute they let women in, then I’m unconvinced that you’ll be able to mount an effective boycott.

    Oh, and notice that women can’t actually boycott Sabarimala – there’s no question of their not patronizing a temple if it won’t let them in in the first place. If you want Sabarimala to experience a loss of market, you’re going to have some way of making men boycott it. Which is what I was suggesting (if somewhat flippantly) in my first comment.

  11. Jo

    I’m a Catholic and have seen people murmuring (even womenfolk) “Oh, its not right that the nuns giving the holy bread”. I have often wondered why nuns are not allowed to lead a holy mass.

    Its there in every religion. Money and descrimination within reigion. Usually we tend to look only at Islam when it comes to talk about the women rights in Religion. So am glad this issue came up and people started talking about it. God save Jayamala and I dont think God will ever be angry that a woman touched his (or his idol’s) feet. It is not a crime.

  12. froginthewell

    Jo, the part about touching the feet is different – none but the priests are allowed to enter the shrIkOvil ( sanctum sanctorum ) – including men. That is okay.

    P. S. : Sorry for the previous three comments – I thought they weren’t published, as I didn’t see them published.

  13. froginthewell

    What is this business with “minorities with govt. funding can discriminate because they are allowed to”? The government then might well have made provisions allowing temples to discriminate.

  14. Falstaff: I guess we look at institutions differently then. Women can boycott Sabarimala in many ways. Men afterall are likely to be part of households. Negotiating in the personal space is also a political statement. What if a woman expresses displeasure – and a man feels that he’d rather risk Ayyappa’s displeasure than the woman’s? :D

    Perhaps I am also willing to look at this way – Women’s Suffrage. Why did they bother asking for the Right to Vote. Why want to be part of an institution. (Democratic Government) if the institution didn’t want them? Why not start parallel institutions?

    I believe that institutions can and will change. They will need to – if they want to stay relevant. Otherwise, alternate institutions will spring up anyway.

    Jo: I guess it’s across religions. Though I see the Church of England is working rather hard to overcome these obstacles. It’s an example of a religious institution that has changed and is open to change. From female priests to same sex marriages.

    froginthewell: The government didn’t. Point.

  15. Neha: Oh, absolutely. As long as we’re clear that we’re actively getting men to boycott the temple, whether through personal space or otherwise. Between a woman and Ayyappa, one should always choose the woman – at least you’re sure she exists.

    And the democratic government example is a particularly bad one – you can’t start parallel institutions because by definition there is only one government. Wherever there’s a logical reason for the institution to hold a monopoly, you have no choice but to force the institution to adapt. Where multiple institutions are possible however, and there’s no reason other than your own willingness to be subservient for there to be a monopoly, such as with temples, building new institutions may be the more effective and efficient option.

  16. ?!

    The Sabarimala authorities are enforcing what they see as a tradition in accordance with their faith.

    As someone said, they shouldn’t be funded by the State. If they are (which is unlikely given their cash cow), it should be rescinded. However, they are well within their rights to hold and enforce their beliefs and ask for the protection accorded to all by the State. Whether or not the rest of the world agrees with them.

    I think their attitude stinks. But faith itself changes with time, if not as fast as one would like it to. If you ask people in the South of an older generation, they will tell you that women were segregated for their periods at one point of time. Not allowed to enter kitchen, touch others etc. Somewhere down the line, the tradition died out.So I guess Sabarimala wil follow suit sooner or later.

    In the meantime; is it worth that big a fuss ?

    As usual, of course, we have the v earnest, the verbosely tangential and the hopelessly confused along with passing nitwits. (Yeah, that’s a cue for obvious ripostes).
    And Nilu seeking attention by trying to rile everybody.

    “Hota hai shab-e-roz tamashaa mere aage” .

    Hehhhhh.

  17. Falstaff: Schools then. Or colleges. Or hospitals. Government I still think is an interesting example. But we all have our analogical preferences.

    Well, one thing this entire comment thread proves is that it is near impossible that we all will be convinced with any sort of discussion.

  18. froginthewell

    Government didn’t make the requisite legal provisions? How do you know?

  19. Subbarao Seethamsetty

    Neha, I just discovered your blog and duly impressed. Sabarimala is an institution that has its rules and it has (always had it before our constituion was born) the right to pursue all its strictures whether some of us like them or not. About state funding, Sudeep was clear above with the point that the state is obligated to extend protection to everyone. say. including criminals.

    When you claim that you, as a woman, have a right to your heritage and all of it – you certainly do. But the heritage detail in question of allowing only men up there IS “the heritage” that you inherit. Now, should you have the right to change the heritage that you inherit? Yes and you share the rights with those who want to change it, those who want to leave things as they are, the loud passionate ones and those who don’t care one way or other.

    By asking for this drastic change, you alter the institution in a fundamental way and I personally think that is not fair or appropraite. To me it is like building a Disney theme park in the 100 years old Central park in New York City, or dynamiting Mount Everest because of some petty or parochial expediency etc. There is a charm in preserving historical institutions for their own sake. Nothing is stopping us from putting out new ones. As another comment above pointed out, traditions die, change and morph in time. May be this blog and this post is a part of that process. i am ok as long as you don’t spawn religious roits by the ayappa faithful with a bunch of women forcing their way up to the temple. There is enough gore and violence on earth today and we do not need more.

    When it comes to women’s rights, I think the first and immediate priority is to make sure they are physically and emotionally safe on this planet, starting THIS minute. The question of Sabarimala pales in front of the cruelties that millions of women are subjected to as I write this comment. The bombings in Palestine and iraq, the machette hackings in Africa, the abuse of muslim women, especially in impoversihed and God forsaken places (forsaken by Ayappa too I suppose and by all of us), and women reeling under domestic violence across all socio-economic spectrum etc. Let us address these horrible crimes-in-progress immediately and get off our high horses of fine intellectual debate.

  20. ?!

    Errr… Neha ? Intrusion.

    This comment thread I thought proved the opposite … that we are all convinced of our points of view and the only “discussion” people want to have is to try and convince the others how stupid they are : )

  21. ?!,
    Just curious – do you enter into a discussion in a random blog with the expectation to get that Earth shattering clarity whicch would explain the essence of life, death and everything inbetween?

  22. ?!

    Nilu : you aren’t curious ; just needy for attention.

    And I enter into discussions to while away an idle moment or two. Just as you get in to whine your way into the limelight.

    Oh well, I am on home Net access. Office woulda meant I could flame you with the taxpayer’s money. I mean, if the Govt can fund Ayyapa, it can fund me.

  23. Hari

    If the women status is a problem across Hinduism and its temples – go ahead and fight it out. But if among so many temples there is one, with a specific story, and specific faith whats your problem? I see it as diversity and that helps the idea of freedom. I do not see it as freedom to make everything look same – for you have no idea what you are going to leave out, for you are not God or Goddess. I would be glad if among the various temples there was one where only women could enter. If there is none like that… sorry. But taking it out on Lord Ayyapa temple is of no purpose. By the way I am not Hindu, but at the face of it I like the idea that it has so many channels of faith to reach out. My gut feel, without any proper knowledge, is that the British rule and the Moghuls destroyed a lot of diversity (versions) that existed earlier and increasingly made Hinduism a singular identity which it was never built to be. And now its the turn of people like you and me to complete the process? I hope not.

  24. ?!,
    Curious again, since when did you get to decide what my intent was?

  25. anonymous

    I am sorry to be writing this anonymously, and I admit I dont have the backbone to talk about it with my name on it for very good reasons that will become apparent to you after I read my thought here.
    I am completely and totally surprised that nobody has even remotely considered or wondered the reasons behind why “women” are not allowed. I am a woman and I am very liberal in my thinking. From my understanding, though Ayappa is known to have been a prince who brought tiger’s milk in the legends, the mythical belief is that he was a baby born out of the “marriage” of “Vishnu” and “Shiva,” during the effort to take “Amrith.” Vishnu changed himself into a woman and lured Shiva and thus was born Ayappa. Ayappa’s fiance remained a virgin and has a temple down in the hill there where devotees still pray.
    Adding one and two together, I think that sanctum sanctorum is to justify and glorify what we call “gayism” in the modern world. As liberal women I think we should let this go on, because they have their rights and they have their reasons. I only hope there is no abuse in the name of God. As long as it is a glorification of a right that is barely spoken openly in our lands, its okay for me, though I am a woman. I think gays have a right to their god, we are not needed there. I say this with all respect to Shiva, Vishnu and Ayappa and hinduism. My intention was not to ridicule anything.

  26. roops

    neha – well, in this case, there was an explicit rule imposed by the temple, which has been in place for decades, if not centuries… religion, cultures and beliefs deserve a privileged respect, due to the sensitivities and beliefs of countless number of believers of the religion…as long as they are not too harsh or extreme to follow, in which case the rule gets watered down…

    if there is a day when the sabarimala temple rule is to be broken on legal grounds, then the same day, women should also be allowed in mosques, inside the main mosque…and, as jo has mentioned above, the day when women are allowed to lead the holy mass… will that happen in India? NEVER! The Indian political system will never dare go against the will of the minority leaders…

    first realise that hinduism is the ONLY religion in the world that gives as much importance to goddess, as to gods. the other more popular religions in the world, christianity and islam, don’t care a damn for their women…they just shun them or humiliate them…

    if u think my comments on the “minority” religions affects the sensitivities of this community, think again…your comments hurt the feelings of a much larger (hindu) community… who, unfortunately have been, by nature, soft, tolerant, and eternally patient to their supposedly “under-privilged” counterparts…

    david killing goliath sounds heroic only when goliath is the “evil guy”, but in today’s india, goliath is always killed, however good he may be…

    i sign off,saluting the oldest preserved religion in the world…praying it will remain preserved forever.

  27. Pingback: ?????? - Gilli » Yet another actress/temple controversy - Mdeii Anand

  28. anupama

    Reading something like this really makes me angry. It makes me want to lose my faith. Basically this boils down to Hinduism beng a relegion written by the men for the men. And the reasons why a woman of a particular age cannot go is ridiculous. There is avery good article written about this issue at

    http://www.countercurrents.org/gender-raji160704.htm

    Read it. It does say that

    ” Sabarimala IS a publicly funded temple: Article 290A of the Indian Constitution entails the State of Kerala to pay, yearly, 4.65 million rupees to Sabarimala’s Temple board ” and

    ” Article 25(2b) was instituted specifically for them (untouchables) ; 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”.

    The only way soemthing like this can be changes is for the women to rise up as one and do something about it. Most are so indifferent about it. They just want to nod their heads and follow whatever the rules say. How impressive it would be if Hindu women said no, maybe had a boycott of hindu relegion, refuse to sit and take it. They have the power to do it, but not the interest or the inclination to bring about a change.

    This has to be changed. In no way can this temple function as gender discrimanatory place when working women pay their taxes for it. And if the courts agree with the discrimination then change in the state of kerala should start at the top.

    For my part, I dont want to believe in a God that forbids me to pray to Him. Unless there is a change in laws I am going to go with the more women friendly Gods :)

    Anupama

  29. Legend has it that the god concerned, Ayyappa, did not want women in his temple. If you are a believer, a woman and you believe in the legend, you wouldn’t go there. If not, the question has no relevance to you and you stay away as a non-believer. This is a religious institution and has the right to keep away non-believers (like in fire temples, mosques and some hindu temples). To me, it is as simple as that.

    This is akin to saying, we need to re-write the Ramayan, or not worship Rama because he made Sita walk through fire. Silly, me thinks.

  30. Asha

    Dear Neha,

    Just to let you know that I personally feel that it is best to leave a sexist God and his devotees to their own devices. You should come to Trivandrum during the Attukal Pongala ( Feb/March) when lakhs of women come and take over the streets and cook a pongala for the Attukal Bhagavati. Men are NOT allowed anywhere near this. The only men are volunteers and the priests ( yes why shd they also not be women?). Sadly, the Shiv Sena has been sending male volunteers in large numbers to this event. This is called the Sabarimala for women.( pennukenulathe sabarimala) You should attend a pongala for yourself and then let me know what you think.

    Also, regarding the actress who entered Sabarimala, if she did this genuinely to make a point that women should be allowed in, why did she keep mum about her act for two decades ?

    Also, a woman is going to sing for the first time at the Navaratri Mandapam festival beginning this year ( 2006).

    Asha

  31. ranjit

    Hi..
    u gt it abs wrong buddy…
    Sabarimala doesnt recieve any state funding..and even if it does,it fills state (read devaswom) coffers much more than it takes.It is a declared source of revenue.

    and as far as constitutionality of the issue is concerned,Kerala High court has given a clear verdict on the issue madam.Hope u agree that you/we are not better interpreters of consti.

  32. From

    The Editor

    Dear Sir

    I may humbly rquest to publish the following letter in the “letters to the editor” column after necessary editing.

    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 Sabarimala

    It 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‚Äôs 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.

  33. Imported_beer

    Ayappa himself was created out of a homoerotic union- between Vishnu (in Mohini’s form) and Shiva. Shiva knew it was Vishnu, which is why I refer to it as Homoerotic. Neither God was homosexual- but this was the divine plan that only a son born of Vishnu and Shiva could fulfil the Divine Plan.

    Ayappa is born. He is celibate. And to go to his temple, a man has to remain ritually and physically pure for 40 odd days and also refrain from sex. Thus, I think Priests thought…jeeze, if we have women there, it might cause impure thoughts in a man who has not had `physical release’ for many days. They forget that a man can be attracted to a prepubescent girl, or a post menopausal woman. And they forget that the Vedas and Bhagvat Geeta talk about sublimation of the senses- or not withdrawing yourself from a world of temptation but controlling your mind so as to not be led into misdeed. Ultimately, it is disresoectful for men also- that the Priests believe it is not possible for a man to remain mentally steadfast when there is a temptress…I mean woman around.

    Those who argue that it was God Ayappa’s wishes themselves cannot prove that it is so, neither can those who argue the other way. All we have is what the Priests claim He wanted….which could be just as easily fear of mental and potentially physical defilement.

    Personally, I am of the belief that women should thumb their noses at such ridiculous caveats. Remember, that every bit of misogyny that came into the Hindu religion came after 500 BC with the dharmasutras, which incidently were *all* written by men. Hindu’s forget that their most ancient books- the Vedas feature female scholars and writers and speak of the sort of equality between genders that no other religion has preached. Instead of embracing out roots, we have subverted our religion, retrogaded our mindset, became slaves to traditions instead of our unique and progressive philosophy. I personally do not want the right to enter the Temple- but I deserve the right to thoroughly mock any man or woman who claims this to be Hindu religion. They should go and read the Vedas, before even thinking they know anything about what Hinduism is.