Arguments against women entry[തിരുത്തുക]
Some women choose to not enter Sabarimala believing that it would be an insult to Malikappurathamma's love and sacrifice. Others believe that Ayyappan himself placed restrictions on women entering the temple because he wanted to be celibate, and the presence of women of reproductive age group would distract him from this cause. Some argue that menstruating women could instead go to Attukal pongala, a temple festival also known as 'women's Sabarimala', instead of wanting to go to Sabarimala. Some believe in the taboo that menstruation is impure (thereby making women of menstruating age also impure), and that it is a sin to visit a Hindu god while they are impure. Others simply cite that age-old traditions should be continued to be practiced, regardless of their implications. Some people have pointed out the practical difficulties for women in climbing Sabarimala. The Sabarimala temple is situated on the top of a hill surrounded by mountains and dense forests, which some regard as physically challenging to women to navigate. An official of Sabarimala has pointed out that there will be lack of adequate sanitation facilities for women, thus making their journey difficult. Hospital facilities are also sparse and women could be harassed on their way up the Sabarimala mountain. Some argue that women will 'defile temple premises', and 'distract' the pilgrims who follow a 41-day period of strict abstinence from sex. One lawyer has argued that the deity Ayyappan should be considered as a person, and should be given the Constitutional right to privacy under Article 21, thus banning women of menstruating age from visiting him per his will. A female cardiologist pointed out that there are 'scientific reasons' for banning menstruating women from temples, although her arguments were later dismissed as being pseudoscientific.[unreliable source?] The Travancore Dewaswom Board president said that allowing women to the temple will lead to 'immoral activities' and turn the place into 'a spot for sex tourism like Thailand'.
Arguments in favour of women entry[തിരുത്തുക]
Those in favour of allowing women entry to Sabarimala argue that menstruation is not impure, and that women have equal right to enter the temple. Some pointed out that women are allowed to enter other temples of Ayyappan, so that the exception for Sabarimala is unusual and inconsistent. A frequent criticism is that claims that women are impure, based on the physiological process of menstruation, is gender discrimination.
According to the historian, Rajan Gurukkal, there is "neither ritual sanctity nor scientific justification" for the argument of menstrual pollution. He notes that the shrine was originally a "cult spot" for a tribal deity, Ayyanar of local forest dwellers before it became a place of worship for Ayyappa in the 15th century. Unlike traditional Hindu beliefs that menstruation is impure, the tribals considered it to be auspicious and a symbol of fertility. They thronged to the temple along with their women and children of all ages until the 1960s. Gurukkal also notes that there is documented evidence of young savarna women making their way into the temple till the 1980s.
The chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, said that his party (LDF) has always stood for gender equality and therefore will provide facilities and protection for women pilgrims to Sabarimala.
In October, when Sabarimala was opened for pilgrims for the first time since the Supreme Court verdict, protests were staged at the Nilakkal and Pamba base camps. Many women journalists were assaulted by the protesters and Police had to resort to a lathi charge to disperse them. The protesters forced a 40-year old woman from Andhra Pradesh to stop her journey to Sabarimala at Pamba. Two women of menstruating age attempted to enter the temple on 19 October 2018 but were blocked by protesters about 100 metres away from the sanctum sanctorum. They returned after the priest warned that he would close the sanctum sanctorum if they were to attempt to climb the 18 sacred steps leading to the deity. A 46-year old woman who claimed that "her body was full of divine power from Ayyappa motivating her to climb Sabarimala" was asked to return after the police denied her protection. On 20 October 2018, one woman journalist and the president of Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation also had to return without reaching the deity due to protests.
The Bharatiya Janata Party called for a hartal in Kerala state to deter women between the age of 10 and 50 from worshipping at Sabarimala. The Indian National Congress also launched a protest and demanded a review petition against the Supreme Court's verdict. The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, held “RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) driven upper caste religious fanatics” responsible for the violent agitation to undermine the universal right of women of all ages to worship at Sabarimala. Rahul Easwar, a member of the family of Sabarimala priests and the leader of Ayyappa Dharma Sena, was arrested for inciting violence and rioting near the Sabarimala temple complex. He was denied bail on the grounds that he could return to Sabarimala to incite further trouble. Malayalam actor Kollam Thulasi said that women who enter Sabarimala temple should be ripped in half. An FIR was registered against him for his deliberate act to outrage the religious feelings and for challenging the dignity of women.
Over 3000 people were arrested and around 500 cases were registered at various police stations across Kerala in relation with the protests including hartal related violence, since the Supreme court verdict came.
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