Sabarimala protests: Why hue and cry over entry of women into Lord Ayappa's temple
New Delhi, Oct 19: Amid raging protests over the entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple, we must try and understand why this practice of not allowing women in the age group of 10-50 has been in place for centuries. Despite the Supreme Court verdict scrapping this age-old practice, the devotees want this custom to be followed.
While the top court scrapped disallowing women on the grounds that it amounts to gender discrimination, the protestors are opposed to any change in the tradition. The apex court's verdict is pregressive and based on rationality, but sometimes these take a back seat because norms of the society to which people ardentely cling on to.
There are certains beliefs in our society which have lingered on for centuries. Behind women in the age group 10-50 not being allowed into Sabarimala shrine there are two beliefs, one is that Sabarimala temple deity - Swami Ayyappa - is a 'Naishtika Brahmachari' or a celibate. It is this celibate nature of the deity which the temple authorities cite as a reason for not allowing women of age.
Another reason is that 10- 50 years is considered, as per ancient customs, the age group for women during which they menstruate and according to Hindu traditions a woman is considered impure at this time. Hindu women generally do not enter temples when they have periods and Sabarimala temple priest had once said that they cannot check if a woman entering the temple is menstruating or not.
Why is menstruation considered unholy?
There are several belief behind this which have over the years become deep rooted in the society. According to the traditions, if a woman is in her periods then she is not supposed to enter the temple or pooja room in the house. She is supposed to keep a distance from others in the family, should not comb her hair, should not touch pickle, should not put on kajal or any type of makeup, should not enter the kitchen. In short, a woman should lead a simple life during menstruation. Well not all of these are followed in present times, some like not entering temples of touching the idols of gods in still practiced by many.
During the old times, women were actually kept secluded in a seperate room at the time of menstruation. A menstruating woman was supposed to wear only a piece of cloth throughout the days of the periods, keep her hair uncombed, avoid talking to anyone, eat simple food, sleep on the floor and avoid touching anything that is considered pure.
Many women in India do not enter any temple during their periods. Many women we spoke to have said that it is not right to enter places of worship during periods.
A mythological tale in which many believe:
According to puranas, Lord Indra had once killed a Brahman, considered as one of the most heinous crimes in Hinduism. To get rid of this sin and earn his kingdom back he requested the presiding deities of water, trees, earth and women to take a quarter of the sin. In turn he promised that he would grant boons to all of them. This was agreed upon.
It is said in scriptures that women took a part of Indra's sin which resulted in menstruation. Women would be impure for the time while she menstruates. In return, Indra granted the boon that women would enjoy sexual pleasure more than men. Menstrual cycle denotes the sin of killing a Brahman. So women are forbidden to see God or indulge in divine acts during that period for its sign of impurity.