ometimes, I strongly feel that the media is wantonly sending women reporters to boil the situation at Sabarimala. When these journalists are not devotees, was it really so pressing and unavoidable that they had to go right up to the shrine to do their ‘work’? In claiming their ‘rights’ such so-called liberals do not mind trampling on the rights of others! Kavitha Jakkal is one of the two under-50 women, who tried and failed to enter the Sabarimala shrine along with so-called feminist Rehana Fathima (Non-Hindu). They had to stop 500 metres away from the shrine after the head priest told the police that if the two women enter the temple, he will close the gates and stop puja. After that senior police officer S Sreejith informed the two women and they agreed to return. On her way back, Jakkal told the reporters that she is “very proud” for attempting to go to the Sabarimala Temple. Ms. Jakkal, a journalist from Mojo TV in Hyderabad, was in a bulletproof jacket and helmet and surrounded by 300 policemen as she walked from Pamba to Sannidhanam. She could dare to make this stunt because Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had supported her and assured security. Moreover, her visit was not out of devotion but it’s to gain TRP by hitting headlines.
I wish the same journalist is so much possessive of other important topics of Telangana. Having no much contribution or name in media, she could successfully manage to gain limelight by attempting to barge religious margins. On Thursday, one Libi C S, who claims to be a journalist from Kerala but is a CPM worker and runs CPM media website, also tried to reach Sabarimala but was stopped by Ayyappa devotees and protesters and had to be escorted back under police protection. The point to be noted is that this lady herself had claimed that she’s a non-believer and had also posted derogatory remarks about Lord Ayyappa on social media. It seems that most of these females who want to go to Lord Ayyappa are basically not Ayyappa devotees but are either Non-believers/Non-Hindus or want to hurt religious sentiments under the garb of the Supreme Court verdict in the name of gender justice. For centuries, Sabarimala has not allowed women of menstruating age – between 10 and 50 – to visit the temple as they believe the deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate. Last month, the Supreme Court ended that ban.
The ban is more of a social aspect than religious. The Supreme Court verdict is a good intervention, but there is a spiritual reason behind this ban in the temple. Sabarimala allows millions of women to visit the shrine every year. But there is an age bar; one can go there before the age of 10 and after the age of 50. Sabarimala doesn’t distinguish people on the base of religion unlike other temples in Kerala. It is not actually related to menstruation. Because I have seen girls menstruated before 10 and some ladies’ periods don’t stop even after 50 and they seek darshan.
Sabarimala is opened for a very few days in the entire year. In those days, every devotee visiting Ayyappa shrine are called as Ayyappa or swami and they all have to wear the same kind of clothing – Black dhoti with no shirt. This uniformity in devotees is a specialty of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple and no one questions it. Everyone should have the same kind of attire and hence the rich, poor, middle-class – everyone looks the same. No distinction at all! Before entering the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, there is another temple where the devotees go. It’s the temple for a goddess – Malikappurathamma. Malikappurathamma loved Ayyappan and wanted to marry him. But, Ayyappan said, “I have already decided to be a Naishtika brahmachari. So I’ll not be able to marry you. But, if there is a time when Kanni Ayyappans (First Time Sabarimala Visitors) stop coming to visit me, then at that time, I’ll marry you.” Till, then, Ayyappan did not want young women to come and see him. Because of the love and care that he had for Malikappurathamma. If we believe religious scripture then this was the decision taken and the tradition is followed for 1000s of years.
Apart from this, there is another story behind this ban; the temple belongs to Ayyappan (who is considered to be born of the union of forces of Lord Shiva and Vishnu as Mohini). Ayyappa is celibate so that he can focus on answering the prayers of his devotees. According to the religious scriptures, Ayyappa was born to destroy a female demon that, thanks to a boon, could only be vanquished by a child born of both Shiva and Vishnu. When Ayyappa fulfills his destiny by killing her, a beautiful woman emerges from the body. She had been cursed to live as a demon, but her killing reversed the curse. And that is why women do not go to Sabarimala. It is partly out of empathy for Malikapurathamma and her eternal wait and it’s also out of respect for Ayyappa’s commitment to answer the prayers of his devotees. Since he is celibate, he should not be distracted. Anyone who goes to Sabarimala knows this. The spiritual scripts are written ages ago and the tradition to follow is also very old and we, the Hindus, are conditioned to follow certain principles in the name of religion. There is no logic or reasoning to it. Now, it would be interesting to see what the SC says in its judgements after considering the conflict between the historical background and that of equality.
So picking up the logics from scriptures, the rules were formed. The devotees of Ayyappa wear beads around their neck and fast by following the strict regime for 41 days. They practice self-control during the whole period, which includes celibacy (no self-pleasure). The authorities are worried that if young women accompany them during their journey, they would feel distracted. Moreover, a woman during her menstrual cycle is considered to be impure. The 41-day fasting would include the menstrual cycle. But why is periods considered impure? We have blood running through all the veins of our body. Having periods is as natural as excretion. It is a gift from the Lord to women to sustain and nurture the human race. In these four days, she needs rest and care, climbing the temples and standing hours in the queue may not be advisable, so the deterrence of religious beliefs keep her away from such hazardous practices. The path to the Sabari Mountain was not easy. It was covered with full of dense forests. No sanitation facilities could be availed. It was not possible for common household women to travel with ease, so young women did not go. Slowly it became a tradition. The shrine was constructed in the mountain regions of the Western Ghats. If you date back 600 years, the whole place was a forest. More importantly, it was a tiger land. A tiger or a carnivore can smell out a woman in periods far easily than anybody else.
But times have changed. Now, there is no threat from wildlife. All facilities are available to the devotees so the tradition should also change. Changing traditions with changing times is also a beauty of the Indian religious practices.
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