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Why Women Of All Ages Be Allowed To Enter Sabarimala Temple
Sabarimala temple is one of the few temples that welcomes men and women of every caste. Sabarimala Devotees are uniformly in black. The colour ‘black’ symbolises that everyone is equal before Ayyappa, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or religion. But, women of ages between 10-50 are not allowed to enter the temple due to the popular belief that the menstrual cycle is signified as “impure”. First, it needs to be clarified that women of reproductive age are restricted from entering the temple is based on mythologies, not because of menstrual cycle. Second, there is recorded proof that women have entered the temple in the past. Third, degradation of women who have tried to enter the temple needs to be stopped.
According to the Puranas, Ayappa was born to destroy a female demon who could only be vanquished by a child born of both Shiva and Vishnu. When Ayappa fulfils his destiny by killing her, a beautiful woman emerges from the body named Malikapurathamma. She had been cursed to live as a demon, but her killing reversed the curse. Malikapurathamma asked Ayappa to marry her but he refuses and explains to her that his mission is to go to Sabarimala where he would answer the prayers of his devotees. However, he assures her, he will marry her when kanni-swamis stop coming to Sabarimala. She sits and waits for him at a neighbouring shrine near the main temple and is worshipped as Malikapurathamma. This is the reason why women of reproductive ages don’t go to Sabarimala and it is partly out of empathy for Malikapurathamma and her eternal wait and it’s also out of respect for Ayappa's commitment to answer the prayers of his devotees. Since he is celibate, he should not be distracted. For hundreds of years, devotees had bought into this story and it has no relation with menstruation or being unclean.
According to the case history in 1991, ‘S. Mahendran vs The Secretary, Travancore (1991), [AIR 1993 Ker 42]’ during Kerala High Court judgement, it was evident that young women in the reproductive age were not banned from entering the temple except during mandalakalam, makaravilakku and vishu seasons. This has been also evident from the former Devaswom (Travancore Devaswom Board) Commissioner Smt. S. Chandrika’s statement that “the entry of young ladies in the temple during monthly poojas is not against the customs and practices followed in the temple.” She also admitted that her granddaughter’s first rice feeding ceremony (choroonu) was held at Sabarimala temple. In addition, Tanthri Sri Neelakandaru testified that women belonging to the restricted age group of 10 to 50 years were prohibited from entering the temple even before 1950, although the statement made by Smt. Chandrika had said that the entry of young ladies in the temple was not against the customs and practices of the temple. As a result, the High court gave the final order that the restriction on women in the age group of 10-50 is in accordance with the customs of the temple and does not violate of Art 15, 25 and 26 of the constitution.
Despite mythological reasoning and facts that women could enter the Sabarimala temple, in the last few years a lot of misogynistic practices and remarks have been made by the priests and the Sabarimala temple chief. On 13th November 2015 Prayar Gopalakrishnan, the Sabarimala temple chief had addressed reporters at the Kollam Press Club, that women will be permitted to Sabarimala after the invention of a machine which can scan and judge their purity. The discrimination on the basis of women’s natural biological process of menstruation goes against the fundamental rights, against freedom from discrimination which is guaranteed by the constitution. The suggestion could also be viewed as restriction on access to public spaces such as the public roads from Pampa to Sannidhanam (Ayyappa temple) which is also against fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens of India irrespective of caste, creed and gender. Another example of misogynistic practice was the purification ceremony done in December 2011, when a purification ceremony was performed by the Temple tantri (tradiotnal high priest) at the Lord Ayyappa temple when a 35-year-old woman entered the shrine.
The entry of women into the Sabarimala temple has been a debatable issue for over many decades. But there was once a time where lower caste people were denied entry into the temples. The ban on women between ages of 10 to 50 in Sabarimala temple may also change because it is neither based on religion or historical. It seems merely based on the decisions of an all-male establishment which is free to stipulate rules which discriminate against women on the basis of biological and physical conditions intrinsic to their gender. In addition, if entry of women is allowed in other Ayappa temples then why impose restrictions on Sabarimala temple. If the restrictions against the Sabarimala temple is removed then millions of women will not have to wait a lifetime to visit the temple.
The source of the image is keralatourism.org