Confusing status for Goddess

Marila Latif

Chandigarh, December 4

Much is heard on the religious controversies, whether it is Sabrimala temple controversy, Muslim Women to enter mosques or Allowing Sikh women to perform Kirtan in Harminder Sahib Amritsar. Are these three religions juxtaposing the rights of women inside the legacies of religion or they are just the behest of myths overwhelming the contemporary situation?

What is Sabriamala Controversy?

Coming to the Sabarimala temple history, the temple is dedicated to the god Ayyappan, who according to belief is “a hyper-masculine God born out of the union of two male Gods Shiva and Mohini, where Mohini is Vishnu in a female form.”

The Sabarimala temple located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the south Indian state of Kerala prohibits women of reproductive ages to enter the temple but last year, the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter for the first time after a historic Supreme Court verdict. However, no women devotees have yet entered as violent protesters have blocked their way. It is also considered as one of the holiest places in Hinduism.

The Sabarimala temple is open only during specifically defined periods. It is open during the Malayalam month viz. 17th November to 26th December; for the first five days of each Malayalam month, which starts approximately in the middle of each English calendar month; and also during the period of Makar Sankranti, viz. approximately from January 1 to mid-January of each year.

Part of the violent opposition to the Supreme Court order to reverse the temple’s historical ban on women is because protesters feel the ruling goes against the wishes of the deity, Lord Ayappa, himself.

Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals but while most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating, the Sabarimala temple is unusual in that it was one of the few that did not allow women in a broad age group to enter at all.

Devotees will have to take a 41-day fast and abstain from all worldly pleasures before trekking to the temple. Since biologically it is not possible for women, they are not allowed but activists do say it was a ploy by a patriarchal society to keep them away. They wear black or blue clothes, do not shave until the completion of the pilgrimage, and smear vibhuti or sandal paste on their forehead.

Who is God Ayyappan of Sabrimala temple?

According to the temple’s mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy. There are several stories about why this is the case. According to one legend, Ayappa was born out of a union between two male gods which gave him the ability to defeat a she-demon who had been unstoppable until then. Upon defeating her, it was revealed that she was really a young woman who had been cursed to live the life of a demon.

She fell in love with him and asked him to marry her, but he refused, saying he was destined to go into the forest and answer the prayers of his devotees. She persisted, so he said he would marry her the day new devotees stopped coming to seek his blessings. That never happened. The legend says that she waits for him at a second temple, which lies on the way to the main Sabarimala shrine.

According to another legend, Lord Ayappa was a prince who saved his kingdom from an Arab invader named Vavar. Following the battle, Vavar became a devout follower of the prince – there is also a shrine dedicated to him near Sabarimala. He is said to protect the pilgrims who come to Sabarimala to seek blessings. In this version of the story, Lord Ayappa eventually took a vow to answer the prayers of every devotee who came to him and shunned all worldly desires including contact with women, which is why women are not permitted inside his temple.

On 1 Jan this year, millions of women in Kerala formed a symbolic wall stretching more than 300 miles, a demonstration initiated by the state government to highlight the struggle for women’s equality. This begs two questions. One, if we understand by celibacy the refusal of sexual contact with the opposite sex, why should women of any age whatsoever be allowed near the deity. After all, sexual temptation need not come only from menstruating women. Upon what basis can we say that a woman who is 50 years of age may be wholly free from such urges? Even more importantly, what does it say of the faith of a devotee of Ayyappa to all those who believe the deity may be susceptible to sexual temptation?

If we contradict this hullabaloo with the constitution of India, we would see the uncertainty of issues.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

Article 15 (1) and (2) prohibit the state from discriminating any citizen on the ground of any religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.”

These two articles provide that there shall be no restriction on any person on any of the above bases to access and use the public places such as shops, restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment etc. or use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.  On the other hand, Article 25 states that the “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practise, and propagation of religion”.

The right to equality is completely conflicting with the right to worship of devotees of Lord Ayyappan because the equality doctrine cannot override the fundamental right to worship under Article 25 of the Constitution. The notions of rationality can’t be brought into matters of religion.

There has been two major around the temple that has claimed over 200 lives. On January 14, 1999, a stampede on the foothills of Sabarimala killed 53. On January 14, 2011, 104 pilgrims died on Makara Jyothi Day at Pullumedu near Sabarimala in another stampede.

Muslim women can enter the mosque for praying Namaz?

Another queer had sagged the world of Indian Muslim on whether a Muslim woman is allowed to pray inside the mosque or not?

A case was filed in the Supreme Court of India in Maharastra by the petitioners, Yasmeen Peerzada and her husband Zuber Peerzada after a Pune mosque refused entry to the wife said that women were allowed to enter mosques during the time of the Prophet Mohammad. “Like men, women also have the constitutional rights to offer worship according to their belief,” they said in their petition.

The truth is nowhere in the Quran (religious book of Muslims) or Hadiths (book based on the life of Prophet) is mentioned that women are not allowed to pray in the mosques and it is clarified and permissible for a Muslim woman to pray in the mosque and her husband does not have the right to stop her if she asks him for permission to do that, so long as she is properly covered and no part of her body is showing that it is forbidden for “strangers” to see. “It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar said: I heard the Messenger of Allah PBUH say: “When your womenfolk ask you for permission to go to the mosque, give them permission,” Hadith.

There is no prohibition of Muslim women to pray inside mosques but Indian Muslims are not much acknowledged.

Secretary-General Jamiat Ahle Hadees, Dr Abdul Latif Al Kindi told TPE that women can surely pray 5 times a day in Mosque but separately with Men as Islam knows the human nature of people, the men can get divert from prayers if a woman is praying beside him or vice versa. There is no gender discrimination in Islam but Muslims should read their holy books than listening to Mullahs.

Here another question is arising, are Muslim women allowed to visit shrines?

A shrine is a place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic, marked by a building or other construction and there are more than 36 renowned shrines in India where men and women visits but, essentially, Islam forbids women to visit a grave, not a shrine. It’s very interesting to understand the stance of Indian Muslims and why it forbids Muslim women to enter a graveyard?

According to Islam, the body is dead but the soul is alive till the day of Judgement and if a woman visits a graveyard, the soul of that person can see her naked despite wearing clothes.

So there is no controversy on Women for praying inside the mosque, it’s just Indian Muslims are unaware of Islamic teachings.

Allow Sikh Women to perform Kirtan in Amritsar:

In a highly reformist move, the Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government moved a resolution requesting Sri Akal Takht Sahib and SGPC to allow Sikh women to perform Kirtan Sewa (chant/prayer service) at Sachkhand Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar.

The resolution will be sent formally to the Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of Sikhs) and the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC), according to an official spokesperson. The resolution was passed unanimously by all parties, cutting across political lines during the special commemorative session of the Punjab Assembly to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Aimed at eradicating the ‘baani siddhant virodh’ that led to gender discrimination in this religious matter, it was moved by panchayats and rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and then put to vote by the Speaker. While moving the resolution, Bajwa said Guru Nanak Dev had, throughout his life, fought against caste and gender inequality and preached the promotion of an egalitarian society based on democratization of rights and entitlements. There was no mention in the Sikh history of any discrimination against women, he said, lamenting that Sikh women were not allowed to perform Kirtan Sewa till now in Golden Temple, Amritsar.

The resolution read: “Guru Nanak had visualised a society in which there would be no place for discrimination or distinction on the basis of caste or creed, social status or gender, a society that is to be based upon the principle of egalitarianism and committed to the welfare of all. It is for this reason that there is no instance of discrimination in Gurbani or Sikh Gurus history at any level between man and woman. It is, however, unfortunate that the Sikh women are not allowed to perform Kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum of the Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, the most venerated shrine of the Sikhs where there is no space for discrimination.”

Women kirtanis are allowed to perform kirtan in several gurdwaras of Punjab but not at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is the most venerated shrines for Sikhs around the world.

Earlier, ejected an Akali leader’s claim that according to Sikh ‘rehat maryada’ (religious code of conduct), Sikh women are not allowed to perform ‘kirtan Sewa’ at the ‘Darbar Sahib’. He pointed out that even Akali leader and former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur too had sought permission for Sikh women to perform kirtan sewa at the shrine.

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