A year has bypassed since the Supreme Court delivered its judgement regarding the entry of young women into the world famous shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala. The Sabarimala shrine is world renowned for its unique practices as well as for the number of devotees it attracts over the three-month annual season, a mammoth five crore pilgrims, throngs the Shrine, seeking Lord Ayyappas’s darshan. The more you come close, the more you know more is very apt adage for any curious on looker who wants to know more on this shrine. The people were amused to hear initially from various sources, there is a temple in the God’s own country which does not allow entry of women, when something spreads in the air, the speedy winds are very smart in spreading it ahead. But, those who spread this canard didn’t tell, Sabarimala is frequented by women devotees except those who are young. Is being young a crime? Not at all, the deity who has been consecrated as a perpetual celibate, he is worshipped in said bhava (form) from times immemorial, the limited right of darshan is for those who follow the hard penance, as set by the Lord Ayyappa, the beloved son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
The Hindu philosophy is rooted in diverse faith, uniqueness and temples are an embodiment of these rich diversity. The women when assembles in Bhadra kali temple of Attukal in Kerala, every year for Pongala, a festival of supreme devotion to the goddess Kali, they make an entry into the guiness book of world record, the more than 40 lakh gathering on a single day, is a unique festival of the women. The most important, amusing fact is, the men are absolutely barred from participating in this festival, barring their minimal role as facilitators, like volunteers, to help out the lakhs of women who throng the shrine of mother goddess. The most literate state never sees this uniqueness as a religious customary practice which belittles men, nor intended to reduce the status of men, which requires a reversal through the bugle of equality.
India, that is Bharat is an enigma, a mystic land which had seekers of truth in all times, the kings who conquered their mighty enemies, who annexed vast stretches of lands, who emerged as supreme too, embarked on seeking the ultimate truth, renouncing everything they amassed till then, the temples acted as a medium in helping out the spiritual thirst seeking ultimate truth. Having said so, let it be made unambiguous, the discrimination if any on caste lines, are absolutely unacceptable, the religious essentialities have to be segregated from the impure practices which creep in at various phases of history. Many might be thinking and asking whether the God discriminates on the basis of gender, absolutely no, it’s all about preserving unique practices which does no harm to the society but which preserves the particular beliefs, essential to the particular temple without which the very existence of the “living deity” becomes difficult in its manifest form. The Manarasala Temple in Kerala is world famous for the worship of serpents, the chief priest of this temple can only be a woman, that too who is brought to the family after her marriage. The respect to the gender, as well absence of any discrimination in the matrimonial home is a classic case to be looked into, the bar on men as the chief priest is rooted in the uniqueness of the Manaarasala Nagaraja temple, if it’s attempted to apply principles of gender equality over here this world famous temple would lose its uniqueness.
A misplaced activism by few who rushed to the apex court, who never have seen the Sabarimala temple, coupled with changing political stances of ruling parties in Kerala, especially the left parties, breached the rights of crores of Ayyappa devotees, when they had a duty to buttress the uniqueness of the temple, especially being in office and being in charge of the Travancore Devaswom Board they forgot their obligations to devotees and tried to impose a misplaced principle of equality, in Sabarimala, which was never an issue even in the distant dreams of an average Keralite.
Appalling was the response of women Ayyappa Devotees in Kerala, they gave a rousing call to protect the uniqueness of their faith and it’s their sweat which saw human waves after waves in the streets of Kerala which left the votaries of gender equality in Sabarimala amused. It’s worthwhile to mention that when the apex court asserts Kerala is very much part of Indian Union, and grills the State for its laxity in implementing judgments of the court in various matters, Sabarimala leaves a thousand questions, the police brutalities, the murders of protestors and tens of thousands of cases against Ayyappa Devotees and a bar on chanting the name of god, has been an unheard course India have ever seen.