"How can women be barred from entering a temple because the deity is a 'Naishtika Bramhachari'?" This is a much-debated question in connection with women's entry in the Sabarimala temple case.
“How can women be barred from entering a temple because the deity is a ‘Naishtika Bramhachari’?” This is a much-debated question in connection with women’s entry in the Sabarimala temple case. For those who missed the action in courtroom last week, brace yourself to keep track as the hearing in the Sabarimala temple case is now underway. Among the key issues cited, the deity, Lord Ayappa, is at the centre of this legal narrative that has seen social activists slam the concept of ‘Naishtika Bramhacharya’ and its decades-old practice of restricting entry to women of menstruating age.
As intervenor supporting the Sabarimala temple, Mr. V.K. Biju pointed out that only women of a certain age group are restricted and that the constant flip flops by the state government has rendered its affidavits unreliable in the case. He referred to the inclusive and secular nature of the Sabarimala Temple, placing emphasis on the importance of the worship offered by Ayyappa devotees at the Vavar Dargah and to another tribal deity in the premises before they proceed to the main temple.
Mr. Biju also pointed out that the temple receives over 300 crore rupees from the contribution of devotees and only Rs 8 lakhs from the state, yet the petitoner in this case wants the temple to be treated as a State institution.
Statistics were also submitted with details pertaining to the number of women under the age of ten and over the age of 50 who have visited and prayed at Sabarimala Temple.
Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan, as intervenor, raised a question as to whether the Sabarimala temple falls within the definition of ‘public place of worship’ in accordance with the 1965 Act. He submitted that in the context of the unique nature and history of the Sabarimala temple, a narrow definition of a religious denomination may not do justice and that those devotees with faith in the Sabarimala temple and its practices would qualify as a religious denomination as per Article 26 of the Constitution. Slamming the word ‘chauvinism’ in the context of Kerala, he referred to the unique matrilineal and matriarchal nature of Kerala society.
Earlier, Mr. Kailashanatha Pillai and Mr. V. Giri had also argued on preserving the celibate nature of the deity. In his argument, Mr. V. Giri had stated that a deity should be worshipped in accordance with the Shastras as the life infused in the sculpture is as per ‘prana pratistana’ which is kept alive by preserving the unique nature of the deity.
Mr. V. Giri had earlier pointed out that only those with faith in the rituals and practices of the temple deity can claim the right to worship under Art 25(1) and that it is not correct to leverage ‘social justice’ as an argument to change the essential characteristic of a temple.