Does Supreme Court’s Sabarimala judgement trespass Hindu women’s rights to worship the appropriate and desirable way?

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A five-member constitution bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra, in a 4-1 majority, struck down the practice that had been in place for centuries that restricted the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in Sabarimala Temple.  Justice Malhotra, the lone woman on the bench, had a dissenting view. Since then the devotees who are in favour of the existing traditions are out on the streets with various forms of protests against the Supreme Court verdict and also the left ruled- State government’s decision to file an affidavit  in favour of the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in the Temple. Some groups who call themselves progressive calls the age restriction as a ban based on gender. However, there is no ban or discrimination on woman and the judgment has in a way has denied the fundamental rights of the entire Hindu community in offering prayers according to specified customs.

The Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala does not force any ban on the entry of women. Instead, women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry is owing to the bhava of the presiding deity. Every temple has its way of performing sacred rites and rituals, based on the bhava of the deity.  The constitution of the temple is framed at the time of the consecration of its presiding deity. It includes the temple at Sabarimala, where Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity is a Naishtika Brahmachari. The statements of “biological factor being the reason why women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry” are absolutely false and the menstruation twist circulated by anti-Hindu groups is far from the real reason.

Biological factor being the reason why women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry are absolutely false and left propagated dichotomy.

There is no discrimination against women, but it is a willing gesture from women devotees of Lord Ayyappa, who abstains from entering the Temple from the age of 10, owing to the tradition that is formulated on the deity’s bhava. The abstinence is carried till the age of 50 which is when the women normally cross their youth. However, the women folks continue to be the devotees of Lord Ayyappa, observing a 41-day vrata (austerities) along with the men in the family. The vrata includes a vow of celibacy for these 41 days. The entire family joins the men folks who take vrata for 41 days before going to Sabarimala to have the darshanam. The Court that gave the reason of gender discrimination, post-verdict, has in a way trespassed into Hindu women’s rights to worship the appropriate and desirable way.

The verdict has trespassed into Hindu Women’s right to worship in a desirable way as per the traditions.

The current episode is a part of the larger conspiracy that intends to destroy the Sabarimala temple, which began at the dawn of the twentieth century, with the setting ablaze of the temple by alleged Christian missionaries in 1950. The Kesava Menon commission that enquired the case clearly stated that the fire was intended to sabotage the temple, with the deity having umpteen destructive cuts. Later in another attempt to destroy the Sabarimala Shrine, in 1982, a stone cross was buried in the 18-hilled garden of Lord Ayyappa near Nilakkal Mahadeva Temple. This act was, later found out to be the handiwork of a certain sect to establish the non historical fact of Jesus’ apostle St. Thomas’ arrival in Kerala in 52 AD. The attempt to encroach Sabarimala’s land was supported by then Congress government. The government helped the Christians to build a makeshift Church at Nilakkal. However, in the end Hindus thronged the streets in protest and saved Sabarimala temporarily from being destroyed. The conspiracy to sabotage the Sabarimala shrine proved to be an unending saga when the Mullaperiyar Dam issue was lit up in 2012. Some people including a section of the media quoting some so called experts alleged that the Mullaperiyar dam is breaking due to the negligence from the Tamilnadu government. This act was aimed at igniting hatred in Kerala against the people of the neighbouring Tamilnadu. Devotees from Tamilnadu are the largest in terms of people visiting Sabarimala. By making Tamilians culpable for an imaginary breaking up of the dam, the people behind the conspiracy hoped that the inflow of devotees from Tamilnadu dwindled and in turn paved way for the destruction of the shrine. The current allegation of women discrimination and subsequent judgement by the top court is widely believed to be the latest in the series of past acts aiming to destroy the shrine.

A vast majority of Hindu women devotees of Lord Ayyappa are in the opinion that they never felt their right to pray at Sabarimala Temple got violated. On the contrary, they say, by allowing women between the age 10 and 50 to the temple defying the traditions is infringing the fundamental rights of the entire Hindu community in offering prayers according to specified customs. The constitution of the Temple framed according to the deity’s bhava, the Hindu sentiments and the repercussions (that could happen due to a thoughtless court decree) should have been considered when the Supreme Court bench sat for announcing the judgement.

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