If you have been following the news, you must have come across the issue of Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple. What is it? And what’s the controversy?
The Story and History
If we go by the mythology, Ayappa, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu was born for the purpose of slaying a female demon. When Ayappa killed the demon, a beautiful woman emerged from its carcass as the reversal of a curse. Now free of the curse, the woman, known as Maalikapurathamma, asked Lord Ayappa to marry her but he denied since he was a Brahmachari. However, he promised to marry her when Kanni-swamis (initial pilgrims of Sabarimala) stopped coming to the shrine. The promise was made so that the Lord can take care of his devotees without distraction and when there are no more ‘new’ devotees (Kanni-swamis), he will be able to reciprocate her feelings.
Here the tradition comes into play. Women between the ages of 10 to 50 avoided going to the temple out of empathy for the lord and Maalikapurathamma. Thus the earlier verdict passed in 1991 that prevented the entry of young women into Sabarimala was based on a mix of cultural and traditional values and, to a minor capacity, the ideals of the time.
On September 28, 2018, the then Chief Justice of India, Deepak Misra ruled, “Rule 3(b) of 1965 Rules is a clear violation of the right of Hindu women to practice religion under Article 25. The right guaranteed under Article 25 has nothing to do with gender or physiological factors.”
Out of five judges on the bench, four gave the verdict in favor of allowing women into Sabarimala.
Whether the Right to Equality and the Right to Practice Religion, both comes under the fundamental rights? Should equality reign supreme over faith and tradition? In the contemporary age, there is no room for double standards and equality should, without any doubt, reign supreme. But there is more to be considered here. Before the 1991 verdict, women of the particular age bracket ‘chose’ not to enter the temple out of respect for the lord and Maalikapurathamma. It showed the devotion to the legend by the devotees, women included, and not discrimination. It should also be noted that woman above 50 and girls under 10 were regular pilgrims to the shrine.
The root of the matter is this: tradition became a law and that law was unconstitutional. The paradox, however, is that true female devotees of the lord would prefer to maintain the tradition and thus abstain from visiting the temple until they are past 50 years of age.
What do you think of the court ruling? Tell us in the comments below.