For the first time in Kerala's political history, amidst the chants of 'Sharanam Ayyappa', India's spiritual 'acharyas' and heads of various Mutts and ashrams gathered together at Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday to offer their unconditional support to the Bhakta sangamam, organised by the Ayyappa Sewa Samiti.
An unusual evening, punctuated by a sea-like confluence of orange clad monks and Ayyappa devotees at Putharikandam Maidanam, is what Thiruvananthapuram witnessed for the first time on Sunday. There was just one name that resonated across the electrifying atmosphere, bringing lakhs of devotees together. That name is “Ayyappa.” Clearly, this was not a political rally, a political meeting or a political protest. But it is also one that is now triggering strong political reactions from leaders who are miffed with the huge turnout of Ayyappa devotees at the event.
For the first time in Kerala’s political history, amidst the chants of ‘Sharanam Ayyappa’, India’s spiritual ‘acharyas’ and heads of various Mutts and ashrams gathered together at Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday to offer their unconditional support to the Bhakta sangamam, organised by the Ayyappa Sewa Samiti.
Spiritual ‘acharyas’ such as Mata Amritanandamayi, Swami Chidananda Puri and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar addressed the gathering that spanned over two lakh devotees, as per local news reports.
Addressing the Ayyappa devotees respectfully as ‘Atmaswaroopas and Premaswaroopas’, renowned spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi stated that the controversies pertaining to women’s entry at Sabarimala temple is unfortunate and arising out of ignorance of temple traditions and worship. The spiritual leader referred to the importance of preserving and protecting Sanathana Dharma, an essential facet of Indian culture.
“There is no male or female in the presence of God. However, there is a clear difference between worshiping the ‘Anantha’ (eternal) aspect of God and that as established in a temple in the form of a deity. Remember, each temple has a unique ‘prathishta sankalpa’. The ‘prathishta sankalpa’ of Lord Ayyappa is well known and respected by devotees. These age old traditions of temple worship cannot be diluted as temple worship is an integral facet of Bharatiya culture.”
Referring to the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple, Lord Ayyappa as Naishtika Bramhachari, the spiritual leader said that it is as per His wish and Will at the time of Samadhi that the tradition at the temple has been followed and respected by his devotees.
“Purity is intrinsic to temple rituals and temple worship. Generations after generations have followed a tradition that is meant for preserving Sanathana Dharma. It is important to understand that these are the pillars that hold together the concept of ‘Prathishta Sankalpa’ and it is unfortunate that the very pillars of Bharatiya culture that preserve and protect Sanathana Dharma have been misunderstood, ” Mata Amritanandamayi stated.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living, indicated his support for Ayyappa devotees through a video message. While batting for gender equality and supporting it, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar urged that it should not happen at the expense of violating the society’s harmonious framework.
Praising Kerala for embodying communal harmony across decades, the Art of Living founder also cautioned the state government to ‘exercise restraint’ and to not hurt or violate the feelings and faith of lakhs of Ayyappa devotees.
Former state police chief T.P. Senkumar also addressed the gathering and pointed out that both the Kerala government and the police were disrespecting the apex court order which gave the go-ahead for all Hindu women devotees to enter, not activists and non-believers of Hindu religion.
“Use this opportunity to save Dharma,” the former state police chief stated.
In a lighter vein, Swami Chidananda Puri, head of the Kolathur Adwaitha Ashram had said at the event, “What to do when Mantri (minister) thinks that he is Raja (King) who can oust the Tantri (priest)?” The statement referred to an earlier speech by CM Pinarayi Vijayan citing an instance when a priest had been dismissed by the King.
Meanwhile, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPM General Secretary, according to local Malayalam news reports, reacted strongly and hit out at the spiritual leader in the following words, “Mata Amritanandamayi has been a Bramhachari, accepting men and women of all ages. Has her bramhacharyam been affected? Then what is her logic in supporting a movement against women’s entry to Sabarimala? This must be discussed.”
The ire of Vellapally Natesan, General Secretary of SNDP, is baffling to many, as he termed the event as a gathering of upper caste Hindus. Though invited, the SNDP leader mocked the event, rubbishing it as a ‘mahabhagyam’ (good fortune) that he had chosen to stay away. However, the event did not mark any direct affiliation or association with the NSS though some representatives attended the event and a reference was made to General Secretary G. Sukumaran Nair for extending unconditional support to Ayyappa devotees.
The Sabarimala temple row continues to spark strong political reactions across Kerala and outside the country as well. During a recent visit to Kerala, Prime Minister Narendra had slammed the LDF government’s conduct towards the Ayyappa devotees, stating that it would go down in history as one of the most shameful behavior by any party and government.
Most recently. Congress party president Rahul Gandhi did a complete U-turn during his Gulf tour, stating that it is a ‘complex issue’ and that after hearing both sides of the arguments, he feels that the people of Kerala should decide on the same. Earlier, the Congress party president had supported the entry of women of all age groups to the shrine.
With Justice Indu Malhotra on medical leave, the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the review petitions against women’s entry next week. The southern state of Kerala has witnessed massive protests by Ayyappa devotees across the country and worldwide, following the apex court verdict, which the Left-led government decided to implement with immediate effect.