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Temples Where Men Can't Go

1/3/2019 3:40:05 PM
written By : Team India Se Print

Is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi against women of menstrual age being allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala?

It is interesting that after a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court lifted the centuries-old ban by a vote of four to one, PM Modi called for further debate based on what the lone dissenter said.

This is what he said in a New Year’s Day interview with the ANI news agency: “There are some temples, which have their own traditions, where men can't go. And men don't go... In this, Sabrimala, a woman judge in the Supreme Court has made certain observations. It needs to be read minutely. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. As a woman too, she has made some suggestions. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes.”

Interestingly, the only judge who objected to lifting the ban was a woman. Justice Indu Malhotra said: ““What constitutes essential religious practice is for the religious community to decide, not for the court. India is a diverse country. Constitutional morality would allow all to practise their beliefs. The court should not interfere unless if there is any aggrieved person from that section or religion.”

She warned, “Present judgment won’t be limited to Sabarimala, it will have wide ramifications. Issues of deep religious sentiments shouldn’t be ordinarily interfered into.”

While the other judges voted to lift the ban saying it violated the women’s right to equality and right to worship, Justice Malhotra expressed concern that the court’s judgment could have wide ramifications by setting a precedent for other religious issues to be also brought to court.

PM Modi was right when he said there are some temples where men can’t go.

The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Kerala is famous for its 10-day-long Pongala celebrations when hundreds of thousands of women gather there to pray and worship. “This ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk,” says the temple website attukal.org.

At Chakkulathukavu Temple dedicated to the goddess Durga, also in Kerala, only women are allowed to enter during the annual ritual Naari Puja when the male priest washes the feet of women fasting for 10 days.

Kanya  Ma Bhagawati Durga is worshipped by women only in the Devi Kanyakumari or Kumari Amman Temple in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu. Sadhus are allowed to walk up to gate of the temple but married men are barred from the premises. This is believed to be the place where the goddess Parvati prayed to gain Lord Shiva as her husband.

Men are not allowed to enter the Kamakhya Peetham in Visakhapatnam on certain days in a month. “Men are barred from entering the temple for four to five days to observe the privacy of women during their period of menstruation,” says the New Indian Express.

Married men are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Brahma Temple at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Only ascetics can worship there.

“Men are prohibited at the Mata Temple in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, as the temple management allows only women during the time of 'periods'. Here, the rules are so strictly followed that even a male priest is not allowed to enter the temple premises during that time. The temple turns 'women only' then,” says the New Indian Express.

The Sabarimala temple banned girls and women of menstrual age – from 10 to 50 – from entering the premises till the Supreme Court lifted the ban. A report published in the 19th century by the British said, “"Old women and young girls may approach the temple, but those who have attained the age of puberty and to a certain time of life are forbidden to approach as all sexual intercourse in that vicinity is averse to this deity (Lord Ayyappa).”

But while the Sabarimala temple barred women of menstrual age, there are temples where goddesses are worshipped when they are believed to be menstruating.

The most famous is the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. It is one of the 51 Shakti Pithas, venerated by the worshippers of Shakti, where, according to legend, the body parts of the goddess Sati – consort of Lord Shiva – fell. The Kamakhya Temple’s sanctum sanctorum is is believed to contain the yoni – female genital – symbolised by a rock. Millions of pilgrims attend the four-day Ambubachi Mela festival held to mark the goddess Kamakhya Devi’s menstruation.

 

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