By Rahul Easwar
The argument that women are barred from entering the Sabarimala shrine is farcical and untrue. The absolute truth is that lakhs of women come to Sabarimala every year. That itself goes to prove that this whole debate is misplaced and based on a wrong premise. Restrictions are in place only for those women aged between 10 and 50 and this is primarily due to “Naishtika Brahmacharya Pratishta” wherein the reigning deity of the Sabarimala shrine is an absolute celibate.
Many people - especially feminists - claim that Sabarimala discriminates against women with active menstrual cycles.
But we have never based our opposition on the assumption that women are impure during their periods or that menstruation in itself is an impure thing. There has never been any insinuation that women are unable to observe the mandatory 41 days of religious penance required to undertake the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Such specious arguments are put forward deliberately by left-leaning feminists, with the sole purpose of misleading the masses.
All we seek to put forth before the apex court is that:
-Every temple has a unique "pratishta sankalpa" i.e. the choice of a particular aspect of a particular deity for worship.
-The rules & regulations of a particular temple or pilgrimage are based on who the reigning deity is.
If God is omnipresent, why then go to a place of worship? It is because places of worship are spiritual spaces designed to create a specific spiritual experience.
There are hundreds of Ayyappa temples which allow all women - age no bar - because those temples have a different “pratishta” concept.
Just take a look at the Attukal Pongala – the female version of the Sabarimala pilgrimage. It has even found mention in the Guinness book of World records for being the largest congregation of women on earth with over 30 lakh women offering pongala to the Attukal Devi, a goddess worshipped in Kerala. Here, women enjoy a privilege that is given to no male.
When it comes to a festival like the Pongala, no one seems to cry discrimination…why? Differentiation is not discrimination. We need to be able to celebrate diversity and pluralism in religious worship with something more than just scientific reasoning and mere constitutional clauses.
The unfortunate presence of male chauvinism in our country does not automatically justify female chauvinism - especially in this case - where religious beliefs are involved.
Editor's note: Senior journalist BRP Bhaskar disagrees and says Sabarimala and his history is mired in lot of myth and controversies.
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