Disheartened. Not merely because they lifted the ban. It’s more because I see the irony that’s about to happen.
A person who has read Hindu scriptures and understood it for what it is would know that as per the Hindu faith, we do not need a temple or an idol to pray. All we need is our mind and a will to concentrate on the Almighty. And yet, we have hundreds of thousands of temples all around the world. Each of them has a story behind why they are where they are. It could be the birthplace of a much revered God. It could be a place where some great event has happened. It is basically a place that learned people of yore have found some kind of divine vibrations. Depending on the age of the temple, these vibrations get intensified because of the chanting of mantras and all that over centuries. Mantras are not just words. They are sound vibrations that wield immense power that many people would not know about. I would say this is why we feel a sense of deep calm when we visit some of the oldest temples in the world as opposed to the newer fancy ones. There is an umbrella of positive vibrations at places reinforced over time with prayer chants. Even within your own home, if you have a prayer place, do you not feel a sense of calm when you go near there? Now imagine this at the magnitude of a centuries-old temple.
When we visit any temple, we listen to the legend behind the temple to understand the story about how the temple came to be. Each temple has its own tale, most of which happened even before written scripts were in place so as to write it down and preserve it for future Urban Naxals to ask for and demand authenticity of the story. The stories and legends passed on through generations and each generation handed it over to the next generation with the same veneration as the generation before them. Sabarimala also has a story of its own. A story that every Malayali Hindu child grew up listening to. The story of how a valiant 16-year-old prince defeated an evil demon and threw her down to the earth from the skies, how he became best friends with a Muslim Arab merchant and how he asked the woman who wanted him to marry her to wait for the day when no new pilgrim comes to see him… every word and every tale holds a special place in the heart of each and every one of us. It’s a legend that is so precious to each and every one of us.
Most people outside of Kerala would not even know all this. What do they know or care about Malikappurathamma or Vaavar or anyone? For them, this is a temple that has banned women from the age of 10 and 50 from entering it. End of story. But that’s not the end of the story.
Any person who is a true devotee of Lord Sabarimala Ayyappan will not even dream of breaking the tradition, Supreme Court verdict or not. The only ones who are most likely to go are the new-gen rationalists and attention seekers who don’t have an ounce of devotion in them and are just doing it for the sake of rebellion. I’m sorry but I don’t get the point behind all this fiasco. The women of Kerala have always had a voice of their own. Our social makeup has always been different from the rest of the country. Malayali women have always stood up for anything that we have deemed unfair and have won every battle we’ve fought… the right to cover our chests is one of the prime examples. This battle happened at a time when women in most other cultures would not dare to step out of the morality threshold laid down by the men in their family. So if we truly felt discriminated, we would have raised our voice against it eons ago. The customs in Sabarimala have remained this way since centuries and the women of Kerala took great efforts to see to it that their men were able to complete the pilgrimage in the most devout way possible.
If this custom was applicable to every temple across Kerala… or even if there was a ban on women entering any Ayyappa temple at all, then I’m sure there would have been protests ages ago and the system would have been done away with. This is just one Ayyappa temple (among the hundreds of Ayyappa temples dotted all over the state) where women are not permitted to go. If it is Lord Ayyappan that they want to pray to, what does it matter if they pray to him at the local shrine or at Sabarimala? But we have people targeting Sabarimala only. Why? Why this twisting of facts to make it appear as though this is a form of gender discrimination? That too, ironically enough, in a state which boasts of having minimal or no gender discrimination. If you don’t smell something sinister here, there’s something wrong with your olfactory senses.
Some people callously compare this to ‘social evils’ like Sati. I wonder if they even know the gravity of their accusation. Sati involved forcefully taking or asking a woman to take her own life because she does not have the right to live in a world that does not have her husband in it. And burning her alive! Oh God! Show me at least one case of Sati in Kerala. At least one. You won’t find it. Because such a horrible custom was unheard of in Kerala. When we studied about it at school, it was more like reading a horror story. That’s not the way we treat our women. Men and women are societal equals in Kerala. We always have been. And then we hear this nonsensical allegation that ‘not allowing women between the ages of 10 and 50’ at Sabarimala is a clear indication of rampant misogyny. Goodness me! Seriously?!!
Many social media keyboard warriors are desperately trying to make this entire issue as though the people of Kerala discriminate against women going to a temple because of menstruation. Or because we think that menstruation is an evil. Such statements only make me laugh. And that stupid hashtag – #HappyToBleed. God! Who isn’t happy to bleed, pray tell me? It’s just an indication that our reproductive system is hale and hearty. Oh and that we didn’t mess up anything and get pregnant. But adding this hashtag for the Sabarimala issue was one of the most ignorant things that I have ever seen. You’re bleeding and you’re super thrilled about it. Good for you. Menstruation is nothing but a week-long uncontrollable ejection of a body waste… like urine or feces. What’s there to burst crackers about it? It is smelly, it makes the body tired and the person grouchy. That’s about it. #HappyToBleed it seems! Pffft!
But how is that even relevant here? In pure Malayali analogical terms, this is like comparing a lamb and a fox. Or in pure English analogical terms, this is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Women of reproductive age not climbing the Sabarimala hill is a matter of respecting an ancient legend. A legend that forms the very foundation of the story of Lord Ayyappan. All of us respect that legend. People who don’t even know the story of Lord Ayyappan are the ones who are sadly making decisions for us. We all visit Ayyappa temples everywhere else. When Lord Ayyappa can be prayed to in so many places why should we even think of breaking a tradition and going to Sabarimala in the name of gender equality? I still don’t understand the logic.
Every temple has its own legends and associated customs. Many of them might seem to be pointless to a lot of people. But breaking them just because you have the backing of the law is only serving to hurt the religious sentiments of millions of people. If the women of Kerala wanted an entry into Sabarimala, we would have gotten it without any external help. When there was a state-wide ‘Ready To Wait’ campaign organized by the women of Kerala themselves, couldn’t they get a cue? The fact that women themselves said that we don’t want to end old customs says a lot, doesn’t it? If it was the men who’d raised an uproar against it and if the women had kept mum about this, then people could have taken it as a sign of misogyny or male chauvinism or whatever. But here, the men only silently supported the women who demanded that old customs should remain.
When they say that a woman’s voice should be heard, why did they turn a deaf ear to ours then?
There is a very planned agenda happening all around India now by some hidden forces to disrupt religious sentiments. Look at what happened at Shani Shingnapur. There was so much drama about women being allowed to offer ablutions to the deity, like men. Does anybody know the current scenario there? Nobody is allowed on the dais now… neither men nor women. I hope the ‘Brigade’ is happy now. Now their target is Sabarimala. Because they want to create a chaotic situation in one of the most ancient temples in Kerala with what could possibly be the largest number of footfalls at any place of worship in India. The fact that the shrine is open to people of all religions is also probably irksome. The even bigger fact that the deity’s best friend is an Arab Muslim to whom every devotee ought to pay obeisance is probably an even bigger irritation. No wonder Kerala is free of religious riots… this unity must be broken and Kerala must also be made a state of mutual communal hatred. Only then can we play our communal politics here. Nothing else seems to be working unless these guys are made to hate one another based on religion. They are far too educated and cultured to sway them any other way.
Veteran singer Yesudas at Sabarimala
I bequeath everyone to see through this plan. It’s a lot more sinister than what it seems. Let me put across a random thought here. Right now, the SC has two really big Hindu religion-based cases in its tray – The Sabarimala Issue and The Ram Mandir issue. If they’d given a verdict in favor of both cases, people would have screamed ‘Hindu favoritism’. If they favored Sabarimala and gave a No to Ram Mandir, then all of Northern India will burn. Didn’t somebody make an announcement recently that there will be a Mahabharata-like war if Ram Mandir is not allowed to be built? But if they ruled against the Sabarimala issue and favored Ram Mandir, then all that would happen would be social warriors getting on social media with a basketful of hashtags – #savesabarimala, #readytowait, #saveourtemples, #blah, #blahblah…
Like anybody cares!
Then it will all die down because Malayalis are way too bothered about their public image and their decency to resort to anything violent in the name of religion. All Hail Communism once again. The SC knew this and played tactfully.
Today the ban has been lifted. Imagine if some young women do venture out there. They will need lots of new facilities. More female bathrooms, more female police officers, more protection, more this, more that, more everything. And then they speak of equality? Hypocrisy much? If they truly want to be equals to men in this pilgrimage, then do as the men would do. Can these women sleep in the open? Can they defecate in the open? Can they strip down to their underclothes and take a dip in the Pamba? Can they take the arduous climb up the hill through the dense forest barefoot? The men who undertake this journey are seen as a manifestation of Lord Ayyappa Himself. They live like hermits. Women can NEVER reach that level of living.
Imagine if this had been the same ruling for the Velliangiri Temple in Tamil Nadu where the same rule exists for entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50.
Did anybody even mention this temple? No. They wouldn’t dare to. They know very well about the wrath of Tamil people if anybody would dare to question their culture or rule anything against it. Esp. after what happened with the Jallikkattu issue. We’d have seen the people of Tamil Nadu rise as one against the verdict. This is because for Tamil people, their culture and traditions are extremely precious to them and they will not allow anybody to taint it… SC or anybody for that matter. They are Tamilians first and everything afterward. I have immense respect for them for their unity. I wish Kerala had some of it too 😦
Go on and hate me. I still keep my stand.
|| SWAMIYE SARANAM AYYAPPA ||