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Those attacking women in the Sabarimala protest only prove the desperation of a traditional mindset whose days are long gone, and is struggling to stay alive.
I distinctly remember one evening when I was still a student, probably about 16-17 years old, bored that my Dad was watching news on the TV while I itched for a new movie that was airing. Arnab Goswami had been way too loud, even for himself, as I saw the scroll mention some debate on the Sabarimala issue – women were still banned back then, and something had caused a huge hue and cry. I had asked my Dad in perplexed puzzlement who those people thought they were to dictate terms to all women. I remember being extremely angry about it, even back then.
So, when I woke up this morning once again to the news of protesters stopping women from entering the temple even after the SC verdict, my first reaction was disgust, over ever-unchanging mentalities. But then it dawned on me that this protest wasn’t a mark of the strong. This was the struggle of the weak, of the upholders of an age-old regressive thought process who lived in denial, viewing any change, even for the better, as a threat to their way of life.
For hundreds of years now the Sabarimala temple authorities have banned women of child-bearing age (10-50 years) from entering. From what I understand of the many, many reasoning I have read from the defenders of this tradition, there are two primary reasons:
One, as always, the terrible fear our society has of a woman’s blood, terming it ‘impure’ and ‘unholy’ to mask their own insecurities.
Some say the ban has nothing to do with menstruation. To me however, the age limit of 10-50 on the ban is a jarringly clear indication of the intent behind it, considering generalized ages of puberty and menopause.
Others very conveniently justify it with the fact that menstruation could be a difficult time for most women, how could they ever perform the tedious rituals the temple demands? To me this sounds nothing different from society’s ever prevalent attempt to decide what women are or aren’t capable of.
And finally, there are those in this category who blatantly agree that menstruating women are simply too ‘impure’ to enter ‘holy’ places. Yes, menstruation at one time may have had a fear of infections associated due to hygiene practices. But to imagine the same even today only shows one’s ignorance, or simply denial.
Two, the laughable excuse that Lord Ayyappan, the deity worshiped in this temple, is a celibate requiring no distractions from women.
Hah!! Not surprising at all. After all, society’s solution to men’s ‘control issues’ has always been to keep its women hidden away, behind walls and veils. What’s sad though is our capability of projecting our own failures on even the Gods we worship. To assume that a deity would have the same weaknesses that his worshipers bear is an extremely demeaning thought.
At a time when the entire nation is worshiping Durga and celebrating Dussehra, elements of our society are still protesting the entry of women into a temple, for reasons completely unbecoming of a just, inclusive and equal community. It only goes to show that we clearly value rituals way more than the thoughts behind why most of these traditions even exist! What’s even worse is their complete disregard of a ruling from the highest court in the country, clearly this section believes themselves to be superior to all others.
The reasons told, and the historical references spouted for any tradition could be myriad. But a society’s mental growth is reflected in its attempt to revisit and rethink its customs based on changing times.
Whatever the customs of the past may have been, and no matter how much our society tries to restrain its women to those historical standards, the simple truth is that those days are gone. Women are out and about, everywhere, with no intent to stop. And hence, change is inevitable. And while people can still indulge in fruitless protests, hanging on by a thread to this semblance of religious righteousness, it only paints a sad picture of a lost cause. Looking again at this bunch of protesters fills me with pity – stuck in the times begone, desperately attempting to revive what no longer is, finding solace in protecting the one last thing they believe they can lay claim on, their God. Oh, the irony!
A version of this was first published here.
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A Software Engineer by profession and a writer by passion, I love sharing my thoughts
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