The ‘Bleeding’ Issue: Sabarimala Temple Ban for Women!


The Supreme Court asked why women cannot be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The court said women cannot be denied entry into the temple as per Constitution of India. Lot of readers requested me to write about it.

The arguments that aired for and against ban on women were really funny, illogical and unscientific. So, let’s first separate the facts and fiction.

“Archaic discrimination in Sabarimala temple”

There is no religious, caste, creed, race, sex discrimination in that temple. It’s NOT a Hindu-only temple. People from any religion can go there.

“Rule of banning entry of women in Sabarimala temple is discriminatory and illegal”

There is no ban for women in Sabarimala temple. Millions of women visited Sabarimala. The name of the temple itself is derived from Sabari, a woman. (Mala=mountain)

“Young women are not allowed. That’s discrimination”

Yes, there IS a restriction for young women. But there is a difference between differentiation and discrimination.

“Young women between 10-50 years are not allowed because of menstruation”

No logic. Some girls start periods at the age of 8. Some females get periods even after the age of 55. So that’s not the real issue. Hence it cannot be considered as a reason at all.

Women have “asuddhi” (impurity) due to impure menstruating blood.”

Who says menstrual blood is impure? What’s the rationale? Scientifically speaking, menstruation is not impure. It is a natural process. There is divinity in everything. Calling young women ‘unclean’ is a barbaric and denigrating to all mothers, sisters and potential mothers. (http://udaypai.in/?page_id=523)

Women are not allowed because they cannot take penance and too weak to climb the mountain and walk through forests…The path to Sabarimala is full of stones and thorns and it is difficult for young women to walk through in scant lighting.”

What an idiotic argument! Females are going for trekking and mountaineering (even to the Mt. Everest). They fly bomber planes and controls nuclear submarines. Thousands of women below the age of 10 and above the age of 50 go to this temple. In fact, these age groups should be weaker than the young women. So this logic is not valid at all. And in what way the sex organs facilitate or hinder walking in stones and thorns?

“The deity in Sabarimala, Dharma Sastha, is a naishtika brahmachari (chronic bachelor and celibate) hence young women are not entertained”

Dharma Shasta (Hariharasudha) is not bachelor. He has two wives, Purna and Pushkala, and a son Satyaka. Dharma Shasta is worshiped by people belonging to both Shaiva and Vaishnava denominations. Ayyappa (Manikantan), the adopted son of the King Rajasekara Pandiya of Pandalam, was a human incarnation of Lord Dharma Shasta. (Ayyan=Vishnu, Appan=Shiva, hence Ayyappan). Ayyappa merged into the idol of Dharma Sastha.

“Ayyappa is Bahmachari. He doesn’t like young ladies in his abode”

Ayyappa had never said that in any scriptures. The present idol of Ayyappa (the original idol was burned in 1950 by evangelical terrorists) is Yoga Murti. He is a Celebate. If Ayyappa decided to be a naishtika brahmachari why should women stay away? Is his will to remain a celibate so weak?

“There are trespassing of wild animals around Sabarimala”

Wild animals are not driven to estrogen alone. They don’t differentiate flesh of males and females. They eat both.

“Will the Court question Islam and Christian? The Court is silent on burka, Islamic divorce (talaq) issue and Uniform Civil Code but interfere in Hindu religious matter only. Are women allowed to pray in all mosques and in dargahs? Can a woman become priests in Church or Mulla (Imam) in mosque?”

What kind of logic is that? There may be lot of superstitions and wrong tradition in other religions. Why should we compare or follow it? One has to argue based on merit of his own beliefs. Sanatan Dharma should be logical and rational. And the Supreme Court did interfere in issues of Islam and Christianity many times with landmark judgments.

Women has equal rights everywhere irrespective of age”

If you are so bothered about women rights pass the reservation bill. Hang the rapists. Ensure safety for women.

“The root cause of tradition is that Hind philosophy does not respect women!”

What a stale joke! The essence of Sanatan Dharma is universal equality. No Vedic scripture discriminate anybody based on sex, race, caste, creed or anything for that matter. What’s more women are given more importance. (See http://udaypai.in/?p=902)

A friend told me: “Uday, in those days, the trek to Sabarimala was a long and arduous one and took many days. That would have been very tough on a woman. What will a woman do if she gets periods in between? And unlike men, it would be difficult for women to answer nature calls.”

This past is not relevant anymore. With the changes in modes of transport, this no longer holds. Now any precautions (like sanitary pads) are available. Sabarimala devaswom (management) is rich; they can definitely build toilets for women too! These reasons don’t hold water.

I didn’t find any LOGICAL answer whatsoever for banning or allowing young women from Sabarimala.

Let me be very clear – Any sort of ban is archaic, discriminatory and irreligious. It is against the spirit of Hinduism.

Still, I would say: “YOUNG WOMEN SHOULDN’T GO to SABARIMALA” And I welcome such restriction.

I can hear you asking: “Are you seriously gone nuts, Uday? What a contradictory statement!”

Let’s think logically and rationally. Don’t be biased. Be practical. See the reality AS IS.

There is an ever-lasting romantic love story behind the tradition in Sabarimala.

Legend has it that a young girl named Nila (Leela) requested Manikanta (Ayyappa) to marry her. Ayyappa refused and replied to her that he was a nitya brahmachari (a lifelong celibate). “I cannot marry you in this life,” he said. Her prayer and penance continued and the kind lord said: “Okay, I will marry you ONLY when no Kanni ayyappan or kani swamis (first timer to the shrine) would come for the pilgrimage.” She has been waiting there ever since. She is known as Malikapurathamma (or bhagavati amma goddess) and her temple is near to the abode of Ayyappa. She is waiting to get married to the lord the year when kanni swamis do not visit the shrine.

Hinduism sees divinity in everything. This goddess is believed to be in every young women of marriageable age in older times. Hence, it is not a mark of disrespect to women, but it’s the goddess in them that disallows them to get into the temple. This is the myth behind it. It’s a romantic hope. If you believe in Ayyappa, you have to honour this legend and 1000-odd years of traditions too. If you say this is just belief, the entire Sabarimala concept is a belief only. Try to understand the whole concept.

So, woman not being allowed in Sabarimala is NOT a dishonour. It is a fair tradition. That is all. Millions of women allow their husbands, brothers, sons to go to Sabarimala every year and do not insist on accompanying them. Because they know that the unique traditions and customs of the temple have to be honoured. Why are you so intolerant on such non-harming traditions?

There are some “women exclusive” temples in South India. In some temples, priests are all women, doing the rituals. Chengannur Bhagawathy Temple has menstruating Goddess and they celebrate with pride the menstrual festival – “Thriputh Aarattu”! There are thousands of temples where men are not allowed to go inside without removing shirt, whereas women are allowed with full garments. Does it mean discrimination to men?

There is ‘nari puja’ (female worship) in many temples. Can men go and participate there? There are temples where on certain days only women are allowed to worship. No one dissents. Pongala, the festival at Attukal Bhagavathi temple in Thiruvananthapuram witness the largest gathering of women (3 million) in history. The festival entered the Guinness Book of World Records is the largest annual gathering of women in the world in a single place on a single day irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Men are not allowed. Can you go to Supreme Court against this discrimination to men?

All temples in the country have their own set rules and unique regulations and it is conferred in the constitution (which is above the Supreme Court) about certain freedom of expression and freedom of exercise of faith.

So, I don’t think there is any discrimination. There are some differentiations, regulation or discipline because of some unique cultural and spiritual reasons. Let the believers, temple authorities and trustees decide what to do in their temples. Why do you want to poke your big nose in it? If you don’t like a tradition, just don’t go there.

Now look the BOTTOM LINE – The reality on the ground!

The devotee to Ayyappa temple MUST take bath in the River Pamba before darshan.

Can young women take bath in public in Pamba? Do women enjoy bathing in public, open space? The YouTube server will be crashed with video uploads. Remember, no construction is allowed in these environmentally sensitive areas!

Look at the practical issues. Generally lot of men get excited looking at women in public places and they get thoughts. Their attention can deviate – hat too when looking at young females after 41+ days of strict penance. And it is normal, biological and natural. Would you enjoy Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-preloaded eyes doing a whole body scan on you? I know lot of devotees, who after darshan start non-stop drinking to compensate 41+ days of abstinence from alcohol!

Sabarimala cannot be compared with any other temples. It is not 365 days or 24/7 temple. It opens for few days only. And millions need to get darshan within a very very short span of time. So, there will be 10-15 hours of queue – it is not like Tirupati Tirumala temple where you have shelter during rain or chill. The long queue is jam-packed with millions of people. Most of the men don’t wear shirt till darshan is over. To best of my knowledge, the majority of females don’t enjoy literally sand-witching their body with half-naked body of unknown men. Correct me if I am wrong.

And what positive change do you expect from fingering the centuries old customs? Economy will skyrocket? Women’s lib will improve? The country’s secular or communal issues will be solved?

Just look around. See the practical difficulties. Are you not living in this world?

I want my daughters, sisters and my wife walk in the city roads freely and come back home safe. Can government or court provide safety and security to all women in the city roads? What they can’t do even in the city, how do you think can be provided in the forests and darkness? I don’t think any government can guarantee safety and security of millions of women who go to forest.

And, last but not least, just have a background check on those who have loud-mouth for women entry to Sabarimala and their real motives.

Women entry to Sabarimala is NOT a ‘bleeding’ or burning issue in India. This is a non-issue. We have many other better things to do to take our country to advancement. Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa! (Ayyappa, I seek refuge in you).

Website: http://udaypai.in/
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