Should We Fight For Sabarimala?

Posted: December 1, 2018

The author strongly believes that though it is important for women to raise their voices against issues like Sabarimala but she questions aren’t there other grave issues which need our attention more than this row.                                       

The Sabarimala imbroglio is not only growing bigger and bigger but also complex. Initially, it was a spat between priests/devotees and women activities. Should women between the ages of ten to fifty be allowed into the holy Hill Shrine or not, was a topic of debate and dissent. However, with political intervention, the issue has taken an ugly turn. More and more people are violently protesting and shouting their demands. The once quiet and serene hill has turned into a fortress. Hundreds of police personnels comprising of armed commandos have been deployed. There are several surveillance cameras and mobile jammers installed.

A holy place has been turned into a war zone!




For years together, devotees have been trekking over the thick forest area with the holy “Irrumudikettu”  (the offerings to Lord Ayyappa) on their heads. The path may have been hostile and inconvenient but it was peaceful with no protests and violence. There may have been long queues and a little jostling but people were eager to receive Lord Ayappa’s darshan. The crowd generally included men and a few elder ladies and little girls. Yet, it is believed that women of all ages visited the Hill Shrine at a certain time.

A twenty-five year old affidavit registered by the Travancore Devaswom Board and Ayyappa Seva Sangham mentions that at a certain period, women of all ages were allowed into the holy place.  But, according to a legend , Lord Manikanitan was a “naishtika brahmachari (practiced celibacy) and hence women were banned from entering the temple.

Gradually, it became a tradition. People have tenacious hold of their faith and beliefs. Well, all religions are based on faith, aren’t they? In 1851, the Kerala high court gave legal approval to such belief. However the Supreme Court, this year, squashed the rule and so women of all ages can visit the temple. Yet, many women devotees of the restricted ages, especially from Kerala, would prefer to stay away from the Hill Shrine. The reason is simple, menstruation is still considered to be unclean and hence the Temple could be sullied or polluted! It is difficult to make the devotees see reason and rationality and bust the myth. Menstruation is after all a part of a woman’s life. God, whether young and celibate, is much above human beliefs. When he is the Appa( father) how can he be defiled?

People go to temples for peace and sacred joy. What bugs me is, can one really attain peace and holy happiness in such stressful and negative ambience? There are several Ayyappa temples, where women have no restriction. Why can’t we make a pilgrimage to these holy places? There are quite a few temples and customs which restrict or prohibit male entry. But men do not utter dissent. When there are larger gender issues which need greater attention, is it worth expending so much energy, money and time on such matter?

At present, the most urgent problem is SAFETY of women! Every day, there are reports of horrendous and unthinkable sexual crimes meted out to little girls and women. No female, whether a toddler or adult is safe. The other day, I read about a three year old girl in Jharkhand who was not only gang raped but a stick was inserted into her private parts. Envision the utter pain, horror and helplessness of the little child. I just wept at the plight of the small child! My heart palpitated with anger and shame.

Women activists and politicians must stand up to fight against such cruelty and baseness. Sexual harassment on the street, in schools, educational institutions, office, car, bus, train and sadly even at home have become rife. There are other gender issues such as dowry system, homeless girls, forced prostitution, rehabilitation of orphaned girls and the list is pretty long. Let us first fight for the eradication of such social evil practices and try to alleviate the pain of million girls and women.

Image Source: Facebook/Sabarimala Temple

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I am an English teacher. Have taught in three colleges for almost twenty years. Later

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  1. The author deplores the extreme violence against women and girls. She wonders what kind of monsters would rape a three-year old girl, and insert a stick into her vagina.

    Yet, she believes that ancient prejudices around female sexuality and biological processes should not be challenged.

    Does she realise that these very prejudices around female sexuality cause violence against women?

    As long as women are discriminated against simply because of their sexuality, we will be mute witnesses to the rape of three-year old girls.

    The same mindset that sees women as “distractions” and “temptations” also justify their rape and murder.

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