Over the past few months, the communist government in Kerala has been trying, by hook and crook, to forcefully destroy the age-old tradition of the Sabarimala temple. Here is a look at the list of major arguments that the communist party and the government have been bombarding the public with.
Sabarimala tradition is a case of gender discrimination against the ladies.
In Sabarimala, there is no restriction on the entry of women. There is only a restriction for ladies aged between 10 and 50 to enter the main temple. So, it is not a case of gender discrimination.
Hindu temples are places for “darshan” of God (literally, to see God). The idols placed inside a temple is not just a stone. It is installed there through an elaborate procedure called “prana prathishta”. Each temple idol is installed in a different way, and the person who installs the idol also recommends the instructions for how to worship the God in that form. Accordingly, in a thousand temple, you will find a thousand different ways of worshipping God in the form of the idol. In Sabarimala, the idol of Ayyappa has traditionally been worshipped as a naishtika Brahmachari, and one of the instructions for worship is that women in the age group of 10-50 should avoid visiting the temple.
According to Hindu scriptures, there is only one Supreme Reality (which we call as Paramatma or brahman) and that same reality is manifest in everything and everywhere. The Hindu saints and sages over many millennia have declared this truth through their direct experience. The same saints and sages have also consecrated umpteen number of temples throughout India, so that common men and women are able to experience peace and tranquillity by having the “darshan” of their favourite deity, which is installed in the form of an idol. In fact, temples are compared to as the stepping stones towards spiritual growth. For a large majority of the population, temples are their major connection with spiritual truth and human values. I have earlier wrote about how Sabarimala temple tradition has been inculcating some of the highest human values among Ayyappa devotees.
Sabarimala tradition is “brahminical hegemony”, allegedly prevalent in Hindu culture.
Although such statements could be used to whitewash the communal agenda of the communist government in Kerala, upon deeper analysis we will see a different picture. What the communists want to spread by this term of “brahminical hegemony” is a virulent form of class-based discrimination. Since, it was already proved that there is no gender discrimination, their next set of weapons in the armour is this. It is alleged that the tradition at Sabarimala was imposed by the so-called “brahmins” of upper caste to discriminate against lower caste. However, the tradition of women entry is applicable to both brahmin ladies as well as others.
The second part of this argument is that it is largely the “brahmins” who made the temple rules for the other sections of the society. This argument is also a fallacy, since, in Kerala, the greatest of social reformers, Sri Narayana Guru was from the most backward section of the society and he himself has consecrated temples and formulated the method of worship, which is applicable to all others who visit those temples (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_consecrated_by_Narayana_Guru). In our contemporary times, the highly respected spiritual master, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is also from the backward section and has consecrated more than 21 temples throughout India and abroad. Here too, the form of worship and the ways of worship are applicable to everyone.
We also see that during the traditional worship at the temples, the sacred “mantras” chanted from the Vedas (the Hindu scriptural texts) include prayers offered to the saints and sages. Some of the saints mentioned in these prayers were from the most backward sections of the society.
Also, according to Hindu culture, the system of caste is not based on birth. Caste is based on a persons aptitude and his work. For instance, there is a misconception that “shudras” as low-caste. However, we see that some of the most famous kings, such as Mauryas were from the so-called lower caste. In our times, all service people, including government servants would be “shudras”. The concept of caste does not offer any hierarchy. It is simply based on one’s work and aptitude. However, over many centuries, the misconception of upper-caste/lower-caste crept into the society, which was exemplified by the British empire for the purpose of colonization. However, many saints and sages, such as Sri Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamigal etc., were born in Kerala and spearheaded the social revolution to remove such misconceptions.
It is interesting to recall that there are temples in Kerala where only ladies are allowed, in some temples the men have to dress like ladies before entering the temple, and so goes the list of diversity in the temples and the methods of worship there. The Hindu tradition accepts heterogeneity and variety, and it has never forced upon an artificial homogeneity because in nature everything we see is unique in its own way. Hindu culture is a celebration of this diversity. Each human is unique and has different tastes, and accordingly, there are a billion paths to God for a billion Hindus.
It is to be noted that a large section of the society (around 80%) according to the latest surveys, are in support of preserving the traditions in Sabarimala and they do not feel any discrimination, either based on gender or class.
Entry of women in all age groups to the Sabarimala temple is progressive and will help in the empowerment of women.
Before coming to the conclusion that Sabarimala entry will help in solving the problems faced by women, let us look at what are the pressing problems
faced by the women in South India, and especially Kerala.
- Alcohol-related violence: Kerala is the largest consumer of alcohol. It is very common to see fully drunk men lying on the footpaths. And most of the men who are daily labourers or from lower income group spend a considerable amount of money on drinking. Domestic violence due to alcoholism is very common, and according to many reports, more than 3 million women are either harassed or beaten up by their drunkard husbands (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-14/an-indian-kerala-alcohol-feature/5260354).
- It is alarming that the communist government is only encouraging this trend by allowing more liquor shops to open, and even going to the extent of renaming roads so that the SC ruling on bars near highways do not apply to these liquor shops. Also, it is well-known fact that a big share of Kerala government’s revenue comes from the sales of liquor. Due to the lack of revenue from industries (industries avoid Kerala due to widely prevalent strikes and hartals), the Govt. cannot but encourage this trend of alcoholism among the population.
- Women security: It is well known that, in Kerala, women cannot go out on the streets after 9 PM. There are widely prevalent incidents of eve-teasing and harassment. If any women go out on the roads at night, they will be accused to be prostitutes.
- The government has failed miserably in ensuring that the dignity of women is held high in our society. On the other hand, the government has shown reluctance in arresting perpetrators of rape. A case in question is the royal treatment offered to the priests who are alleged of raping nuns. The government has also released many offenders on parole, who have been undergoing their punishment in jails. The most recent case is when some women tried to enter a mosque near Sabarimala, the police arrested them. While the same police escorted two left-wing extremist ladies to the temple of Sabarimala. Currently, there are around 7 policemen who are on duty to provide security to these two women, whereas there is still no action against the priest or other offenders who are out on paroles.
Although the communist government has been trying to project Sabarimala as a case for women empowerment, it is evident that Sabarimala is neither the cause for the problems faced by women nor can the entry of women in the age group 10-50 offer a solution to the ravaging problems faced by them in Kerala.
The extent to which this government has gone to prove their point is reminiscent of the ways of communist dictators such as Stalin.
- Even though there is a Supreme court ruling that prohibitory orders under Sec. 144 shouldn’t be applied in and around places of worship, the Govt. declared Sec. 144 (preventing the gathering of more than 4 people) in Sabarimala for more than 50 days.
- The Government sponsored a program called “Vanitha Mathil” (women’s wall) on Jan 1 2019, stating that is for women empowerment. The presiding committee members misled the women in Kerala saying that it has nothing to do with Sabarimala issue. Almost 4 million women participated in the program. However, later in the Supreme Court, the Govt. submitted that these women came for the program in support of the entry of women between age group 10-50 in Sabarimala. It was also widely alleged that women were threatened to participate in this program by the communist party members or lured by the offer of giving them 2 days of wage under the national employment guarantee program. Interestingly, many of the ladies who participated in this program had told openly in the media that they stand for protecting the current traditions in Sabarimala.
- More than 5000 Ayyappa devotees, including women, were arrested for peaceful protests during which they were only chanting “Swami Sharanam”.
- The Supreme court order was only a recommendatory order. That too, the SC told that such age bars should not be applicable for any Hindu devotee women who wished to enter the temple. However, the government tried to forcefully push women belonging to the communist party, Muslims and Christians, many of whom had openly abused Ayyappa on Facebook. Also, the government then went on to forge a list of 51 women in that age group who entered the temple, out of which as many as 15 names were later found out to be either men or old ladies, while others are still untraceable.
So, that makes everyone think – what is this Government up to? If Sabarimala is not about gender discrimination, or about caste-system, or about women empowerment, then why is this government hell-bent on destroying the traditions in Sabarimala. What is the agenda behind all these? Who is funding this massive onslaught on Hindu religious freedom? There are many questions that remain unanswered. However, we know from our history that, every time the Adharmic forces have risen and tried to destroy the Hindu culture, it has only been defeated by the Dharmic forces. That is the law of nature.