Sensible post on the temple issue

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Sensible post on the temple issue

Post by rasāsvāda on Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:28 pm

By arun mohan

https://www.quora.com/Should-woman-be-allowed-to-enter-Sabarimala-shrine


Yes, I believe women of all age group have equal rights to visit and pray at Sabarimala just like men.

The current tradition prohibit menstruating women of age group 10–50 inside the temple. The reason they say that Ayyappa is a Naishtika Brahmachari (Perpetual celibate) and hence women of menstruating age must not be in his sight to avoid breaking his celibacy.

Well, I believe the above tradition is a superstition, an illogical belief, which needs to be removed. It has to be addressed in terms of mythological/spiritual terms, social and legal means.

Some of the concepts definitely against the basic tenants of Hindu faith.

Mythological reasons

Distinction between concept of Manikanda and Ayyappa/Sastha

One major issue is that, many people blindly assume Manikanda and Ayyappa as same. Its wrong.

Manikanda is a human form of Lord Ayyappa or Sastha. Its like how Krishna/Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Manikanda has taken a vow of celibacy and decided to become a Sannyasi as per story. The same story says his human body merged into larger conscious of Sastha at Sabarimala and thats why we rarely use the word Manikanda for the lord. Rather we all use the term Dharma Sastha and Ayyappa (the old Tamil equivalent).

Sastha however is a married god as per myths. He has two wives- Pushakala and Poorna as well as a son Satyaka. There is already a major Ayyappa temple close to Sabarimala in Achankovil where Ayyappa is worshipped with his two wives on his side.

The legends says Manikanda, the son of Pandalam King took celibacy vows and he merged himself with Sastha of Sabarimala. The cult of Sasta worship in mountain peaks of Sabarimala predates even before Manikanda legend.

And even today, we worship the god at Sabarimala as Dharma Sastha, not Manikanda. Its impossible to change legends from place to place. Sastha is married god and hence its impossible to associate celibacy with the deity itself.

Beliefs are not divine prophecies.

Every set of beliefs are human made. None of the belief are made by any god. The concept of Divine commandments in itself is Abrahamic in nature. In Hindu concepts, there are no concept of divine commandments.

Every set of traditions comes from a set of beliefs. And a set of beliefs come from the legends of a place. Yes, Manikanda had decided to lead his life as an ascetic. But who made the concept that presence of ladies will spoil his ascetic life? It's not even mentioned in any scriptures associated with Ayyappa, rather only a tradition followed by humans.

There is always a distinction between God and Human. A god is above all temptations, all humanly desires, all worldly materials. In short a god is some being, who is above MAYA, the illusions. It's humans who are part of this.

And a human becomes a God, when he conquers all illusions and desires. Once he is able to achieve the state of eternity, i.e. a state above all worldly desires, pleasures and temptations, he himself is the God. Unlike Abrahamic concept, Hindu concepts says, each creature himself is a god and highest goal of any creation is to identify the divinity within him. Once he unlocks the divinity within him, he himself is the GOD. This concept is called Tat Tvam Asi (तत्त्वमसि / തത്വമസി) which simply means- You are that (divinity). This is the word written boldly in front of the Sabarimala shrine as the deity emphasis on this concept of divinity.

The divine words-Tat Tvam Asi written at entrance of the Sabarimala Shrine reminds that every human is a God and seeks each man to discover and unlock the divinity within him and become a god like Ayyappa.

By this, it means Lord Manikanda who is sitting in Sabarimala has transcended from a human to god only because he conquered all worldly temptations, desires and pleasures. He is not going to be tempted by sight of a lady or women who stands in front of him, praying him and seeking his blessings. Please don’t degrade Lord Ayyappa to levels of Asaram Bapu or Gurmeet Ram Rahim etc.

He is a god above all the temptations that we humans have. Its because of that, he is a god and God cannot have discrimination.

Asceticism not Hindu values

It may be an irony, but a hard fact, many concepts that we see today in Sabarimala are part of Buddhist traditions, not Hindu traditions. In Buddhism, celibacy has a huge meaning and widely acknowledged as an matter of reverence. To become a celibate is seen as highest level of divinity, which is not the case of Hindu belief. In Hinduism, celibacy isn’t a highest order because the basic belief in Hindu faith is that, there is nothing in this world without combination of two energies- SHIVA (Masculine) and SHAKTI (FEMININE)

The basic concept of Ayyappa is more likely to be influenced from Buddhist traditions which may have been adapted into Hindu fold. Even though Manikanda is son of two Male energies (Vishnu and Shiva), still Hindus believe there is a need of female energy to convert that divinity into a form which lead Lord Vishnu to take his feminine form- Mohini to produce the baby.

Hindu concepts even had a female human- Parvathy seeking and trying to make an ascetic god fall in love with her, as the latter will be incomplete without the female energy. Asceticism or celibacy thus wasn’t a prominent virtue in tradition Vedic concepts unlike Buddhism.

In Hindu faith, every god needs a feminine force to make him a divine. Its because of that when Lord Shiva who became an intense Viragi after death of Sati, every other Devas (Gods) worked hard to bring the female energy of Shakti- Parvathy in front of the lord, worked to make Shiva out of deep mediation and eventually leading to his marriage.

There are no major gods or any form of divinity that donot have a female energy to make it divine. Its for this reason, even the concept of Sastha has wives with him. Many believe Muruga/Kartikeya as celibate, but myths also says he too have married.

So essentially ancient Hindu faith does not glorify or support the concept of celibacy. However post rise of Buddhist faith, many elements of Buddhism were adopted into Hindu faith and often celibacy has been glorified as well as asceticism.

Its an irony that majority of Hindus always prefer to see Shiva with his wife- Parvathy to become a complete god, but then talk in length about importance of celibacy of Ayyappa. Its hard to make two conflicting theories in same breath.

While we can accept a Buddhist concept in Hindu fold, lets not go overboard as something of pure Hindu tradition and brag upon it.

Social reasons

Sabarimala in olden days was totally inaccessible for woman. Its located in deep woods. It requires nearly 10 to 15 days of trekking to reach the hill top and on the way, pilgrims have to spend nights in open forests. Naturally it wasn’t something advisable for woman.

If one checks, there were myths of dacoits like Udayanan who used to abduct women and assaulted them during his dacoity, which Manikanda finally put to an end by killing them. Naturally it could been an age old practice for woman folk to avoid such deep interior regions, that's totally inaccessible for them. Hence it maybe because of them, they were prohibited.

Infact such rules even exist in Kerala State Forest Trekking Rules when comes to trekking a major forest mountain- Agastyakoodam near Trivandrum

But that's not the case today. Sabarimala is a major pilgrim center. It's perfectly accessible for anyone today. Yes, trekking is a bit hard, but definitely not adventurous or dangerous as in the past. So it makes no sense to discriminate on gender because of a past social condition.

Traditions and rules- the Legal aspect

Every tradition is human made and definitely changeable. Yes, it's hard to change an age old tradition overnight as people are attached to it. But possible. Once a change comes, over a period of time the changed concept becomes a tradition and people find hard to accept anything beyond that. It's basic human psyche.

Customs/traditions of 1930s where Ladies remove blouses and exposed their breasts while inside the temple, as photographed

Across Kerala untill 1940s, ladies had to be barechested while entering a temple. It was only in 1937, low castes were allowed inside temple. So prior to that, only upper castes had access to temples and it was mandatory to them to remove any form of upper clothes, while inside the temple. The tradition of Kerala temples requires every devotee irrespective of gender to be barechested and people took that normal as it was part of age old social tradition.

Then in 1940s, Madras Legislature passed a new law allowing every woman to enter into temple with their blouses or upper cloth in British Malabar District. Travancore and Cochin Kingdoms passed decrees in 1942 and 1945 respectively. Even passing so, for few years, ladies who were accustomed removing blouses while entering into temple found hard with upper clothes on their body. Some removed, while some didn’t.

Can you think that old custom today? Imagine if Guruvayur kept the tradition of 1930s intact even today, asking all ladies to be barechested while inside the temple. How many of us will accept that? Wasn’t that a valid temple tradition followed for ages?

So traditions has to change as time changes.

Yes, there are so much traditional rules like 41 days of fasting etc which woman may not able to follow rigorously. But the basic question comes, how many men follows all those traditional rules so vigorously today?

Rules says male pilgrims must led an ascetic life for 41 days prior to entering into temple. It includes least clothing (traditional customs call just a piece of black Mundu/Dhoti), not shirt, no shaving, no food with any spices, food either personally cooked or cooked by someone who respects the vows, must take food only after a bath, must not wear a footwear, must not sit on a chair (rather on ground only), must not engage in any form of entertainment or pleasurly activities etc.

Rules specify absolute ascetic life for 41 days. Is it possible to live like this for 41 days in normal society of today?

How many pilgrims of today adhere to all these rules strictly? Can you go to office just wearing a mundu without a shirt, without a footwear? Can you sit down on earth, instead of a chair in your office? Will any office/workplace grants 41 days of leave to sit at home and follow such traditions? Definitely no. So everyone has modified traditions and customs as to their needs.

Even the Devaswom has modified so much traditions of Sabarimala. The original tradition says the temple must be opened only for 41 days + 4 days for Makkara Pooja, making total of 45 days in a year. Rest all other days in a year, Ayyappa is supposed to be in Yoga Dhyanam (divine medidation). Hasn’t Devaswom changed the custom by opening the temple for a week at start of every Malayalam Month?

Tradition says Ayyappa who had taken Sansyasam, shunned every form of Gold ornaments. In fact he has agreed to wear gold only for One day in year on Makkara Sankarathi day when the Thiruavabharanam made by his father will be adored by him. Today even the whole shrine has been converted into a Golden temple and every day, Ayyappa idol is decked with huge number of ornaments and other jewels.

Isn’t it violations of traditional customs and beliefs.

So why the issue of custom modification comes only when we talk about ladies entry into the temple? This shows the height of hypocrisy among devotees who selectively modify customs and traditions that suits them and cite the importance of customs when talking about progressive matters of society.

In short, the whole concept of restricting women to pray at Sabarimala is not just discriminatory in nature, rather extremely regressive and primitive. It only exposes the hollowness of spiritual traditions and put them in dubious record.

When woman can pray in any Ayyappa temple across India, how come only one temple says that it's not allowed? Does Ayyappa change from place to place?

The whole concept of restricting Ayyappa from being lustful and losing his control, by keeping woman out of sight, is indeed absurd and degrading to the divine halo around him. It is simply an act of disgracing such a divine deity.

And legally its definite social crime by restricting people out of gender, age and other biological features that make a human.

Every tradition is bound to change as Change is inevitable.




rasāsvāda

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