A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India- the removal of ban on entry of women aged from 10 to 50 into the Sabarimala temple caused quite a stir. With several politicians, celebrities congratulating and supporting the verdict the Managing Board of the temple now has to tread on a severe dilemma. Many orthodox bodies and religious outfits have condemned the ruling stating it will be an abhorrence of traditions and customs.
The initial cause of the prohibition has been citing the fact that the presiding deity of the temple is a brahmachari and vowed to perennial celibacy, hence a woman’s presence is seen as ‘polluting’ if she belongs to the menstruating age bracket. Interestingly enough, unlike other famous Hindu temples, male devotees from other faiths are equally welcome, but not the women.
Although this has been hailed as a ‘victory’ by many, what remains to be seen is the people’s response to the decision. This prohibition of women from entering certain places of worship is not new. Here’s a list of certain famous shrines which do not allow women from entering.
Shani Shignapur: This temple located in Maharashtra has had its share of controversies and protests demanding women to be allowed into the temple. In the past year the temple finally let open its doors to the womenfolk and prayers were offered by them in the sanctum sanctorum
Haji Ali Dargah: It is the tomb of a revered mystic, off the coast of Mumbai. It too, has been dragged into the news when two women filed a litigation stating that the ban on entry of women is oppressive. In a ruling by the Bombay High court, the ban was lifted. Currently, even though women could enter the premises they were not allowed near the main shrine. The ban was validated earlier by saying women are impure and so mustn’t be allowed in the tomb of the saint.
Lord Kartikeya’s Temple: Situated in Pushkar, there is a popular story associated with the temple. The lore goes that if a woman enters the shrine of the temple, she gets cursed instead of a blessing because the Lord is celibate and violating that sanctity would be inviting the deity’s ire.
Patbausi Satra: It has a similar story of women being prohibited inside the premises. Lot of protests led to the allowance of the females into the premises only to be banned again. This temple located in Assam, has been known to prevent women from entering the holy site on account of being ‘impure’ and dirty to the sacred shrine.
Lord Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Located in Kerala, it is known to be one of the richest temples of the world. However it has a strange restriction imposed on the women visiting the place. Even though women can pray there, but, they are prohibited from nearing or entering the sacred vaults. This even extends to the females working in the administrative parts in the Managing Board of the temple.
These cases are just a known handful. But, there are many more that still discriminate against women.
What remains to be seen is how far to the Court orders go in terms of implementation to bring about the required changes?