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Opinion Op Ed 02 Sep 2016 DC Debate: Not God, ...

DC Debate: Not God, deity differentiates

Published Sep 2, 2016, 1:40 am IST
Updated Sep 2, 2016, 7:19 am IST
In the debate for and against the entry of women in Sabarimala, Kerala is split down the middle

Supporters of ban are in effect defending the male privileges

In the debate for and against the entry of women in Sabarimala the leftist Government of Kerala is taking a principled stand. But they are just not vociferous enough. The strident voices of the self-appointed interpreters of Lord Ayyappa’swhims rise high above the feeble but firm voices of the political leaders. When Prayar Gopalakrishnan, President of the Travancore Devaswom Board, speaks of the 'sentiments of the devotees' he is unashamedly defending a male privilege- and showing scant respect for the Constitution. He is also forgetting that the primary duty of a government official is to represent the government. Rahul Eashwar enjoys some informal authority as the nephew of the high priest of Sabarimala. While the priest is careful in his choice of words and mellow in his approach to the sensitive issue, Rahul goes hammer and tongs on regional and national media espousing his pet theory of Ayyappa being a 'naishtika Brahmachari' who can't bear the presence of women.


He also claims, quite falsely, that men cannot worship at the Attukkal Temple at Thiruvananthapuram, as if one wrong can justify another. Several questions beg to be asked. Why must traditions and customs remain sacrosanct? Wasn't sati a tradition too? Would the hard-core Hindus like to bring it back? Once upon a time Dalits were barred from the temples. Is that a custom worth re-introducing? What about animal sacrifice to please the gods? Should we continue that too? If Ayyappa is a brahmachari (despite Poorna and Pushkala) should he only beware of women? What about homosexuals and bisexual males? Shouldn't they be banned from entering Sabarimala too if we accept the 'naishtika brahmachari' argument? And who said women over fifty 'pure'? For most women menopause comes much later, so if menstrual blood is the issue, wasn't the Kerala High Court hasty in making the 10to 50 decision of 1991?


Who has the right to decide who or what is 'impure'? The human body produces and eliminates many solids, liquids and gases. How come only menstrual blood is considered impure by the keepers of the temples? What about blood gushing forth from cuts and wounds? What about snot and sputum, semen, urine and faeces? What about festering sores and oozing eczemas? Can the tantris swear upon their beloved idol that the male devotees swarming the sacred eighteen steps bear not an ounce of any of these multiple emissions? While we focus on bodily impurities, aren't we forgetting the impure nature of our minds? A man may be totally evil but if he wears clean black robes and turns up at Sabarimala will the Lord be pleased?  Who is dearer to God, a Vedic priest or a beggar woman? A lawyer or a leper?


The website says on the main page, "The temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion." This is a blatant lie. If you probe further, the information section, clearly states, "As Sabarimala Ayyappa is Nithya Brahmachari (celibate) women between the 10-50 age group are not allowed to enter Sabarimala. Such women who try to enter Sabarimala will be prevented by the authorities." The site goes on to say, "Only pilgrims who have observed vrutham alone are allowed entry through the holly (sic) pathinettampadi." What the authorities actually do is block the entry of all women who look younger than fifty.  Themale pilgrims get the benefit of doubt, the 41 day vrutham is not insisted upon. They are not supposed to shave during that period, so where there's a political will there's a way to catch the irreverent ones. Interestingly, the tipplers, the alcoholics, the gays, all have ready access to the sannidhanam. The vrutham includes vegetarian diet, celibacy and abstention from alcohol so it's anybody's guess how many of the estimated 5 crore pilgrims are actually observing the rituals.


On 13th May 1940, the young Maharani of Travancore visited Sabarimala. Thus in 1940 there was no barrier on women's entry. In the fifties and sixties it was customary for people to perform the choroounu ceremony of their infants at Sabarimala. This is further proof that women were not always barred entry. Many women who have been to Sabarimala in their youth are living in our midst today. How I wish they would speak up or give evidence before the court! The children who had their choroonu at Sabarimala are alive and kicking - why don't they bear witness? God does not appear to his delirious devotees on the 14th of January every year. The divine light is a man-made phenomenon designed to fool the blind followers - and rake in the moolah. The tantris and the Devaswom Board have been conspiring for years to light up the 'makarajyothi' on a remote hilltop to lure unsuspecting believers from far and wide. Lots of people know this now - and lots of people don't. Will the Devaswom Minister now take the initiative and order an investigation, publish a white paper or whatever?


I believe in the Constitution of India - and I believe in God. I have faith that neither intends to discriminate against women. The Mumbai High Court has decreed that women can enter the Hindu shrine at Shani Shingnapur and the Muslim shrine at Haji Ali.When the Supreme Court pronounces its verdict on Sabarimala, I  presume the ruling will apply to all places of worship, irrespective of religion. Now I have a confession to make. I dream of visiting not only Sabarimala but also the dargah of Qamar Ali Darveesh at Shivapur on the Pune-Satara road. I had been there decades ago and seen the 90 kg levitating stone that miraculously flies into the air at the touch of eleven male index fingers. I wasn't allowed to touch the stone then. The myth of the 700 year old tomb suggests that the sufi seer died at the age of eighteen and was a brahmachari. That's the logic being offered for keeping women out. (Patriarchy manifests itself everywhere!) I would like to see for myself if the miracle will work when one or all of the touchers is female. Does God discriminate? That's the million rupee question.


- Pushpa Kurup

Temple is not a prayer hall but an energy centre

Half truths are more dangerous than lies because there are half elements of reality in them  and the other clever half is intended to mislead the people. Let us critically demarcate half truth and the truth. (A) Half truth - There is a ban on woman in Sabarimala and it is gender discrimination
Truth - Lakhs of women visit Sabarimala. Please Google - Sabarimala & Woman ... you can see pictures of women from around the world visiting Sabarimala. But of a certain age group (10 - 50)
(B) Half truth: Ms Pushpa Kurup says:"Rahul Easwar is the nephew of Tantri" (again intended to distance a vocal defender like me)
(B) Truth - I am the grandson of the Senior Supreme Priest Kandararu Maheshwararu and I represented Sabarimala tantris at the Supreme Court Official Commission hearing too.
(C) Half truth: Ms Pushpaji says "Rahul Easwar says his pet theory "naishtika brahmacharya"
Truth: Kerala High Court verdict 1991 S Mahendran v Travancore Devasom Board Para 39,40...  (by most famous Devaswom judges) Justice Marar and Justice Paripoornan: "Deity of Ayyappa in Sabarimala is Brahmachari"
(D) Half truth:  Ms Pushpa claims Ayyappa has Poorna and Pushkala
(D) Truth: Ayyappa is a bachelor. Poorna and Pushkala are wives of Sastha. Ayyappa is Sastha's Avatar. What she claims is like Krishna is the husband of Sita because Krishna is the next Avatar of Vishnu, who also took birth as Rama.
At Attukal, Women’s Sabarimala, 30 lakh women offer pongala; man lends a helping hand.  At another temple-Chakkulathu Kavu-for Naripooja, men are not allowed inside because the pooja is specifically designed for men. Karva Chauth is observed by woman not man.. Are they all discrimination? Are they all violation of Article 14? It is not, because this is differentiation not discrimination.


Many people don’t understand the difference between the idea of GOD & deity. God is the notion of One Supreme Power, omnipresent. You don’t have to go to a temple to pray to God. You can pray from anywhere. But deity is the notion present in all cultures of the world- Indian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman. Temple is not a prayer hall but an energy centre. All rituals designed there are to create an energy system. Indian religious body has 2 branches- Vedic and Tantric. It is just like temples of learning, colleges. There are male colleges and female colleges. Is that discrimination and segregation too? This is not against each other but complementary. Vedic is darshana, philosophical, intellectual understanding, textual and scriptural. Tantric is sadhana, experiential learning and guruswamy-oriented. Sabarimala is assailed with misinformation. The claim young women once had access to the hill shrine is not even half truth, but blatant lie. Even British Government  records as old as 1816, Ward & Conner, Memoirs of the Survey of Travancore & Cochin states, Vol 2, Page no 136, 137 point out young women were not in sabarimala because the local people believed that the Deity is celibate.


There is an unmitigated effort at confusing between Makara Jyoti and Makara Vilakku. Makara Jyoti is a star (Sirius B) and Makara vilakku is the deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu. I was personally present at the high court during the hearing. The court accepted our delineation of the difference and settled the issue. What is the need for Kerala Government to publish a white paper on the settled issue? Is this genuine ignorance or purposeful misinterpretation? I hope the deity, Ayyappa, forgives those who purposely spread misinformation and misinterpretation. This is a cultural war, #ReadyToWait v #RighttoPray (rather Right to "Prey" ... attack and hunt unorganized, helpless poor Indian devotees for their ideological food") Indian Womanism against Left Feminism, Faith v Atheism:  Hope our Indian woman will win it for us now, because you can see thousands of women with no affiliation to any party or organisation standing up to defend Sabarimala. On a poetic note, I believe it is Malikapurathamma fighting for Ayyappa; woman fighting for man against ultra Left feminists. EomJM


- Rahul Easwar