Unholy and Unconstitutional: the ban of women from Sabarimala
Ban on menstruating women entering the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple is a violation of core Indian Spiritual values and the Constitution of India.
Perverted practitioners of status-quoist traditionalism have been opposing the entry of menstruating women for worship in the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala. This ban effectively seeks to curtail entry of the largest denomination of its devotees annually. It is a step that violates, knowingly or unknowingly, the core values of Hindu Spiritualism, postulated in the fundamental, foundational scripture of Hinduism, the Rig Veda (1500 BC). Apart from the transcendent text, the basic ideals of the Constitution of India, the Fundamental Rights, Duties and the Preamble contained within it, have also been violated by this ban imposed on women devotees.
Hindu scholars and devotees of the various Hindu sects have been unanimous in emphasizing the imperative of adhering to the lofty ideals contained in the Vedas. The Rig Veda states that the Earth is upheld by the truth while the Heaven is upheld by the Sun (X-85-1).
All those opposing the entry of females in Sabarimala temple are obviously going against the truth and logic of Biology. All phenomena of nature are expressions of God’s will; so is the menstruation cycle in women. Holding this as a ground for not allowing women to have Darshan (direct vision) of Lord Ayyappa is a cruel contradiction, limiting both the act of worship and the form of Divinity to a male action and vision. Lord Ayyappa, a symbol of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty Mythology manifest in the Dharma Sanstha (Lord Ayyappa) goes far beyond this narrow vision.
Lord Ayyappa has the combined divinity from two of the Hindu Triumvirate Gods – Lord Shiva as father and Lord Vishnu in his female form of enchantress, Mohini as mother. How can a woman, who represents the female aspect of sanctity and motherhood be kept away from offering their pious devotion and spiritual aspirations to Lord Ayappa? The Lord is called Hari (Vishnu) Hara (Shiva) Suta (son).
The restriction of women from visiting Sabarimala Shrine may have initially stemmed from the poor infrastructure and inaccessible roads leading up to the shrine during its inception in the 8th century AE. Ayyappa worship was started after the advent of Islam in Kerala, in the 7th century, and the deity’s close friend was a Muslim trader – Baber, addressed as Vavar Swamy in Malayalam, whose temple / Dargah is adjacent to the Sanctum sanctorum, the Garbha Griha, of Lord Ayyappa.
The Rig Veda exhorts all for being receptive to knowledge. “Let noble thoughts come to us from everywhere (I 89 – 1).”
Science and technology has, over the centuries improved access to the Shrine of Sabarimala. Sabrimala has millions of visiting devotees who return for the worship at the Shrine with overwhelming devotion. Preventing women devotees from offering prayers to Lord Ayyappa on grounds of their feeble physico-mental conditions and citing insufficient safety and security in the Sabarimala hills is utterly baseless.
If the posturing against women devotees arises from apprehensions that the young women devotees will become objects of temptation for male worshippers, then any male devotee nurturing such unholy thoughts is ineligible and unfit to visit Sabarimala shrine. It is not the women, but the men who need to be restrained.
A reference to a widely quoted advice in “Hitopadesha” (Gems of friendly advice) epitomising the essence of Hinduism is relevant. The sloka proclaims “A truly knowledgeable person is one who treats other mans’ property as mere clod, perceives other women to be like one’s mother and realizes that his own soul (Atma) is permeating in all living beings.” Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the spiritual Lord? History does not testify to such a contention.
Pure and ideal Hinduism, as explained in the Vedas and Upanishads, as opposed to the condemnable lop-sided sub-scriptures of Smrutis by Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalka and so on and the Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, have no incompatibility with post Renaissance modern values of democracy, liberalism, equality, fraternity, dignity and human rights. Non-intrusive Hinduism allows its followers to choose any God and accepts that there could be multiple paths, all equally divine, leading to God. In fact, the brigands who demolished Babri Masjid in 1992 had indulged in a sacrilegious un-Hindu crime.
Moreover, it does not specify any dress code, language or prescribed food for worshippers. Non-vegetarianism is acceptable and Lord Ram, Krishna, Saint Rama Krishna, Swami Vivekananda and so on were all non-vegetarians. Hinduism is even accommodative and flexible to Atheism as a view and as a legitimate intellectual pursuit. Atheist religions of Buddhism and Jainism flourished for many centuries in India. There were no serious objections in declaring Lord Buddha as one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, by replacing Lord Balram, the cousin of Lord Krishna.
The unequivocal spiritual destination of Hinduism is the utilisation of every moment of life towards one’s self through divine realisation, enlightenment, empowerment and value–addition. Simultaneous efforts to deepen and enhance empathy towards all living beings by enhancing their welfare and well-being are initiated in this religion. The goal of life is not denied to women by the Hindu scriptures. So by denying them the right to worship in the Ayyappa temple, the traditionalists are negating Hindus spiritual laws.
The methodology of pursuit of knowledge (Jnana Yoga) paths of self–less action (Karma Yoga) and deep devotion by sacrificing ones ego (Bhakti Yoga) are tools for self-realisation. Many women have proved their merit in all these fields. Avvyar (2nd Century BCE in Tamil Nadu), Merabai (Rajasthan) Mata Amrutananda May (Kerala) are illustrative instances. The perversions of present day Hinduism is from the exclusivist, pseudo-fundamentalist radical fringe elements, acting as foot-soldiers of the Sangh Parivar and subverting the quintessential Hindus spiritualism, through unethical and even violent means.
Similar elements among the followers of Islam, like ISIS, Al Queda and Taliban are de-spiritualising the holy religion preached by Muhammed the Prophet (pbuh) Salallahou Alayhe Wasallam
The human physico-mental personality, in the ascending order, is categorized by Bhagavad Gita, as
1. Body 2. Five Senses 3. Mind-centre of emotions 4. Intellect and the Atma (Soul). Bhagavad Gita, Sloka 42 of chapter 3 says “The senses are said to be superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind; and what is superior to the intellect is Atma.” So the body condition of a devotee is not relevant for his/her seeking self-realisation or divine grace through visits to the temple or any of three yogas.
Misplaced sensitivity displaced by sexist, misogynist Hindu orthodox groups, stressing on self-created, ill-founded unscientific menstrual taboos, for preventing women visiting Sabarimala temple is in total violation of the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.
How can the biological fluids from a women’s body can be anathema, while the male devotees voluntarily discharging semen due to pressure of testosterone (night emissions/wet dreams) during their stay in Sabarimala temple premises; be allowed? Are males superior biologically, spiritually and from a religions perspective?
No ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala.
"In a Bhagavati temple in Kerala – Chenganoor/Alleppy District – as well as in Kamakhya temple (Assam), red spots appear once a year on the robes of the Godess to this date”. So when Mother Godess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what logic and scriptural or religious authority, can women in a similar condition, be deprived of their inalienable right to worship before the Sabarimala shrine?"
Significantly in “Tripura Sundari Ashtakam”, an invocation of Mother Godess, authored by Adi Shankaracharya, the deity is portrayed as a menstruating woman. The website of Sri Kamakoti Mandali ( www.kamakotimandali.com ) interpreted the 6th Sloka of this Ashtakam as follows “The Devi is described as being habituated in a blue sari with red spots, as the first menstrual flow, shows itself when a woman is ready to bear, so on the blue welkin (sky or heaven), the Devi’s raiment (clothing), signs appear, heralding creation.
In a Bhagavati temple in Kerala – Chenganoor/Alleppy District – as well as in Kamakhya temple (Assam), red spots appear once a year in the robes of the Godess to this date”. So when Mother Godess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what logic and scriptural or religious authority, can women in similar condition, be deprived of their inalienable right to worship before the Sabarimala shrine?
We should endorse a proposal to send the Kerala Temple authorities for a crash course on the basics of Hindu Spiritualism, Tantric worship and attributes of a true devotee (Bhakta) as per Narada Bhakti Sutra. In Chengannor Devi temple, the Godess in menstrual cycle is offered special poojas by devotees.
At the entrance of Sabarimala temple, the Upanishadic dictum “Tat Twam Asi – That Art Thou – one of the four Mahavakyas of Hinduism – is prominently displayed. These words from Chandogya Upanishad (6-8-7) tells the devotee that “what you are seeking is within yourself” in the form of Atma (Soul). This also would establish the senselessness in giving any importance to the bodily condition of a devotee, though there are no regulations in fixing the standards of physical hygiene, clothings etc (all within individual control) as a condition for appearing before the deity.
Inexorably, the sole imperative attribute of a true devotee is the purity of the heart, as testified by Rig Veda thus, “If the heart is impure and malicious, then the God’s worship will also be unfruitful. Therefore God’s worship must be carried out with a ‘nishpap’ (sinless) heart. “VIII/61/11) Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount declares” Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! (Bible, ST Mathew 5-8)
The famous Sanskrit aphorism, Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktayae, was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, as motto of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Kerala temple managers should opt for liberating women from ‘spiritual slavery’ imposed by male chauvinism for perpetuation of their domination.
The above delineated scriptural ethos does not sanction, support or justify any ban on women of productive age from the worship of Lord Ayyappa in the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple. Further, the Constitution of India in Article 13, declared illegal all laws including Ordinances, customs, useage, rule, regulation, order and notification, which are inconsistent with the provisions of Part III (Fundamental Rights).
Let us hope that the Apex Court will accept the valid grounds advanced by petitioners seeking entry of woman devotees in Sabarimala temple at par with men. Simultaneously “true Hindus” should campaign for removing gender prejudice and the purposeful implementation of the Vedic vision as noted below.
“Come together, all of you, speak in one voice, know with one mind, even like the Gods, who, of yore knew with one mind and together had their share of enjoyment”.
“Together may they utter the mantra, may they unite together, may their mind be one and their consciousness mingle. I utter the same mantra with you all, ‘with you all equally I make the offering.”
“May your yearning be one, may your heart be one, may your mind be one, so that your union may be perfect. (Rig Veda X – 191-23)
(R.B. Sreekumar, Former Director General of Police, Gujarat)
[The article has also been published here:
Date: January 27,2016 ]