Purification rites held after two women of menstruating age enter Sabarimala

A reminder of the practice of untouchability in the enlightening state of Kerala

Society

January 7, 2019

/ By / New Delhi



Angry women protests on streets for entry into the temple

Angry women protest on streets for entry into the temple

The closing of the Sabarimala temple for purification rituals following the entry of two women of menstruating age has put many questions forward like that of untouchability, social exclusivity, and the impeachment of law.

Nearly three months after the Supreme Court verdict opened the gates for women of all ages at Sabarimala, two women of menstruating age – Bindu and Kanakadurga, escorted by police officials in plain clothes, offered prayers at the temple. However, hours later, Kandararu Rajeevaru, chief priest of Sabarimala temple or the thantri, abruptly closed the temple doors for about an hour to conduct the purification rituals.

As one of the world’s largest economy, where the country is heading to challenge the global powers in various fields, it still seems to be fighting its own battles with orthodox beliefs and superstitions. A woman’s monthly period is used as a reason for barring them from practicing many religious rites or entering the place.

Religious exclusivity turned untouchability

The purification rites held by the temple’s chief are based on ‘Thanthra Samuchayam’, the tantric text quoted by temple thantri in the affidavit submitted in Supreme Court during the hearing of the case. The text says that the purification rituals should be performed after ‘defilement’ because it is believed that ‘asudhis’ (impurities) will endanger believers and drain the idol of its glory.

Though the temple priest explained that his action should not be treated as “any discrimination towards women”, the Supreme Court has clearly laid down in its September 28 verdict – which is not yet stayed and is fully operational — that any form of exclusion based on concepts of “purity and pollution” amounts to untouchability, a practice abolished under Article 17 of the Constitution.

On the contrary, even in the Hindu mythology, there is no mention of menstruation as a reason to forbid the entry of women.  Lord Ayyappa, the deity at the 800-year-old temple, was a bachelor god who took a vow of celibacy and set clear rules for the pilgrimage to seek his blessings. His mission was to answer the prayers of his devotees, without being distracted by any woman. This was the reason why the women were barred from entering the temple, not because of their menstruation or any mention of impurity associated with them.

Despite the Supreme Court’s order to end the ban on women’s entry into the temple, there has been brazen defiance of the judiciary. The country’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), declared the Supreme Court’s order as an assault on the Hindu tradition. Their constant insistence on prioritising Hindu religion over constitutional rights to equality for women is not only dangerous for our democracy, but also the constant protests being held in the state of Kerala is dampening the country’s reputation globally.

Every day protesters are coming to the streets to protest, leaving several injured. Right-wing groups have led street protests that have seen arson, stone-pelting and crude bombs thrown at left-wing party offices. Schools and colleges have also been closed in the mayhem.

There were also reports of BJP and Yuva Morcha activists attacking media persons outside the state secretariat. And now that the temple has been shut down temporarily after the protest, Tourism and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, says that only foreign tourists will be allowed to enter the temple, provided they adhere to rules and practices of the temple.

Fresh travel advisories have been issued by the US and UK missions in India citing massive protests and violence in Kerala over the Sabarimala temple issue. The United States Consulate General Chennai issued an alert following the protests and demonstrations being held around the temple,warning the US citizens to take reasonable necessary precautions and avoid crowded places.

 

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