SHOULD COURT INTERFERE IN INDIA’S SABARIMALA TEMPLE REGULATION?

Sabarimala Temple (Credit: Travancore Devaswom Board)

by N.S. Venkataraman        30 July 2018

Sabarimala temple in Kerala is one of the holiest of the temples in India, where lakhs of Hindus from all over India and abroad visit the temple during specific period every year. What is particularly noteworthy is that the devotees observe the strict code of conduct before visiting the temple and such strict discipline followed by the devotees elevate them to a high thought process, as they offer their prayers at Lord Ayyappa temple. The devotion and discipline of the devotees should be seen to be believed.
This temple of great importance observe some strict regulations of which one is the restriction on women in the certain age group from visiting the temple. The restriction is not on girl children or senior women.

This tradition of restricting the women’s entry into a certain age group has been challenged by some “activists” in the court, terming the practice as discriminatory and not doing gender justice.
Unfortunately, instead of refusing to entertain such case that involve religious sentiments and the practice existing over several centuries, the Supreme court, which is the highest court of India, is hearing the case and even as the proceedings are going on, some observations made by the judges cause concern.
All over the world, traditional practices exist in places of worship, and it is so in the case of all religions, Such practices are followed over centuries since the devotees believe in such practices out of faith and irrespective of the fact whether they are logical and scientifically appropriate at present.

For example, in the case of the Sikh religion, for entering Gurudwara, the devotees have to cover their head. In the case of Islam religion, millions of innocent goats are being slaughtered at the time of Bakrid festival.

There are many temples in India like Attukkal Bagavathi temple in Kerala where women alone can enter the temple and men are not allowed.

So many other examples of traditional practices concerning various religions can be readily cited. Who can question them, when the devotees have belief and faith in them?

While the courts readily hear the cases in the case of any issues regarding Hindu temples, rarely such cases are admitted in the case of other religions for whatever reasons.

While the Hindu temples which have large income are taken over by the governments in India and are brought under government control and administration, religious places belonging to other religions such as Churches, Mosques, Gurudwaras are never encroached by the government. What is the logic in this? Should not the same approach be followed in the case of places of worship of different religions?
Such discriminatory practices have to be pointed out here, since Sabarimala temple in Kerala alone, which has lakhs of Hindu devotees, is being targeted by the so-called “activists and reformists.”

In the case of Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala in Kerala, restrictions do exist in the case of women of certain age group entering the temple. However, there are so many other temples for Lord Ayyappa in India and abroad, where women of all age groups are allowed free entry. Therefore, it should be recognized that there are no anti-women sentiments in Lord Ayyappa temples.

It should be noted that the practice in Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala is not against women as such but only women in certain age group and therefore, it cannot be considered gender injustice in any way. Entry of women is not banned for their entire lifetime. Women of all age group are free to visit and pray in any other Lord AYYAPPA TEMPLE anywhere else in the world at any time.

It is high time that the Supreme Court realizes that it has to respect the faith and practices of devotees of all religions, which are historically evolved. There is no point in talking about logic about such traditional practices, so far as it does not involve any physical or mental violence.

The court would be hurting the sentiments of millions of Hindus, which would also include Hindu women , if it thinks that it has the power to control the practices in the single temple and uproot the faith of the lakhs of devotees in the rituals and practices of this temple, that are in vogue for several centuries.
Let Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala remain out of reach of the politicians, the so-called “activists” and the “women crusaders” and the judges and let the traditional practices in this great temple continue undiluted in its glorious ways.

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