The Sabarimala temple’s ban on entry of women has been questioned by the Supreme Court on Friday. “In the Vedas, Upanishads or scriptures there is no discrimination between and men and women. This has cropped up historically,” the court said.
The Supreme Court gave six weeks’ time to the board of the Sabarimala temple in Kerala to reply on why women would not be allowed inside the place of worship.
The Supreme Court acted on a petition which has sought entry for all women and girls in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa; women between the age of 10 and 50 are banned from entering the ancient temple as it does not allow girls after attaining puberty to enter the premises.
A three-judge Bench led by Justices Dipak Misra left the State government and the temple board almost speechless on the issue.
“Can you deprive a mother?” Justice Misra asked at one point during the hearing on the tradition followed in the temple of depriving women entry into Sabarimala.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, intervening on behalf of an association of law students in a batch of petitions challenging the prohibition of entry to women of a certain age into the temple, said there are “women brahmacharis too in this world.”
“Celibacy is not the exclusive privilege of men. Article 25 of our Constitution says “throw open” the doors of public religious spaces to all human race. Are you saying that we are not part of the human race?” Ms. Jaising asked in court.
Justice Misra said religion is different of cult culture.
“Cult culture has a core group. Entry is restricted to others considered as outsiders. Religion is wholistic – Sanathana Dharma – and includes one and all without discrimination of sex, caste and gender,” Justice Misra observed.
Appearing for the State government, senior advocate V. Giri submitted that when a man prepares to go for the Sabarimala pilgrimage, the entire family, including the women and children, “co-operate.”
“Over centuries, this prohibition has been ingrained in the minds of the devotees,” Mr. Giri submitted.
KK Venugopal who appeared for board said that asked why the practice which was in place for 1,000 years was being questioned now. “The whole of Sabarimala hill is sanctified and women can’t enter,” he said.
The court asked the Temple Board and the Kerala government to provide details on when the practice of disallowing entry to women in the temple began and submit historical reasons behind the discrimination.
The Kerala government had told the Supreme Court that banning entry of women of menstrual age in historic Sabarimala temple in the state is a “matter of religion” and it is duty bound to “protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees”.