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There is merit in Sabarimala agitation

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G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

The bunch of petitions filed in the Supreme Court by various Hindu agitating bodies against the entry of women aged between 10 to 50 years, were all shifted for hearing by the apex court to 13th November. It’s said that generally the S C never upturns or reverses its judgement in the case of review petitions. Barring the woman judge Indu Malhotra, all the other four judges approved the entry. In the case of Sabarimala, the dissent judgement was well-noted and applauded by all in the Hindu society. Indu Malhotra got kudos for her bold stance and for citing relevant Articles of the Constitution.

The egalitarian stand of gender equality and non-discrimination theory of the judgement was incomprehensible to many. For, in India, traditional ritualistic practices are specifically demarcated to men and women. In each case, exclusion is not treated as discrimination. Indian concept of gender equality is different from the European one, which, of late, they got through enlightenment after the world war II.

Social advantage of Sabarimala Yatra: Earlier, in South India Sabarimala temple was not that prominent. Only for the past 25 to 30 years, men from all southern states are thronging to it. Many prominent politicians, businessmen and cinema actors are also part of it. The presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa himself is a celibate and so the devotees have to follow certain rules for the entry. They have to take up the mandatory Deeksha of 41 days during which they have to change from their attire to habits.

The devotee of Ayyappa who would want to have a Darshan of the Lord on Makara Sankranti auspicious days that falls in the month of January every year, should daily get up on the Deeksha days early in the morning and should take bath with cold water, should neither drink nor smoke and be away from all luxurious accessories. He should walk bare foot, sleep on the floor and should also take bath in the evening with cold water before the prayer. Daily he has to pray in the morning and evening. Thus spend life in a structured orderly way without hurting or bearing ill-will against anyone on those days of penance. He should join with the other Ayyappa devotees to have prayer-meets and for part-taking food alongside. In this way, it becomes a collective casteless endeavor.

In the present day world men indulge in various vices like drinking and smoking. There’s at least a solace during those Deeksha days they may not do so. It’s the habit of many men from all castes to go to Sabarimala following all these austerity measures. Now their faith is rattled and shaken. How Can they walk on the narrow steps along with women devotees when a close contact with one’s own wife is forbidden on all those days? Can the same life be lead by women to visit Ayyappa shrine? How many Hindu women agitated on the streets for such a privilege? Why a petition by an unknown should shatter this tradition? All minority religions are protected by personal laws. Only Hindu religion is open to courts. Hence the ordeals.

Meddling with Hindu Religious Practice: Hinduism or Hindu religion is a sleeping giant. Hindus wherever they are, are mired in their religious ritualistic practices. Nowhere in the history of Bharat, any ruler meddled with them. India’s soul is its religion. Hindus are happy if they are allowed to worship the way they wanted to as per their tradition. The British didn’t touch the Hindu Religious Practices considering them as personal. Only the practice of sati was abolished by them as many Hindus felt it abominable. However, it should be admitted that the British let loose their Christian missionaries to carry out their work freely. The Moghuls interfered to a limited extent in converting Hindus.
The Hindu religion could live so long and sustain because of its practices/ traditions. From time to time, it allows changes by not being rigid. Again this flexibility/adaptability is unique to this religion. Each change needs a rationale behind it. In the case of Sabarimala, some non-descript person asked for a change in the age-old tradition. So is this digression. The entire culture of a reputed temple, without seeking the voice of the faithful, was disrupted by a baffling judgement.

The point that women are not allowed because of ‘menstruation and desecration’ has a limited value. Menstrual periods are given to women by none other than God himself. Attributing something foul to it, is unfair. They are not meant for discrimination purpose. They are for procreation. Women of all castes voluntarily abstain from all religious rituals in those days of uneasiness. They do that out of their own volition and also partly because the tradition ordains. Since, Ayyappa being a Naistika brahmachari this custom might have been put in place in that important, origional shrine. What is wrong in letting the practice go? Whether to allow women of all ages has to be decided by the Dewaswom Board. The Court should have directed them.

Ayodhya-temple in the North and Ayyappa-Sabarimala temple in the South have become causes for concern in the Hindu Society. Any issue should not be dragged unduly, till it loses its elasticity. No wonder, Hindus are aggrieved and are asking questions. These are the days a highest body like the United Nations is questioned for its decisions on correctness. International laws are violated by countries. International Court of Justice has not been able to convince the stubborn and adamant countries like China and N Korea. Indian public has immense faith in their judiciary. Takings that into cognizance, the apex court should review in depth, the petitions filed in the case of Sabarimala temple entry and impart justice.

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G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer
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