Putting the Sab on Sabarimala has virtually turned out to be the Kerala Temple’s lesson on inclusion. Riding over a deep-seated prejudice towards the women devotees the judgement may not have probably won over minds but it has given it an upstart.
Women devotees between 10 & 50 years of age were barred from entering the sanctum sanctorum of specific Ayyappa temples as the deity was a celibate. Women were required to carry age-proof documents for the same.
A 4:1 verdict was pronounced by the apex court in favour of women.
Ironically the lone judge who voiced a contrary opinion was a woman herself. Justice Indu Malhotra felt that the court should avoid interference in the absence of an aggrieved person from that section or religion who could have taken the trek to Sabarimala as a petitioner.
Justice Malhotra also opined that the deity was protected by Article 25 of the Constitution, that could have a bearing on the beliefs and practices of a religion. However, Lord Ayyappa has manifested in the form of a Naishtik Brahamachari in over 1000 temples where such restriction does not prevail.
The Pandalam Palace expressed apprehensions over the verdict. The Managing Committee Chairman P. Ramavarma Raja observed that it is likely to create controversies and problems across the society. The Sabarimala Melshanti has accepted the court verdict albeit disappointedly.
India Today columnist Angirasa Shresta argues that the temples should then not insist on the removal of footwear also prior to the entry for the same amounts to discrimination and is not followed in a church as well.
Justice Fali Nariman, A. M. Khanwilkar, D. Y. Chandrachud and the CJI Dipak Mishra were extremely vocal against the motion and sought immediate revival of gender parity. “To treat women as children of lesser God is to blink at constitutional morality,” said Justice Chandrachud. “Social exclusion of women on grounds of mensuration is untouchability and is anathema to the constitution,” said CJI Dipak Mishra.
Sadly enough, the women folk who form the cornerstone of this movement, for whom the huge battle is being relentlessly fought through the corridors of the judiciary has embarked on a #Ready to Wait campaign, preferring to wait until the age of 50 for “darshan”. The bulk of the Indian women are extremely God-fearing and hence have an unfailing faith in Ayyappan much more than the judiciary to meet their wants and desires.
Justice Malhotra was relatively correct about the need of petitioners for this case to take it to its logical conclusion. If the bulk of the women devotees are not inclined and prefer to wait, till the time they reach the age to climb the Sabarimala, so be it!!
The apex court, although well within its right to pronounce the verdict, the Ayyappa pilgrimage may yet be a manly affair with a meagre share of the usual elderly women in the group.
It would be quite a while before the younger generation of women would delve into Sabarimala cavalcade to experience the thrill along with spirituality and contentment!!
This could be a few generations away though!!!