It really does not matter to a person like me if I’m barred entry to a place of worship. For, petitioning at such places has been a long forgotten or ignored matter. The acknowledgement and acceptance of the futility in frequenting temples or churches with the intent to petition and supplicate has prevailed. Fortunately! Often zealots among friends taunt me for my distaste for such socially and culturally responsible behaviour (as they say). So be it, I conclude.
But should one forfeit ones right to express an opinion in matters relating to such “socially and culturally responsible” matters? I guess not.
A few days ago a video message was circulated on the social messaging sites and it had a pretty looking woman who would pass off as a culturally endowed upper caste Hindu conveying to us the sinister plot behind the public interest litigation that challenged women being barred from the Sabarimala shrine.Her logic and inferences were banal and laughable. The very same bogey and trumped up anguish cultural custodians express when their traditional and debilitating hold over religion and social fabric is threatened.
Firstly this woman slanders the person and the sinister covert hands that she alleges have worked behind him to file a PIL in the Supreme Court against an age old (sic) temple custom. The innuendo which she subtly moulds towards the end of her exhortation is pathetic, coming from a woman. I suppose that she has not been enlightened to the historical fact that it was not that long ago women in Kerala fought against a vile custom that barred them from covering their bosoms. An inverse matter to the obnoxious purdaha and veil Islam dictates to women even to this day! Had those men and women who resisted that reprehensible custom that was enforced for ages in the name of tradition and culture succumbed to the vested interests and their criminally orchestrated pressures, this woman sitting in New Delhi would be speaking to us in a different physical appearance!
Perhaps the Young Lawyers Association whose member, a Muslim filed this particular PIL erred in not getting a Hindu to approach the court with the PIL? That would have voided the innuendo now being circulated about the sinister designs of pariahs out to denigrate and deracinate Hinduism and its age old values and customs. You see these are times of tolerance!
Further the lady in question speaks about the “Naishtika Brahmacharia” of the deity at Sabaraimala shrine and hence women who have attained puberty and have not come off the menstrual cycle are prohibited from visiting the shrine. I had no idea what goddam matter that was, though I have often heard people mention it. I checked a few web sites hosted by Hindu organisations and this is what I got, quite enlightening!
A quote from ancient purana, a discourse of a ‘rishi’ called Durvasavu. “…… . One who lives where there are no women observing celibacy is not the real ‘naishtika brahmachari’. The one who lives amidst women and is not caught in the sway of desire is in reality ‘vairagya brahmachari’ .Krishna who sings and dances with Gopikas without a sense of ownership is ‘parabrhamam’. His love and grace are property for all. He regards all alike, irrespective of gender. He lives without carnal desires in word, mind and deed, although he is the subject of love and attachment of everyone! He is the real “Naishtika Brahmachari”.
This rubbishes her claim as well as the oft repeated claim of custodians that the Sabarimala deity being a celibate, the place is out of bounds for women, (lest they sway the deity’s celibacy vows). Ouch!
What is so much the serious concern here is not the survival of myth, lore or the trumped up tradition and custom of the shrine, but the willingness to accept social transformation from the corroded, moth eaten customs and practices that we clutch to, like limpets- customs that have been used against women, women who were for centuries held servile and not (financially) empowered to resist the masochistic male mindset.
Noushad the president of Young Lawyers Association who filed the PIL was threatened and he even ventured to recall the PIL, which now the Supreme Court declined as it was seized with the matter and smelled foul. Question can be asked if the Supreme Court is an accomplice to the audacity of the young lawyer and his baleful intent. Laughable! The leaders who spearheaded the Vaikoam temple entry agitation in 1930s in Kerala, men like A.K.Gopalan and Kelappan too were hounded by the elite upper caste as renegades. Temple entry was denied for dalits and low caste. The usual exculpation of centuries old custom, Hindu tradition and values were put forth as reasons. AKG and other stalwarts were physically threatened. But the relentless movement of Time that takes with it maggot infested customs and practices, right to temple entry became a reality.
Yet another weak and erroneous argument in favour of this egregious custom is that women were barred entry to the shrine since ages- meaning hundreds of years. The fact is that Sabarimala came into prominence after 1950s and in the 1970’s. History tells that the hill shrine was a detritus relic of Buddhist shrine later brought about as the abode of Hindu God after Buddhism waned and was routed from the peninsula. Age old practices are not inviolable or sacrosanct, often they are vile. Remember even Adi Shankaracharya could not escape the age old customs of his tribe.
As for the purity of mind and body that is required as a sine qua non for entry into Sabarimala, the fact of the matter will be monumental stories of hypocrisy, which will make us feel ashamed and abhor our human self.
Finally besides meaningful and symbolic end to a discriminatory male dictated practice shrouded in the name of Hindu faith and custom what can the right to enter Sbarimala shrine fetch women? A few thousand women may venture there each season, a tiny fraction of the throng of devotees (sic) male who are there at any given time during the season. I do not have to be more explicit here as to what plight women would be put to amidst those vowed celibates.
Sabarimala is one of the most desecrated places in Nature. I have been there once and have no intention to journey there again and let me be plowed down by the apathy of devotees (sic) to what sustain us – Nature. I’m sure Gods must have long vanished from that hill abode faithful would want them in. It will be just and appropriate that the Lawyers Association also file PIL against the rape of Nature in the Sabarimala Hills and also against the wretched “talaq and purdha” – yet other symbols of Man’s depravation.
Most of all because the person who points out the bad in a community, faith , political or religious system is from an alien belief , that doesn’t absolve or negate the evil of the system in question. Will it?