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Why are menstruating women not allowed in Sabarimala Temple? Centuries old beliefs and customs


New Delhi, Sep 28: The Supreme Court is set to pronounce its verdict on Friday on a centuries old tradition at Sabarimala Temple in Kerala which prohibits women between the age of 10 to 50 from entering its premises. The activists have been arguing that it is discriminatory practice that violates the Constitution. The petitioners challenging this practice contend that women should be allowed to pray at the place of their choice.

Why are menstruating women not allowed in Sabarimala Temple? Centuries old beliefs and customs

Before getting into the details of the case in the apex court, it worth understanding why this practice is followed in the first place. There are certains beliefs in our society which have lingered on for centuries.

Behind mensturating women 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. Even if the apex court rules that women of any age can enter, many may not go to Sabarimala because of this belief that they may incurr the wrath of Lord Ayyappa.

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.

[Can women in age group of 10 to 50 enter Sabarimala temple: SC decides tomorrow]

We spoke to a few women on this issue and they said that the blanket ban on the entry of women between the ages 10-50 years in the Sabarimala must be lifted, but at the same time they felt that it is not right to enter places of worship during periods.

"Women of all age groups should be allowed into Sabarimala temple. But, women should themselves decide that they must not enter the temple during periods. I would welcome the SC verdict if the ban imposed by the temple authorities is lifted," Priya (name changed), 33 year old woman from Bengaluru, told OneIndia.

When asked about Sabarimala Temple's contention that Lord Ayyappa is a celibate, Priya said, "That way even Raghavendra Swami is a Bhahmachari, but we go to Mantralaya."

Priya, however, said that she does not enter temples during her periods as it is not right. When asked who told her about it, she said, "My mother and other elder women in the family told me this when i was very young. I have been following it and see nothing wrong in it. It is not right to do pooja during periods."

[SC to deliver verdict on entry of women into Sabarimala temple: A timeline of events]

Even Meghana (name changed), from Bengaluru, expressed similar views. She said temple authorities and no one to dictate who should or should not enter. "Women should get to decide. If a woman has periods then she should not enter temples, I follow this practice and many of my friends also do."

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.

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.

[SC questions rationale behind fixing age group for women's entry into Sabarimala]

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.

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