Author, Femina Vinod Janodia is a student of TY.BLS/LL.B at Asmita College of Law, University of Mumbai, Maharashtra.
The Indian Constitution allows the Indian Citizens the freedom to practice any religion under Article 25 but at the same time when those religious sentiments are hurt of the people of that particular religion, it is also punishable under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.
What is Sabarimala Temple? :
The Sabarimala Temple is a popular Hindu pilgrimage centre of Lord Swamy Ayyappa built in 12th century which is situated in Kerala. Lord Ayyappa is believed to be a celibate who was born out of the union between Lord Shiva and the mythical Mohini (also an avatar of Lord Vishnu), every year over 50 million devotees visit the pilgrimage centre.
Religious practice by men to seek blessings from Lord Ayyappa:
Strict religious adherence is practiced by men to receive the blessings of Lord Ayyappa. First, the devotees observe a 41-day penance before visiting the deity in the temple. They should also avoid any physical abstinence from physical pleasures and other family ties and should live like a celibate or ‘brahamachari’, The devotees have to bathe in the holy river Pampa, and adorn themselves with three-eyed coconut and ‘aantha’ garland and then should bravely steep climb 18 stairs of Sabarimala temple. Where they seek for blessings from Lord Ayyappa, and as same is been in practice since centuies.
Restricted age of Women:
As Lord Ayyappa is considered to be a Celibate, the women from ages 10-50 years are strictly prohibited from entering the religious temple as they are either married or have entered the menstruation stage and it is being practiced about since 800 years.
Justice Indu Malhotra’s view:
The 4-1 verdict held that existing ban on entry of women is gender discrimination. The only woman Judge on the bench favored protection of religious practices. Justice Malhotra stated that entertaining PILs challenging religious practices could cause harm to the secular fabric of the country.
- Right to Equality (Article 14): The PIL filed in the Supreme Court for allowing women’s entry in Sabarimala Temple contented that the Sabarimala Temple violated Article 14 – Right to Equality under the Constitution of India, to that point Justice Malhotra said that Article 25 (Freedom of Religion) specifically provides the equal entitlement of every individual to freely practice their religion. Equality in matters of religion must be viewed in the context of the worshippers of the same faith.
- Gender Equality: When the Petitioners argued that it was a gender inequality, Justice Malhotra observed that there are 1000 temples of Lord Ayyappa where women are not denied entry.
- Abolition of Untouchability: Justice Malhotra observing petitioners’ argument based on women being treated as untouchables under Article 17 which abolishes untouchability, Justice Malhotra concluded that the Article 17 referred to the practice of untouchability as committed in the Hindu community against harijans or people from depressed classes, and not women, as contended by the Petitioners.
Supreme Court’s Order:
And after a PIL been granted for allowing women to enter the Sabarimala Temple, stating that it was a gender discrimination against women under the Indian Constitution for not allowing them to enter the Temple, but at the same time the devotees of the Sabarimala Temple stated that it has also hurted the religious sentiments of millions of Hindus in India under the same Constitution of India. Hence, the first women tried to enter the Sabarimala Temple believed to be were: A Muslim woman, 2 Christian women and a Communist woman.
Hindu’s belief on Sabarimala Temple:
The Sabarimala Temple is a highest respected pilgrimage centre of Hindus after the entery of women allowed in the Temple hurted the religious sentiments and which is against the Hindu religion which is practiced since the 12th century.
Hindu women are against the entrance of women in the Temple which they believe will hurt their Lord Ayyappa’s purity if a woman who is in menstrual age or is married visits the Temple.
There are many Temples in India where males are also restricted in entering the temples and where only females are allowed like the Attukal Temple in Kerala, Chakkulathukavu Temple in Kerala, The Lord Brahma Temple, where married men are not allowed to enter the Temple, The Bhagwati Maa Temple, the Santoshi Vrat which is only followed by females, where the females fast and are restricted to eat sour food for blessings of Deitiess Santoshi. Stating that every Hindu Temple has it’s own history, customs and beliefs, which the devotees are expected to follow the same religiously.
Kerala Hindu Women on entry allowed in Sabarimala Temple:
Kerala women didn’t have any issues regarding their disallowance in the Lord Ayyappa’s Temple. Women in Kerala have protested against the women entry allowed in Lord Ayyappa’s Temple after the Order by the Supreme Court. They have come in thousands of number on the streets of Kerala against the verdict of the Supreme Court.
It is sensible that when the women of their own religion don’t want to enter according to their religious beliefs in the Sabarimala Temple, the women of other beliefs have no right to interfere in the religion of other people hurting their religious sentiments, traditions, customs which have been followed by centuries which was also stated by Justice Malhotra.
Stating that millions of Hindu women in one place and other 5 – 6 other belif’s women who do not follow Hindu religion on the other place and doesn’t understand the religion and the story of Lord Ayyappa which they have no relation to it.
India: A Democratic Country:
When the same is protested against such religious beliefs or customs which they have no relation then what is the point of Article 19 (1) (a) being the freedom to practice any religion.
India being a democratic country has the power to go for the views of majority of people in that State. The Hindu women are against the women entry allowed in Lord Ayyappa’s Temple, and claims that no one can interfere in the own religion where the people of other beliefs don’t know their religion. Stating that it is in the power of the Supreme Court to review the Petition and pass a valid judgment concerning the practicing Hindu devotees.
Hinduism Logic behind the entry against the Women in Sabarimala Temple:
Sabarimala is a Tantric Temple. Tantric knowledge deals with more intensifying energies rather than Vedic. Women having menstrual cycles enters into such Temples can cause harm to their body and eventually it harms their mind and can’t enter into dimension of their soul according to Hinduism.
That is why women from ages 10-50 are not allowed to enter the Temple because of the energies present in the Temple of Sabarimala. According to Hindu beliefs Temples are made to enhance and raise your energies from joining hands to pray and to ringing the bells in the temple everything has a spiritual connection and a scientific reason behind it.
Women at the time of menstruation are not allowed to enter any Temple because energies are so active at this period to take out the impure blood from body and energies work in a different way at this time. So the women body gets confused when they enter into Temple which leads disharmony in mind and block to enter the dimension of Soul.
According to the story of Sabarimala Prince Manikandan, he realized the Spiritual truth and decided to be part of Paramaatma through the path of Yoga, that’s why Lord Ayyappa was sitting in a Yogic form and if we notice and observe that the deities in Hinduism are sitting in yogic form, believed by the Hindu Scholars.
Pray to Hon’ble Supreme Court by Kerala Hindus:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court must review the Judgment passed and also review the Petitions against the entrance of women in Sabarimala Temple and not allow the women from ages 10-50 years.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court must also hear the Hindu Scholars with regard to the Sabarimala Temple and then pass an Order where no religious sentiments of millions of Hindus.
Author’s opinion on Women’s entry to Sabarimal Temple:
Being a woman myself but I don’t think that I should fight for Woman Empowerment here. Lord Ayyapa in that Temple is a teenage Brahmachari. Men who visits the Temple follow strict rules for selective days and wear the Ayyappa Mala. During that time, they call women as Matha and men as Swamy, they also do not consume alcohol or smoke including not touching women is a part of their training. It is training for men to improve themselves in many ways just like purifying your Soul. After being allowed for women to enter the Temple is just like the Apasara trying to disturb the meditation of Rishis and even as like a feminist trying to get her daughter’s admission in a boys’ school just because the school is good.
The Supreme Court must therefore hear the Hindu Scholars and their beliefs after reviewing the Petition pass the Judgment without hurting the old practicing religious sentiments, customs and beliefs of the people of that particular religion.