There's nothing 'Hindu' about it, writes the author

Kashi temple advisory is not religious but patriarchal in nature(CC BY-SA 2.0) FlickrHarsha K R
Blog Thursday, November 26, 2015 - 17:37

By Ritu Goyal

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple has a new diktat, that female tourists, especially foreigners wearing short dresses will be advised to wear saris to ‘cover up’ their bare legs. Saris will be made available free of cost outside the temple. Read the temple trust’s statement here.

On social media, the debate on Aamir Khan’s “Intolerant India” comment took precedence just as voices were being raised on the sari issue. A few social media enthusiasts sought to highlight this as a ‘Hindu’ diktat which is quite illogical.

When visiting Thailand as a tourist, many of us have been asked to cover up our bare arms and legs by temple authorities of shrines of Buddha as a mark of respect for the shrine. Did not see a single white tourist or Asian tourist complain. It is deemed acceptable because ‘rules’ are rules.

Bhutan, a country that is dotted with hundreds of Buddhist monasteries also follows this unwritten decree. Tourists are advised to wear jackets to cover their arms (even in half sleeved shirts) and zip up the jackets – again as a mark of respect. In all my visits to the country, I have not heard one murmur from the tourists who accept this as the ‘expected norm’.

While we all accept that respect is to be accorded to religious structures for the sake of local sentiment, we need to definitely draw the line between a diktat in general and a diktat for women. That is the problem with Kashi Vishwanath Temple’s new rule which is specifically aimed at women tourists.

Hypothetically, therefore, if a man were to enter the temple in a pair of shorts (which most European/American tourists prefer to dress in given India’s extreme weather) he would be allowed without a murmur, while the lady would have to drape a sari to gain access to the temple.  Women’s short dresses are construed as “revealing” while a man’s shorts are not. 

It sounds discriminatory and unfair. Instead of pointing out at the diktat being ‘Hindu’ perhaps the debate ought to be on how it is misogynistic and patriarchal.

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