Ayyappa devotee group seeks Jayalalithaa’s support to argue against women's entry into Sabarimala

The Ayyappa Dharma Sena's stance being Lord Ayyappa is half Tamilian, and Amma, a believer.
Ayyappa devotee group seeks Jayalalithaa’s support to argue against women's entry into Sabarimala
Ayyappa devotee group seeks Jayalalithaa’s support to argue against women's entry into Sabarimala
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The Ayyappa Dharma Sena (ADS) comprising Lord Ayyappa devotees along with various Sabarimala organizations based in Tamil Nadu is all set to petition TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, for the appointment of a government lawyer to argue their case over women’s entry into the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala. 

The case is scheduled to come up for hearing before a Supreme Court Constitutional Bench on 7 November 2016.

Speaking to The News Minute, Rahul Easwar -a Hindu ‘softliner’ activist as he prefers to term himself- says they were left with no choice but to approach neighbouring Tamil Nadu after the Left-led Kerala government’s sudden volte face in the said issue.

“Now that the LDF has made its stance clear that it will not oppose the entry of women into Sabarimala -as opposed to what they had said earlier- naturally we will have no government support in the case, when it comes up for hearing in the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court lawyer has to be paid Rs 3 to 4 lakhs per hearing, and we have already spent huge amounts for the same. That is why we would like Amma to appoint a government lawyer to argue our case,” Easwar clarifies.

But why Tamil Nadu?

“First and foremost, out of the almost four crores of devotees who visit Sabarimala every year, maximum number of pilgrims come from Tamil Nadu. And more importantly, Lord Ayyappa himself is half Tamilian. So even if  the Kerala government takes a stand that Tamil Nadu cannot interfere in this matter, as the pilgrim centre is located in Kerala, our locus standi is that since Lord Ayyappa’s mother hailed from the Pandiyan royal family, TN can naturally lay claim to the deity. Although, this does not mean, anyone can solely appropriate Ayyappa for his or her own, Ayyappa belongs to everyone; rather we all belong to him,” he elaborates.

But Jayalalithaa being a woman, will she decide in their favour?

Easwar avers: “Amma is a woman who is also a believer and culturally sensitive to prevalent temple traditions in the country. In the first place, it is very essential to highlight our core argument that we do not advocate any sort of gender discrimination here, as is being reported by some sections of the media. All we want is that the existing age regulations that are in place for women who want to visit the shrine be allowed to continue.”

According to Easwar, the fight is not at all about whether all women ought to be allowed into Sabarimala or not, but whether Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which gives one the right to practise and propagate a religion is in danger of being diluted.

“Sabarimala is one of the most secular temples in India with an Islamic shrine dedicated to Bavar (Ayyappa’s close friend) located within the main temple itself. And since Islam is against idol worship, it is Bavar's sword that has been enshrined there. This just goes to show that we do respect diverse beliefs, even while sticking to our own. Every place of worship has its own set of rules and regulations. What about the Attukal Pongala and the Chakkulathu Naari Pooja exclusively for women that do not let men of any age participate? Does that amount to discrimination against men?” Easwar asks.

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