Custom Vs Constitution : Entry of women into Sabarimala temple

“What applies to a man applies to a women”– this single line explains entire revolutionary judgement which put an end to age old practice of ban on women entering the Sabarimala temple from times immemorial. The constitutional bench comprising of four male judges, Justice Deepak Mishra (CJI), Justice Khanwilkar, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice DY Chandrachud and a women Justice Indu Malhotra has given the judgement in 4:1 ratio in which the women justice has a dissenting view.

 In the judgement many issues were dealt with reference to constitution  as under article 14 (equality before law)- everyone has equal right to pray,  article 17(against untouchability) – The social exclusion of women, based on menstrual status, is a form of untouchability…(the judgement was beyond the scope of caste or religion) and article 25(freedom of conscience and propogation of religion)-

The quotes of judges are as follows in brief:

CJI Deepak Mishra- said that “Patriarchal rules have to change. Patriarchy in religion cannot allowed to trump right to pray and practice religion” and also stated that any rule based on the biological characteristics can’t pass constitutional test.

Justice Nariman- said that “To exclude women of  the age group 10-50 from the temple is to deny dignity of women. To treat women as children of lesser in front of god is to blink at the constitution.( as all are considered as children of god and mere reason that the lord Ayyappa is a brahmachari (one who follows celibacy) it doesn’t have meaning in saying that women shouldn’t perform pooja/worship him)

Justice Chandrachud-“Religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity.” And also stated that “Prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.”

Justice Indhu  Malhotra- said that “India is a diverse country. Constitution morality would allow all to practice their beliefs. The court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion”

“Present judgement won’t be limited to Sabarimala, it will have wide raminifications. Issues of deep religious sentiments shouldn’t be ordinarily interfered into,”

She also said that “religious practices can’t solely be tested on the basis of the right to equality. It’s up to the worshippers, not the court to decide what is religions essential practice.”

Authors view:    For most of our religious practices there would be some reason to follow and the ban on Sabarimala temple might not be an exception for it. If we just think about past the way/path of reaching the temple involves walking from river Pampa, climbing 3000 feet to sannidanam in a dense forest which is a abode to wild animals and pebbled path on bare foot which was a tough route and there is a chance of women facing trouble  lack of facilities in the forest. But now-a-days it’s not at all an issue as a lot of development has taken place and reaching the temple is far easy than earlier. So the main reason for restriction need not be pertained to menstrus alone. This reason can be supported by the fact that  in the other temples across the country women were not restricted to worship.

If a women based on her biological characters treated as impure, pollute etc., where there is no fault of her. Then the question rises that how many people who take deeksha/Ayyappa Mala continue observing the strict vow and being pure without taking and intoxicant till coming to guruswamy and removing it before him as per the custom? but still they were said to be in higher position in purity than a women as they had born in the status of man! But whereas in practicality no women would approach the temple without  maintaining sanctity. On this  the apex court has said that in the theatre of life man has kept his autograph and there is no space for women even to keep her signature.

Purity is not a mere characteristic attributable to the physical body, it do have a role with respect to the inner self. If we just think of rishis who involve in immense meditation for years together they doesn’t bath or indulge time for outer cleanliness. The message which can be inferred from this is that the mental purity is the form which makes us nearer to the god.

On the otherside:

Many questions arose like why the court is interfering with the religious matters particularly  Hindu religion as it is being targeted from past (as we observe the codification of hindu family law) as everyone has a right to follow their religious faith in their own way. After the judgement some women started “Ready to wait campaign” saying that the court has not considered the devotees opinion but has taken view of non devotees and few others in this campaign even stated that the verdict does not change anything and they would wait and not visit god till they get permission from lord to visit.

I don’t think it’s a pure religious issue because women worship lord Ayyappa in other temples across the country and this practice of not letting women in only in Sabarimalai temple is a mere practice.

(The article is coupled with authors personal views and also stands as a mirror to public thoughts both on brighter and darker side).

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