Clearing Misconceptions Regarding the Sabarimala Temple Tradition
         Date: 17-Oct-2018
The recent Sabarimala verdict and dissenting devotees follow-up accentuate the vagueness which runs in the State institutions regarding the vibrant temple traditions
Vineetha Menon
 
Real women devotees of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala and South India have never felt that their right to pray at Sabarimala temple has ever stood violated. Therefore the recent Supreme Court verdict has put in angst and rage, the entire Hindu community of Kerala. The verdict pronounced lifting of a ban on entry of women into the temple, “giving women equal rights to pray at Sabarimala” and and “sought to end any gender discrimination”.
 
 Thousands of women devotees take part in the namajapa during a protest march in Kottayam (Kerala) on October 6
 
 However, when in reality, there existed no ban based on gender; the judgment has served in infringing the fundamental rights of the entire Hindu community in offering prayers according to specified customs. There is no jubilation among Hindu women devotees; on the contrary, they are distressed. The top Court’s decree is evidently from a feminist viewpoint and stands marked as yet another victorious chapter in the long string of episodes that have been scripted by Left-Jihadi-Evangelist nexus in destroying Sabarimala since yore. In short, other than the Hindu community, the verdict has provided relief to the breaking India forces.
 
Charges of Ban is Misunderstood
Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Sabarimala does not place any ban on the entry of women. Instead, women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry is owing to the bhava of the presiding deity. Every temple has its way of performing sacred rites and rituals, based on the bhava of the deity, with its constitution framed at the time of the consecration of its presiding deity. It includes the temple at Sabarimala, where Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity is a Naishtika Brahmachari. Contrary to the statements of “biological factor being the reason why women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry” which are being given wide credence by the nexus that aims the destruction of the sanctity of Sabarimala, menstruation is far from the real reason.

 
Save Sabarimala agitation goes global. Sri Ayyappa devotees protesting in Houstan (USA) 
 
It has never been discrimination against women, but a willing gesture by women devotees of Lord Ayyappa, in abstaining from entering the shrine from the age of 10, owing to the Lord’s bhava. The abstinence is maintained till the age of 50, an approximate time that women cross their youth. However, they continue being devotees of Lord Ayyappa, observing a 41-day vrata or set of extensive austerities along with the menfolk (who assume the title of Swamy during the 41 day period). The vrata includes a vow of celibacy for these 41 days. So when the male member undertakes the vrata, the entire family joins and participates in the observance.
Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Sabarimala does not place any ban on the entry of women. Instead, women between the age of 10 and 50 are denied entry is owing to the bhava of the presiding deity  The 41 days vrata has deeper significance when viewed from spiritual and social angles. Being humans, when one is prone to deep exposure of various vices, a vrata serves to purge oneself physically, mentally and above all, spiritually. Here, the 41 days of Mandala vrata, which includes abstinence from sex, is considered one of the most austere devotional efforts in the world. Known as Ayyappa vrata or Mandala vrata, it initiates a Swamy in undertaking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala, by seeking to attain purity at all levels- of the body, mind and soul. Therefore, the entire family including womenfolk, by ensuring that the 41 days vrata goes unimpeded and unimpaired, undergoes a process of cleansing, which is very important from an angle of the societal building. It is the assurance of a Hindu undergoing spiritual renaissance, which he knows is the root of character building and thereby nation building. The Court verdict serves to break the very sanctity of vrata, an age-old Hindu custom, by permitting the entry of womenfolk of all ages, into the temple. One wonders if the Court will have similar verdicts in connection with similar litigations if filed regarding religious austerities of other religious communities. The Court that spoke of gender discrimination, post-verdict, has in reality initiated discrimination, by denying Hindu womenfolk, their rights to worship the appropriate and desirable way.
 
Destructing Traditions
The current episode can be seen as being part of the larger unending saga that aims at the destruction of Sabarimala temple, which began at the dawn of the twentieth century, with the setting ablaze of the temple by Christian missionaries in 1950. The Kesava Menon Commission Report in connection with the Sabarimala Temple Arson case throws light on the unifying strength of the ancient temple. Even at a time, when untouchability prevailed in India, the temple at Sabarimala served to unite the Hindu masses, with divisions of caste being overlooked when one entered the temple as a devotee of Lord Ayyappa. The temple thus attracted scores of Hindu devotees, not only from Kerala but from all over South India, which was a strongly deterring factor for Christian missionaries in furthering their nefarious conversion agenda. The commission report, which lays threadbare the findings in connection with the disastrous fire that destroyed the entire temple never saw the light and remains untouched by successive governments that ruled Kerala.
 
The commission reports clearly state that the fire was intended to sabotage the temple, with the deity having umpteen destructive cuts. From then on there have been several attempts at destroying the temple, subjecting the sacred shrine to unending controversies. Prominent amongst them have been planting of a cross at Nilakkal, to establish the existence of a fictitious church, annual rumour mongering regarding Mullaperiyar dam at the precise moment of Sabarimala season resulting in never-ending altercations and wrangling between Lord Ayyappa’s devotees of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
(The writer is a Bengaluru-based author)