God’s Gift Became A Curse

Belated Happy Women’s Day. Ladies you are special, you are independent you can do whatever you want or meet whoever you want as long as you do it on women’s day.  Women can’t pray where they want. Every rapist, murderer, thief or even a criminal turned CM can pray at Sabarimala temple but women can’t pray because they are impure while they are menstruating cause they believe their gods celibacy. The Ayyappa idol is offered ornaments, jewels and the temple is gold plated. Aren’t these against the concept of Naishtika Bhramachari.[1]

Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple issue is about the combat between women rights and tradition. According to age-old traditions and customs, women from ten to fifty years of age were not permitted into Sabarimala Temple. “How old are ‘very old’ customs of Sabarimala? Entry of women to the shrine was forbidden by law only as late as 1972 as some male worshipers took offence. Before that women used to go there for worship, more so, after roads were built for a Rashtrapathi visit. Tamil film song shot at the temple as recently as 1986. Women presented on the famous ‘18 steps’ leading to the supreme being in the temple. The song comes in a film called Nambinal Keduvathillai, featuring actor Jayashree[2] at the temple. The 18 sacred steps frame the main stairway to the temple and following custom, only those pilgrims with ‘irumudikettu’ (double headed baggage with possessions and offerings for the deity) can climb them and reach the Sannidhanam (where the almighty is). The Queen of Travancore in 1939[3], of choroonu ceremonies (first meal eating ceremony for children) where women were present.  The Maharaja of Travancore along with Maharani and Divan had visited the temple in 1115 M.E. There was thus no constraint for women to enter the temple in olden days. Legions of female worshipers had gone to the temple within the age group of 10 to 50 for the first rice-feeding ritual of their children (Chottonu). A change in the old custom and practice was brought about by installing a flag staff (Dhwajam)  in 1969.” TKA Nair, former advisor to Former PM Manmohan Singh, recently aforementioned that his Choroonu ceremony was done at the Sabarimala temple when he was on his mother’s lap[4] and faced the deity, in 1939.

There is a biological process in your bodies designed by god that leads to the creation of babies and these babies grow up to become the same men who consider this process impure. Our netas are better story tellers than politicians as they build awe-inspiring story out of thin air to fill their vote banks. In November 2016, a temple authority said that women will be allowed inside the temple if a machine was invented to find out if the women were pure or menstruating.

When all the people are equal in God’s eyes as well as the Constitution, there is no reason why women are only barred from entering certain temples. Indian constitution under Article 25 provides an individual the freedom to choose[5] his/her religion. Hence praying in a temple or mosque or church or at home must be the individual’s choice. The Constitution guarantees right to liberty[6] (Article 21) and religious freedom to the individual. There are countless Ayyappa temples in India where such rules don’t apply and there are no restrictions in praying. The deity is also being worshiped by women of this ages in their houses. Then why only Sabarimala temple? The argument that menstruation would pollute the temple premises is unacceptable since there is nothing “unclean” or “impure” about a menstruating woman. Discriminating based on the biological factor exclusive to the female gender is unconstitutional as it violates fundamental rights under Article 14 (equality)[7], Article 15 (discrimination abolition)[8] and Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability)[9]. Barring women from entering the temple mainly due to their womanhood and the biological features is derogatory to women [10]which the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) under Article 51A (e) seeks to renounce. The temple’s trust gets its funds from the Consolidated Fund i.e. it is a public place of worship and not a private temple. Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

Hence its practice cannot be dictated only and narrowly by religious pandits and tantric priests. Religious traditions must remain relevant to changing societal structures and relationships. Hence it needs reforms from within. Let us not leave a whole a gender behind in the name of customs, the customs have to change with time.

[1] Hariprasad N,Naishtika Brahmachari And The Need For Extreme Sense Control,https://medium.com,Jul 24, 2018

[2] Onmanorama Staff,When actresses danced on the 18th step at Sabarimala, https://english.manoramaonline.com, OCTOBER 08, 2018

[3] Rohan Manoj, Sabarimala restrictions on women: a recent Phenomenon, https://www.outlookindia.com,October 11,2018

[4] Express News Service, Women could visit Sabarimala: in 1940, http://www.newindianexpress.com, January 05,2018

[5] Constitution of India; art.25 (1)

[6] Constitution of India; art.21

[7] Indian Constitution; Art.14

[8] Indian Constitution; Art.15(2)

[9] Indian Constitution; Art 17

[10] Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP); Art. 51A (e)

This article is authored by Shravani Sharma, student of BBA LL.B (Hons.) at VIT Law School

Also Read – Traditional Form Of Discrimination

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