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Posted On: 26 FEB 2019

Truth about Sabarimala

Lukewarm response in the North to wanton atrocities on devotees and women fighting to protect their age-old ritual in Sabarimala temple in South is rather disappointing.

This is quite in contrast to enthusiasm that is generating among the Hindus in the North with regard to construction of Ram Mandir or Gau Raksha. The stark and heavy-handed crackdown by the communist government in Kerala on tens of thousands of women, who are trying to stop the desecration of Ayappa shrine, has become almost every day spectacle. Sadly, the voices of support have been fewer than should be.

The nobility of women this protest has been that the ones who are at the forefronts to uphold the tradition of prohibition on entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in the shrine, themselves belong to this category.

Countless news items, motormouths and talking heads on TV channels are constantly hammering their audiences with "women between 10 and 50 are not allowed because they are menstruating." This gross distortion of a very respectful tradition must be fought back. The anti-Hindu elites have gone to the town, harping on the "bigoted" and "retrograde" nature of Hinduism. Worrisome part is many among Hindus have started believing them.

The actual reason behind this ritual is quite different. Lord Ayappa is historic as well as a Pauranic figure.

In history, Ayappa is the prince of Panthalam, which is now Patthanamthitta district in Kerala. Ayappa defeated Arab commander Vavar, who became his loyalist and now resides as a spirit in a mosque in Erumeli. Vavar protects pilgrims during 40-km trek to the temple at the hilltop. Muslims too visit the mosque and the Vavar shrine, which faces the temple.

In Pauranas, Ayappa was born of Vishnu and Shiva both. When he killed a female demon, a beautiful female named Malikapurathamma emerged from the dead body. Malikapurathamma expressed desire to marry Ayappa as he had freed her from curse of living as a demon. But Ayappa declined, said he will do so only after the last of Kanni Swami (the new devotee) has seen him at Sabarimala.

Till today new devotees (kanni swamis) have not stopped coming to pray to Ayappa. Till today Malikapurathamma awaits her turn at her temple just at some distance from Ayappa's. Till today the women of marriageable age, between 10 and 50, do not visit Ayappa's shrine out of out of respect of his celibacy and out of knowledge that he belongs to Malikapurathamma.

This is tradition epitomises and celebrates the cardinal virtue of Hindu dharma of eternal fidelity in husband-wife relation.

But nowhere in public or judicial narrative we find this real story. Instead it is slushed with slimy narratives of "unclean", "menstruation" and misogyny. But then, do we really need to explain our traditions to the faithless? No, they are not subject to judicial intervention, said Honourable Justice Indu Malhotra, who dissented in Supreme Court judgement that termed the ritual as offending to the rights of women.

Which women? Lakhs of women were on streets in protest against the order. They fought back, suffered misconduct and humiliation at the hands of police of communists who unleashed State terror. The "lesser children of God" who were supposed to have been protected by the judgement, became its victim. They are fighting till today. There are voices that have called out to those in North to join their cause. Let us not let them down.

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