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Sabarimala: Male devotee nurturing unholy thoughts is 'unfit' to visit Lord Ayyappa shrine

By RB Sreekumar, IPS (Retd)*
The Supreme Court last week, by 3:2 majority, decided to keep the review petitions in Sabarimala matter pending until a larger bench determines questions related to essential religious practices. The majority of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra expressed that the issue whether Court can interfere in essential practises of religion needed examination by larger bench. Justices Chandrachud and Nariman dissented.
There is no stay of the September 28, 2018 judgment which allowed entry of women of all age groups to the Sabarimala temple, but the Apex Court said, the same issue arises in respect of cases concerning entry of Muslim women in a Durgah/Mosque as also in relation to Parsi women married to a non-Parsi into the holy fire place of an Agyari. There is also a case pending regarding the legality of practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra community.
A reversal of the Apex Court decision permitting women in Sabarimala Temple would amount to effacement of advancements made in socio-cultural evolution achieved through sacrifices of great reformists in Kerala since early years of the 20th Century.
The last year’s agitation following the September 2018 judgment was, in fact, ill-motivated and well contrived. It was spearheaded by retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy dismayed progressive Keralites everywhere.
The image of Kerala society that assimilated and concretized a collective mindset of modernism received an irreparable setback due to the extreme unruly behaviour of those resorting to violence, intimidation and obstruction of young women devotees, who proceeded to Sabarimala Temple following the Apex Court verdict last year.
Champions of Brahminical casteism – varna vyavastha, being disillusioned by LDF government’s decision to appoint eligible Hindus of all castes in priestly assignments in government administered temples – endeavoured to divinize all obscurant traditions and practices, contrary to the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution of India, enshrined in the Preamble, Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties.
RB Sreekumar
This move was prejudicial to the metaphysics of Sanathana Dharma of Vedic Hinduism revealed in the Vedas, Brahmasutra, Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita. Effective counteraction, at grass-root level, by enlightening and alerting Ayyappa devotees, misled by status-quoist casteist reactionaries, impervious to the ideals of modern Indian renaissance of the 18th Century and its Kerala phase, pioneered by Ayyaswami, Ayyankali, Chattambi Swami, Sri Narayana Guru, Vaghbadhananda, so on, is necessary.
The Sangh Parivar and its base body – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – relentlessly and steadily indoctrinating through disinformation, gullible Hindus reluctant to comprehend cardinal axioms of Hinduism, about the alleged neglect of exclusivist Hindu communal interests in the Constitution of India.
Hindu scriptures grant right to liberation and spiritual enlightenment to all living beings by following the methods of pursuit of knowledge (gnana), righteous action (karma) and selfless devotion (bhakti). Instance of a kite bird – Jathayu – getting moksha, narrated in Ramayana is illustrative.
Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste
Bhagavad Gita, the most popular scripture of Hindus, asserts in its Chapter V, Shloka 18 thus, “Men of self knowledge are same-sighted on a Brahmana imbued with learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste”.
Most popular treatise on devotion authored by the father of Malayalam Literature, Thunchat Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, categorically declares, in “Harinama Kirtanam”, 20th Shloka, thus:
“Rithuvaya penninnu mirappavannum dahakannum,
Pathithannum Agni yajanam cheyytha bhoo surannum,
Har nama keerthanam ithoru nalu markku mudan,
Aruthathalla, hari narayanaya nama.”
(Salutations to Lord Narayana who is Hari,
The singing of the names of Hari, Is never banned any time,
For the lady who is in her periods, For the one who begs...) 
Rig Veda asserts, “Earth is upheld by truth, while the heaven is upheld by the Sun” (10-85-1) and “May the universe, an abode of truth” (3-30-2-6). Those opposing entry of women in Sabarimala Temple, indulged in blind denial of biological truth about female physiology.
How can the occurrence of menstruation be impure and sinful in comparison to wet dreams and night emissions that may be happening to testosterone-propelled young healthy men, during their stay in Sabarimala and anti-natural celibacy period of 41 days restriction (Vratam)?
If all phenomena of nature are expressions of God’s will, so is the menstrual cycle in women that enables her to become Mother. Holding this as a ground for not allowing young women to have the bliss of Ayyappa darshan (direct vision) is an act of gross injustice, perpetuating male dominance over divinity.
How can a deity, adhering to the concept of eternal celibacy, be tempted by the presence of young women, while Hindu virgin deities (Goddess of Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu and Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir), have no objection in half naked young men of productive age worshipping in these temples?
Apprehension is about the young women devotees becoming objects of erotic allurement to male worshippers due to their feeble will power and inadequate devotion to Lord Ayyappa. The objection cannot be from Lord Ayyappa, who is in a state of Moksha / Nirvana or self realization viz. beyond the tantalizing seduction of five senses, mind, intellect and ego.
In case any male devotee is nurturing unholy thoughts in Sabarimala, he is ineligible and unfit to visit Lord Ayyappa’s shrine. Categorically, it is not the women devotees, but those unpious men to be restrained from nurturing baser thoughts in the blessed premises of Sabarimala.
Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention
“Tantra Samuchayam” – a monograph and manual of worship (puja) procedure compiled by Chennas Narayanan Nambudiripad (published by Panchagam Pusthakashala, Kunnamkulam) does not stipulate that young women should not attend worship ceremony or have darshan of Lord Dharma Shastha.
Are women inferior to men in the eyes of the omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God Almighty? History does not testify to such a contention.
Pure and ideal Hinduism, as explained in the Vedas and Upanishads, as opposed to the condemnable lop-sided sub-scriptures of Smritis by Manu, Parasara, Yajnavalka, Shankara and so on and the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, have no incompatibility with post-European Renaissance generated modern values of democracy, liberalism, equality, fraternity, dignity and human rights.
Hinduism allows its followers to choose any God and accepts that there could be multiple paths, all equally divine, leading to God. In fact, the brigands who demolished Babri Masjid in 1992 had indulged in a sacrilegious un-Hindu crime.
The methodology of pursuit of knowledge (Gnana Yoga) paths of self–less action (Karma Yoga) and deep devotion by sacrificing ones ego (Bhakti Yoga) are tools for self-realisation. Many women have proved their merit in all these fields. Avvyar (2nd Century BCE in Tamil Nadu), Akka Mahadevi (12th Century CE, Karnataka), Meerabai (Rajasthan) Mata Amrutananda May (Kerala) etc are illustrative instances.
The perversions of present day Hinduism emanates from the exclusivist, pseudo-fundamentalist radical fringe elements, acting as foot-soldiers of the Sangh Parivar and subverting the quintessential Hindus spiritualism, through unethical and even violent means, for achieving their commercial objectives and power politics.
The human physico-mental personality, in the ascending order, is categorized by Bhagavad Gita, as (i) Body, (ii) Five Senses, (iii) Mind-centre of emotions, (iv) Intellect and (v) the Atma (Soul). Bhagavad Gita, Shloka 42 of chapter-3 says “The senses are said to be superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind; and what is superior to the intellect is Atma.”
So the body condition of a devotee is not relevant for his/her seeking self-realisation or divine grace through visits to the temple or any of three yogas.
Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala
Misplaced sensitivity displayed by sexist, misogynist Hindu orthodox groups, stressing on self-created, ill-founded unscientific menstrual taboos, for preventing women visiting Sabarimala temple is in total violation of the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.
Ironically, no ban has been imposed on the entry of menstruating animals near the shrine of Sabarimala.
In a Mother Goddess temple in Kerala – Chenganoor/ Alleppy District – as well as in Kamakhya temple (Assam), red spots appear once a year on the robes of the Goddess to this date. So when Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what logic and scriptural or religious authority, can women in a similar condition, be deprived of their inalienable right to worship before the Sabarimala shrine?
Significantly in “Tripura Sundari Ashtakam”, an invocation of Mother Goddess, authored by Adi Shankaracharya, the deity is portrayed as a menstruating woman. The website of Sri Kamakoti Mandali ( www.kamakotimandali.com) interpreted the 6th Shloka of this Ashtakam as follows: 
“The Devi is described as being habituated in a blue sari with red spots, as the first menstrual flow, shows itself when a woman is ready to bear, so on the blue welkin (sky or heaven), the Devi’s raiment (clothing), signs appear, heralding creation”. At the entrance of Sabarimala temple, the Upanishadic dictum “Tat Twam Asi” – That Art Thou – one of the four Mahavakyas of Hinduism – is prominently displayed. These words from Chandogya Upanishad (6-8-7) tells the devotee that “what you are seeking is within yourself” in the form of Atma (Soul).
This also would establish the senselessness in giving any importance to the bodily condition of a devotee, though there are no regulations in fixing the standards of physical hygiene, clothings etc. (all within individual control) as a condition for appearing before the deity.
Inexorably, the sole imperative attribute of a true devotee is the purity of the heart, as testified by Rig Veda thus, “If the heart is impure and malicious, then the God’s worship will also be unfruitful. Therefore God’s worship must be carried out with a ‘nishpap’ (sinless) heart. “VIII/61/11) Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount declares “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” (Bible, St. Mathew 5-8)
When Mother Goddess, in all her physical disposition is worshipped, by what scriptural or religious authority can women be deprived of their inalienable right?
The famous Sanskrit aphorism, “Sa vidya ya vimuktayae” (True knowledge liberates) was adopted by Mahatma Gandhi, as motto of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Kerala temple managers should opt for liberating women from ‘spiritual slavery’ imposed by male chauvinism for perpetuation of male domination.
History recorded that the advocates of traditions (Acharams) due to their incompatibility with modern ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity of individuals were violently opposed to the abolition of, widow burning in the funeral pyre of their husbands (Sati), widow remarriage, un-touchability, dowry, Devadasi system and all reforms towards proper justice delivery to those outside varna vyavasta. Those agitating against the Apex Court order on Sabarimala, represent those Satanic forces.
Perhaps Bhagavad Gita is the only scripture of a major religion (Hinduism) permitting its followers to critically analyse religious wisdom and act as per one’s own choice. In Chapter 18, Shloka-63, Lord Krishna advises “Thus has wisdom more profound than all profundities been declared to you (Arjuna) by Me (Lord Krishna). Reflect upon it and act as you choose”.
So those who oppose to the entry of women for worship in Sabarimala have no valid authority in the religious perspective also to prevent women from exercising their religious rights guaranteed both by the Constitution of India and Hindu scriptures.
Even a cursory study of 11 major religions of the world confirm that both the God – centric theist religions of Vedic Hinduism, Sikhism, Abrahamite faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Zoroastrianism of Persia and Shintoism of Japan and atheistic persuasions of Jainism, Buddhism, Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, emphatically exhort their followers to make the best of human life gifted to them by God/ Nature through empowerment of body, enlightenment of mind, creative rejuvenation of intellect and ennoblement of the spirit / self through various means. 
Is the self assumed ritualistic purity of ceremonies more superior to achieving honesty and integrity and purity of conscience? Amazingly, mainstream leadership of institutionalized religions of India are focusing on peripheral issues like blocking entry of women in temples (Hinduism), retaining of polygamy and halala nikah (Islam), subordination of women in eclesiastical church order (Christianity). 
Treating sex as a sin is an unscientific dogma of Abrahamite religions. Christianity preaches about original sin and project Jesus Christ as a redeemer. Such a perception is conspicuously absent in Vedic religion, Sikhism and also in logical faiths of Jainism and Buddhism – all originated in India. 
Retrogressive forces of patriarchy and de-spiritualized Hindu priestocracy are dismayed by progressive Keralites everywhere
The gruesome mob violence perpetuated against young women devotees from different places by criminal enthusiasts of Ayyappa cult in October 2018, will go down in history as an ugly assertion of the Hindu variety of Kerala sub-nationalism, drawing a parallel to the violence in Tamil Nadu in support of Jallikettu.
This is symptomatic of a counter-revolution against the philosophy, preachings, ground work and way of life of reformists like Sri Narayana Guru and other masters of Kerala renaissance.
The self appointed champions of Hinduism indulging in condemnable violence against women devotees should comprehend the import of concluding part of Rigveda, codified as “Sangathan Sutras”:
“Come together, all of you, speak in one voice, know with one mind, even like the Gods, who, of yore knew with one mind and together had their share of enjoyment.
“Together may they utter the mantra, may they unite together, may their mind be one and their consciousness mingle. I utter the same mantra with you all, ‘with you all equally I make the offering.
“May your yearning be one, may your heart be one, may your mind be one, so that your union may be perfect. (Rig Veda X – 191-2-4)

The Sangh Parivar and Hindu orthodoxy hold Manusmriti in high esteem. They should at least recognize, respect and actualize the words of wisdom, in Chapter III, Shloka 56 of this smriti.
यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः ।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥ ५६ ॥
yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ |
yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ || 56 ||

(“Where women are honoured, there the gods rejoice; where, on the other hand, they are not honoured, there all rites are fruitless.”) 
Pending the final verdict, the LDF Government in Kerala should take several steps such as appointment of eligible women as priests in at least temples of female deities like those in Aatukaal in Thiruvanathapuram, Chotanikkara in Kochi and Kodungallur in Trisshur and so on; and a suitable monument to commemorate the brave lady, Nangeli, who severed and thrown her breasts before Travancore State Government officials, who intimidated her for paying breast tax (Mulakaram).
Nangeli is a pioneer in women liberation movement in Kerala. Reportedly, her husband Cheerukandan, had committed suicide in her funeral pyre, when she died due to hemorrhage. Perhaps, it is the only case of a husband committing Sati. A memorial should be made for the couple.
---
*Former DGP. Gujarat

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