With SC Poser, Sabarimala Women Entry Debate Back on

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the tradition of prohibiting women of menstrual age group from entering the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. The court termed it as unconstitutional.

“The Constitution bars discrimination on the basis of sex. Such a prohibition (not to allow women devotees) is unconstitutional,” the bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana said. The next hearing is scheduled for February 8.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), filed by the Young Lawyers Association of India 10 years ago, seeking entry for all women and girls in the Sabarimala Temple premises.

Women between the age of 10 and 50 are traditionally banned from entering the ancient hilltop shrine, the argument being that the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa is a bachelor.

“A temple can’t prohibit entry except on the basis of religion. We cannot understand the logic behind this prohibition. Who knows what happened 1,500 years ago,” the bench said when told that it was a centuries-old practice. It also said women had the right to decide whether they wanted to enter the temple precincts or not. “But nobody can stop them,” the court remarked.

The court asked the Kerala government to submit an affidavit and the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, to make its position clear on the issue.

Pilgrims at Sabarimala
Pilgrims at Sabarimala

Ban evoked mixed reactions

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s poser has received a mixed response, with some people and devotees expressing happiness and others wanting the tradition to continue.

Government and TDB not in favour of SC observations

Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala made it clear that the government is in favour of the temple’s customs in regard to entry of women devotees.

“Women are not barred from entering the temple. But there is an age-limit. The functioning of the temple is according to the customs and tradition,” Chennithala told reporters.

However, Devasom Minister V S Sivakumar told reporters that the Congress-led government will now look at all aspects before it makes its submission.

The Travancore Devaswom Board said that the restriction was part of the custom and tradition of the temple and it should be continued.

Board President Prayar Gopalakrishnan told media that the TDB would place its stand before the apex court for the continuation of the ban. He said that the SC had made the observation based on an affidavit filed during the previous rule of CPI (M)-led LDF in 2006.

‘Women should and can enter’

The V S Achthanadan led Left Front government had informed the Supreme Court that they would like to allow women of all age groups to enter the temple.

“I immediately called the concerned officials and after discussions made it clear that where men can enter, women also should and can enter,” said former Devasom minister and present CPM legislator G Sudhakaran referring to the time when the issue came up back in 2008.

“Even today, my stand remains the same. Even now, when I attend meeting in villages, I can see many women showing their love and affection by saying it was me who took such a stand. We even asked the court to appoint a committee of the learned to study this,” he added.

The hill shrine experiences huge rush during pilgrim season
The hill shrine experiences huge rush during pilgrim season

‘Faith is of prime importance’

Whereas, Sabarimala Thantri (priest) Kantereru Rajiveru said this was a question of faith. “A decision on what should be told to the court has to be taken only after discussions with all concerned as faith is of prime importance,” said Rajiveru.

Women should not enter Sabarimala: Sugatha Kumari

The renowned Malayalam poet and activist Sugathakumari came out strongly against the Supreme Court observation. “Women should not enter the Sabarimala temple and it is wrong even if it is the Supreme Court that says so,” said Sugathakumari to Mathrubhumi News.

She said she is strongly opposed to women entering Sabarimala Temple. This should not be seen as a human rights issue she added and suggested that those who want to worship Lord Ayyappa can visit other temples.

Kummanam Rajesekharan, Kerala state president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that government should take proper action, taking into consider Hindu emotions and beliefs. “LDF government had submitted a biased affidavit. Let the tradition continue as it is and if a re-think is needed, Devaswom Board, Thantri and Hindu Organisation should do it,” he added.

Hindu Aikya Vedi for change with times

Appropriate changes in matters like women’ s entry to Sabarimala can be made in tune with the changing times if needed said Hindu Aikyavedi State secretary R V Babu.

Talking to The Hindu , Babu said the Sangh Parivar organisations were for bringing positive changes without disturbing the sentiments and faith of the devotees.