Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

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In Ayyappa we believe: The Sabrimala debate

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Aishwarya AVSK | New Delhi

Before getting into the Sabarimala case, we need to talk about one thing — the light which appears in the sky above the Ayyappa temple thrice on a particular day, known as “Makaravilakku” or the “celestial light”, man-made or natural? Are the traditions in the temple premises ancient or a recent act?

The known traditions in God’s own country till now, had been tampered in December when the Supreme Court lifted a ban on menstruating women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple.

With the order, the debate on the right to equality comes into the picture as women demand entry into the temple, with some already trying to get in and offering prayers.

The apex court while hearing a review petition, challenging its December 2018 verdict, transfered the case to a larger bench by a 3:2 majority. It said that the case needs to be looked more into, as it becomes an essential case of religious morality. 

But the question which arises here is that should religion and traditions be mixed with a person’s right to equality? Is Sabarimala the only holy place that does not allow women’s entry into the temple?

In Sabarimala, the main deity, Lord Ayyappa, is said to be a celibate, which is why women between ages 10 and 50 are restricted entry inside the temple because of their menstrual cycle. Even the men who are offering prayers at the temple during the annual ‘Mandalam-Makaravilakku’ festival observe 41 days of “purity” before reaching the hilltop shrine.

The ban is because of an age-old tradition in southern India which protects their practice of treating a menstruating woman as “pollution”. At the time of their menstruation, women should not ‘touch’ anyone, are not allowed inside kitchens and temples, eat separately, and have to keep themselves in a very “fragile” frame.

Sabarimala isn’t the only place that does not allow women to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Muslim women are not allowed to pray in several mosques.

And when it comes to challenging this practice, it is usually looked down upon as it becomes a matter of religion, which is by far correct. Why should we involve religion with Constitution and ask for equal rights? It is not like we are competing for a job or aiming for a higher position in a company. We are, after all, talking about God here. Challenging religion and traditions — implying that we are challenging God — does no good to anyone.

For me when it comes to religious practices and religious morality, we should simply follow the traditions that were passed to us by our ancestors. Ancestral traditions matter more than challenging something in court for the right that we have always been fighting for.

Also, which right are we fighting for? Why should women think they need to be equal to men? Women have always been greater and far ahead than men, and it will always remain so.

So, rather than focusing on God and challenging him in the court, we should look into other relevent problems facing the country in need of immediate course correction.

(The author is a working journalist and tweets @AishwaryaAvsk. The views expressed by the writer are their own and not of Ground Report)

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