Saturday, July 01, 2006

Of Temples and Heritage

Okay, I promise this will be my last holier-than-thou, let's-talk-about-feminism-and-patriarchy post for a while. But I can't resist the temptation to comment on this whole Sabarimala thing which has been doing the rounds of the blogosphere (posts on it here, here and here, and the DP link to the first two here).

The Sabarimala temple does not allow women between the ages 10 and 50 to enter. Supposedly, this has to do with the fact that this is the age when women are menstruating and may therefore make the temple unclean. Ya, right.

A number of people have written posts on the issue, expressing indignation at such blatant discrimination and demanding that women be let in.

Let me start by going over the points that have been made already that I agree with:

a) The practise is discriminatory
b) There is no case for providing support from government funds to such an institution. The government should not support such discriminatory practices.
c) To the extent that the temple is a private body, however, it should have the right to admit whomsoever it pleases. Government regulation to force a private institution to admit people it doesn't want is unwarranted. That's how you end up with a police state
d) That said, people obviously retain the right to boycott the temple, and to encourage others to boycott it as well

So far, so good. The bit I have trouble with is the contention that we should be working towards helping women gain access to the temple. I see this as somewhat wrong-headed. I think the trouble is that most people are assuming that entry to the temple is a privilege in itself, and should therefore be made available to all, irrespective of gender. Implicit in that is the assumption that there is a 'heritage of the temple' and there is 'patriarchal discrimination' and the two are distinct entities and that we should work towards getting the former without the latter.

Personally, I see no reason to assume that patriarchy is seperable from organised religion. Established institutions are inherently embedded in existing power structures, and tend to perpetuate them. Differences in status and consequent exclusion is what these institutions exist on and for. It would be convenient, of course, if we could pick those parts of our heritage that we happen to like, and leave out those parts that we don't - but given the interdependencies between them it's not clear that that is feasible. Also, taking that approach begs the question - what parts of the heritage are 'desirable' and what parts are not and who's to decide which ones we retain and discard. The trouble with accepting that 'heritage' is valuable in itself, is that it leaves the door open for people to argue that all sorts of discriminatory practices are part of their 'heritage'. [1]

A number of people have compared the Sabarimala temple to an elite club. I think that's accurate. Let's ask ourselves why elite clubs are valued. They are valued because not everyone can get into them, so that being a member of one makes you feel special. They are a privilege precisely because they keep some people out. How much of Sabarimala temple's importance, its holiness, comes from the fact that it keeps women out? Why is it a 'privilege' to be able to pray to your chosen diety in Sabarimala rather than anywhere else? Precisely because not everyone can. Exclusion is fundamental to the purpose of Sabarimala - which is why no right-thinking man or woman, no human being who believes in equality and dignity for all, should want to go there.

Let's not fall into the trap of believing in some golden heritage that we are only now being deprived of - feudal social institutions were always about discrimination and inequality. Let's not blindly assume that the only way to build a new social order is to force the old institutions to adapt - the creation of new institutions is both possible and desirable. Let's not fall prey to the slave mentality of craving acceptance from those who despise us and would like to see us humbled. Much has been said about the 'logic' of why women between 10 and 50 are not allowed in. Are we really naive enough to believe that this is about menstruation, and not about power? What do you want to bet that every time a woman demands to get in and is turned away the priests at the temple exult in their own self-importance? And why would you want to be part of a congregation and a social system that was so demeaning to women?

As long as we continue to ratify traditional inequalities by paying lip-service to the institutions that are an inherent part of them, our ability to wage a war against discrimination is severely compromised. The way to destroy an elitist institution is to create an alternative egalitarian institution and encourage people to shun the old one. The way to defeat discrimination at Sabrimala is not to insist that women be let in on sufferance, it is to reject outright the importance of Sabrimala as a temple, and to actively encourage both women and men to pray elsewhere. Only when praying at a temple as discriminatory as Sabrimala becomes not a privilege but a matter of shame, will we truly have won the battle against discrimination.


[1] The point is more general, of course. It's ridiculous how much discrimination continues to be justified in the name of tradition. The amazing thing about this is that people arguing against the discrimination are actually willing to engage in the debate on what is or is not traditional or part of our culture, without asking the more basic question - how is the fact that it's traditional any justification for its continuation in the future?

25 comments:

Szerelem said...

Falstaff - as usual i agree. quite frankly i couldnt be bothered about fighting to pray at any temple.

what is always more disturbing to me and as you have pointed out is the power structure of religion. the brahmins are above all and women(when menstruating annd often even otherwise)and untouchables(this is seriously practiced still!)are unclean. On a trip to Vrindavan last year i was completely put off by the fact the priest would literally throw prasad(they would stand at a height) at the crowds so as to not make contact with any one and thus become unclean. Total junk.

One positive is atleast that the Sabrimala incident is making people talk about the fact that for some reason (which is completely beyond me) women are considered unclean during their periods. why they think so in the first place i do not know. where these ideas stem from i dont know either.
most frustrating is the fact that so many women i know actually buy into this. They dont enter temples or even do puja at home when menstruating. Umm and i have even heard of more extreme cases whe medication was taken so as to postpone their periods when they were on some pilgirmage to Vaishnodevi or Badrinath or where have you. And these are smart women with Phds and masters from some of the best uiversities in the world, who somehow manage to lose all power of reason on this issue.
I sometimes wish rather than conforming to these silly patriarchal traditions in their bid to be religious they would take some time off and actually read hindu philosophy and realise that there are few religious strains of thought in the world that celebrate the feminine spirit as much hinduism.

'As long as we continue to ratify traditional inequalities by paying lip-service to the institutions that are an inherent part of them, our ability to wage a war against discrimination is severely compromised. The way to destroy an elitist institution is to create an alternative egalitarian institution and encourage people to shun the old one.' - I couldnt have said it better.

P.S: that was very long incoherent rant so pls forigve me, i needed to vent my frustration.

gawker said...

This is the exact same point I was gonna make on Neha's blog, namely that feminism and organized religion cannot go together, then I deleted the comment because I thought I would make a blog post out of it. Now I don't have to. Also I had already written something to that general effect here

Anonymous said...

See your point but would you have told the blacks half a century ago to go create an egalitarian school that will admit everyone instead of trying to tudy in schools that won't let them in?

(Can't figure out anything in mr's blackberry.so please excuse.)

-veena

meditativerose said...

Falstaff - one thing you're missing is that peopel who are religious believe in god. So they believe the sabarimala temple is especially holy because god made it so, and the priests are the ones keeping them out of it. That's why it means so much to them and solutions like creating another temple etc. Won't work.

Falstaff said...

szerelem: Thanks.

gawker: No, no, post anyway. The more the merrier

Veena / MR: why are you not enjoying your vacation instead of hanging around my blog??

Veena: Yes, I would have. Or rather I would have told all right-thinking people (blacks and whites) to go create an egalitarian school that will admit everyone instead of sending their kids to schools which wouldn't admit black children. And I would have demanded that public schools (by which I mean all schools funded by taxpayer money) be desegregated. I would have resisted any attempts to force whites only private schools to admit black students against their wishes.

MR: You say these people believe in in God. Fine. They believe in a God that discriminates against women, keeping them out of the temple. Let them continue to believe in that God and be treated like second rate citizens. If they adopt a slave mentality, they deserve to be treated like slaves. I see no reason to fight for the self-respect of someone who won't respect himself / herself.

If, on the other hand, they're capable of seeing that their God is being unfair in not allowing them into temples, if they're capable of boycotting their 'God' for this, then why are they not capable of switching temples?

And would someone please explain to me what the point is of believing in a God who won't even let you / can't even get you into his own temple? Fat lot of good he's going to do you if / when you have REAL problems.

Cheshire Cat said...

Why would one want to destroy an elitist institution? The fact is that people don't really believe in equality for all, nor should they. The vast majority of people want to be richer, smarter, better-looking... To be part of the elite...

(It wasn't such a long time ago that someone was outraged by the thought of the IITs and IIMs losing their "special character" :))

Anonymous said...

On a general note, I agree with the point about shunning institutions which are discriminatory. But in case of religious places, it is a different matter altogether. If a place is of religious importance, then I can understand the desire of the people of that faith to want to worship there. Worshipping in that *particular* place is important for them. Places like the Vaishno Devi shrine, Mecca, Golden Temple, Bodh Gaya, Jerusalem; all have an important significance for the people of the respective faiths. If these places were to follow discriminatory practices, then setting up an alternative "temple" would not be a solution at all, because the alternative place would not hold any significance for the devotees. I think that's also the point MR is trying to put across.

And when discrimination is happening in a temple, it is not God who is discriminating between the devotees. It is the priests and the other people who control that temple, who are the ones to be blamed. They are the ones who are wrong. As far as I believe, no one has a right to try and monopolise 'God' and deny people access to a place of deep religious significance.

Religion is a relationship between an individual and God. No third party has a right to define it, nor to set the rules for the interaction. If a woman or an "untouchable" wants to worship in a temple, its nobody's business to deny them that right. But then, i0n that context, perhaps at some level, it is okay if a woman who believes that she is 'not clean', does not want to go to the temple during certain times. May be that is how she wants to worship her God and practice her religion. But that does not mean that she (or anyone else) has a right to try and stop the other women from going.

~N.

Falstaff said...

Cat: Yes, of course, that's why it's an elite institution, not a collection of sad men who need to get a life. I think there's a difference though between elitist institutions that operate on merit and where everyone is allowed to compete to enter, and those where people are simply blocked out because of their gender, caste or race. What I'm saying essentially is: if you can't join them, beat them.

As for the IITs / IIMs - without wanting to go into that again - you realise there's no comparison of course. One is about the state forcing an institution to adopt discriminatory practises, thus destroying the existing meritocratic admission system. The other is about individuals choosing to ignore a private institution that is inherently discriminatory.

N: I'm tired of people who claim special status for religion. Religion is a personal preference, like any other. I see no reason why it should be given special treatment.

My point to MR remains: if you continue to believe that a place has 'special significance' for you, even though it discriminates against you, then I can only assume that you choose to be discriminated against. Nobody is forcing you, in any way, to go to that temple and no other. No one is denying you the right to pray to your God. If you choose to fetter yourself to an unequal religion, that's your choice. Just because you subscribe to some blind superstition is no reason why a private institution should change its rules for you. Suppose I were to decide tomorrow that your house has special significance for me - should you therefore be forced to let me move in?

You'll argue that these beliefs are 'traditional'. My point is that if we accept the legitimacy of these beliefs, we also implicitly accept the legitimacy of the gender and class relationships that they are based on. Those inequalities are traditional too.

As for the bit about how it's not God that's discriminating against people: Either / or: Either the priests in the temple are the true voice of God, in which case the discrimination they're foisting on you is the God's will, Or the priests / temple admin have nothing to do with God, in which case why is the temple so important?

You say religion is a relationship between a person and his God. (I don't agree - I think Faith is a relationship between a person and his God, religion is a social institution designed to perpetuate existing status relationships - but never mind). Fine. Then why can't you continue that relationship without the intervention of the temple and its priests. Surely praying in some other temple won't damage this relationship that has nothing to do with priests or observances, etc. but is a deeply spiritual thing?

And my final question still stands - what's the point of praying to a God who is either a) so helpless that a bunch of fat priests can keep him locked up in a temple or b) so indifferent to your welfare that he doesn't mind that you can't get access to him?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and while we are talknig about discrimnatory practices aganstwomen then shouldnt the whole of islam be boycotted? The amount of discrimnation there is unbelievable.
Discrimatory practices or not- the govt has no right to interfere in matters of religion. people are free to boycott the religion / practice itself; if they want, so long as we arent killign people / forcing peple to do stuff against their will (like a sati practice).

confused said...

Falstaff,

While I agree with you, there are few points to consider.

First, right to deny admission to even a private institution is not absolute. Not even in US. Of course, as you said, the state funding should be stopped but even in private unaided institutions, the right has never been absolute.

Second, to compare a temple to a private club is a bit of stretch. Most of the temples were funded by the kings by public money, so it is not that they have been build by priests and such and hence they have ownership rights. The state can give it back to people as it has in many instances.

Third, I am an atheist and so I suspect are you. But for religious people, the attachment to a religious place can be huge and that is not there just because they follow discriminatory practises. Again, the private club anaolgy is wrong. For example, if the Golden Temple decided not to admit devotees of a particular caste/sex, its not that people who believe in Skihism can walk away thinking whats the big deal. Its easy for us because we don't, not for the believers.

dazedandconfused said...

Hmmm...kind of agree with what confused seems to be saying. Some places of worship have a more significant mindspace (for whatever reason) and might not be easy (right or wrong is irrelevant, we are talking of beleifs and emotions) for many to turn away from them easily.

I mean just look at the number of people who make the trip to that Amarnath place every year under real terrorist threat.

Aishwarya said...

I've been on holiday and hadn't heard about this debate, and I really need to read the other posts you've linked to. But I think I agree with you...at this point patriarchy and organised religion are so impossibly intertwined that any attempts to separate them are going to fail. If women want to distance themselves from patriarchal power and a system that treats them as second class citizens, they really have no choice but to separate themselves from organised religion. And this is tragic, because even as an atheist I can see that some aspects of religion can be beautiful and hard to let go of. I just don't think we really have a choice.

Anonymous said...

No, Falstaff, it's not about giving religion any special treatment. And it is certainly not about accepting things because they are 'traditional'. It is about peoples beliefs and emotions. Emotions follow no logic, and the intensity and expression varies from individual to individual. The way I have seen it; love, hatred and religious belief/faith are among the most powerful emotions. Yes, sometimes these can be totally illogical, unreasonable, but yet very strong and absolutely unchangeable. So while I might not understand the reason for the extreme intensity of some people's beliefs, and the lengths to which some go to express their emotions to their God - enduring physical and mental trials, risking their own health and safety, I cannot deny it. Perhaps they also cannot explain it to me. But the truth of the matter is, no argument can persuade them to abandon what they believe in.

You are right about faith (not religion) being a relationship between a person and his God. I totally agree that this relationship does not require the intervention of the priests or the temple. But while for some, their faith is more private and free-formed, for others it is expressed/practiced as a religion. So while the former group is able to continue this relationship on a one-on-one basis, the latter group needs to connect at a more 'tangible' level. So if this leads them to want to touch, feel or for a moment experience being in the place they believe sacred, then is it so wrong?

The temples which are of religious significance, were made long ago. How can a 'private organisation' claim ownership to something which belongs to everybody? Almost all the temples which are of significance (across all religions) are important to the believers not because they are beautiful structures, but because they are marking the geographical location of an important event connected with their religion. It is the location which is important, not the temple per se. The temple came up because the location was 'sacred' to the believers. So giving them an alternative location/temple does not work.

And no, accepting the fact that an individual might have his own way of defining his relationship with his God, does not imply that it gives that individual any legitimacy to try to define how others are to live or behave so that 'he' can follow his religious beliefs.

Either/or: How can anybody honestly claim to be the true voice of God? And in what way can a temple admn claim to be connected to God in any more special way than any other person who believes in that God? Besides, in general, people do not visit temples because they think that the priest there has a special connection with God. It is the belief in/of God being enshrined at the temple (or some such belief)which draws the believers.

Your final question: is it that if a bunch of fat priests can keep some people out of a temple, then it proves that God does not exist? Or is it that if their God has not given them a perfect world, then the people cannot exercise their right of having a 'relationship with their God'?

But then, that is what faith is all about, isn't it? Believing in something which cannot be seen, touched, felt, measured or explained. It just is.


~N.

Anonymous said...

Oops!..didn't intend to take up so much of your space!

~N.

Falstaff said...

confused: I'm not saying that temples are private clubs, I'm saying simply that the reason they enjoy special status is because they're exclusive. Denial of access is the lifeblood of organised religion - if everyone could access God by themselves, why would we need priests. The whole point is that they have priviliged access - that's where their power comes from. That's why telling a priest not to exclude someone from a temple is like telling a tiger to turn vegetarian.

As for the beliefs / emotions argument - the point is that gender discrimination is a fundamental part of this belief. If people are so devoted to the old ways that they'd choose blind adherence over self-respect, that's fine - as I've said before, that's their choice. If that's true then I see no reason to argue that women who are being kept out of Sabarimala are being deprived in any way - the fact that they're kept out is a fundamental part of what makes this faith of theirs a fulfilling experience for them.

d&c: same argument as above. people are entitled to their superstitions. But those superstitions include being treated as second-rate citizens.

aishwarya: Ah, you're back are you? I'm less convinced that there's so much that's beautiful about religion, but agree otherwise. Also, notice that this is not about giving up on 'religion' per se, this is simply about not supporting one lousy temple.

N: See my argument above. You say no argument can convince them to abandon what they believe. Fine. In that case, these women will simply continue to stand outside the temple looking moonily at this inaccessible God of theirs and suffer. No one will boycott the temple because they have too strong an emotional bond with the temple. Donations will continue pouring in. The priests will remain powerful and will have no incentive to change their ways. This is exactly the kind of blind dependence that the priests want and feed on. If that's what makes everyone happy, then why complain about it? If a slave wants to be a slave let him or her be one - why should we interfere? As long as we continue to treat religious beliefs with kid gloves, we have no hope of destroying the patriarchal institutions that they consist of.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong in wanting to experience god through a temple. I'm saying, if the temple of your choice is one that keeps women out, then I can only assume that your way of connecting meaningfully to god is by being excluded. Why else would you continue to go there? This restriction is not a new initiative, it's a fundamental part of the temple's heritage. I have no problem with women choosing to pray by standing outside the temple waiting for their menfolk to come out. If that's what satisfies them, fine. Each to his own. I don't see why we're saying that the practise is outrageous if it's founded on a belief that the women are voluntarily choosing to adopt because they see it as meaningful.

To your final point: I'm not saying that a bunch of fat priests keeping God in the temple proves that he doesn't exist. I'm saying that it proves that the exclusion of women must be part of His will - perhaps this suffering is sent to try him, perhaps their exclusion is penance for some long ago sin - who knows what these crackpots believe. At any rate, the exclusion is part of their faith. They choose to believe in something that can't be touched, measured, explained, etc. but deliberately victimises them. They've given up the right to question whether this is just or unjust - it just is.

confused said...

Falstaff,

So your final argument is that people like Neha who want to retain their faith and yet decry such obviously discriminatory policies cannot expect any redressal from organized religion? Because I do not quite agree with your argument that they can build new institutions. If religion was so logical, then it wont have caused so many problems.

I am not disputing this contention, I am just trying to understand it.

Falstaff said...

confused: yes. I'm saying that organised religion is fundamentally discriminatory and patriarchal. Without discrimination it has no meaning.

Imagine that we somehow got the priests to agree to let women into the temple complex. Would they be allowed to do everything that men are allowed to do? Would they be able to play the same role in the same poojas as a man? Would they be treated with equal dignity by the priests? How will mere entry into the temple grounds make women equal?

Try imagining a version of Hinduism where every rite, every ritual, every ceremony gives women equal status. A religion where women are allowed to perform last rites, a religion where marriage ceremonies do not involve 'kanyadaan', where women are not treated as objects who must follow their men docilely and shyly, a religion without ghoonghats and purdahs and other such symbols of discrimination. Imagine a religion where there are an equal number of women priests, where women have thread ceremonies just like men, etc. etc. At what point would you stop calling this religion Hinduism? What part of this 'institution' we call religion will survive? And is it really worth it - changing each practice, each rite, each ceremony one at a time till we have completely cleansed the religion of everything that makes it unequal, rather than evolving a set of new institutions that will simply replace a religion so deeply embedded in class and gender inequality.

And if we're not looking to make these changes, if we don't want this sort of egalitarianism, if we want to hold on to this heritage, even if it is unequal, then we need to ask - why are we willing to live with the five hundred other ways that organised religion discriminates against women, and not this one? How can you argue that this one practise is unfair, while desperately wanting to subscribe to everything else that is discriminatory and non-inclusive? And why only discrimination against women? Why should only priests be allowed into the inner sanctums of the temple? Surely everyone should have access to God? Why should only priests be allowed to perform poojas and ceremonies? Seeing the denial of entry to women as a problem in isolation is myopic in the extreme.

So much for principle. There is also a practical aspect to the argument I'm making. Let's agree that the priests are bigoted men who have no inherent concern for equality or the rights of women (if that isn't true, then why is Sabarimala still segregated?). Therefore just saying that women should not be kept out, or, as Uma puts it, that "It's not women who should have to walk away; it's organised religion that should acknowledge that such practices are discriminatory, and change them" cuts no ice. Sitting around waiting for those who oppress us to realise the error of their ways and change is a recipe for perpetual victimhood.

How then do we get women into this temple, even assuming that's a meaningful objective at all?

One option is that we get the government to force women into the temple. I'm opposed to that (as is Neha) because I think it sets a dangerous precedent of allowing the government to interfere in private institutions. The argument that these temples were originally founded on money taken from the 'public' means nothing. If you take that argument far enough, all capitalist institutions are founded on exploitation of labour. It's hard to imagine any private institution whose sources of wealth couldn't be traced back, if you went far enough, to 'public' money. And notice that it's not as though the public money was given to an institution that allowed women entry. Those who put up the money for the temple paid for a temple where women would be kept out.

The second option, which Neha champions, is to boycott the temple (by which Neha apparently means that women will convince men not to attend the temple, since they can't really boycott it themselves) until economic forces make the temple management change their stand. Fair enough. Let's think for a minute about how long that process is likely to take. Years probably, perhaps even decades. That is, if it works at all. In the meantime, where are all these people who are boycotting the temple going to pray? Will they not pray at all? Will they pray somewhere else? If this one temple is so all-fired important to them - if they have a special bond and can't possibly pray anywhere else, then surely the boycott will fail because they won't be able to stay away. If, on the other hand, they are okay with staying away from the temple and (presumably) praying elsewhere for years, why can't they just switch to some other temple permanently?

The point is that any real hope of winning the negotiation that Neha suggests comes from our ability to convey credible commitment to shunning the temple unless it changes its ways. And as long as we keep talking about how the temple is so important and so special and viewing it as a priviliged place, I don't see any hope of making that threat seem real to the temple priests.

Swathi said...

i am wondering why is there no protest
about the fact that when the father of an all-ladies house dies,
none of the women can perform the last rites.
Though some distant male relative is allowed to do so!!!

how many women question their mothers, grandmothers and MILs
when asked not to enter the puja-room or temples during their
menstrual cycles?

and the sabrimala temple issue is just another one of them.

I think these and many more issues are direct evidence of the fact
that most female discrimination stems from religious beliefs.
Then why follow a religion when you have every right to denounce something that
is insulting you?

confused said...

Falstaff,

On the smaller question of the temple entry I would still hold that government intervention can be justified, after all the government did take over the Vaishno Devil temple. Perhaps it stems from a frustration that too many times we are giving into organized religion. After all, we are still waiting for any sort of reforms in Islam to kick in including something as basic as banning polygamy while government intervention has atleast ensured that practises like Sati have stopped.

Yes, in the broader context I completely agree with you. There is no way we can rid Hinduism of all its discriminatory practises. Just too many for meaningful reforms.

Anonymous said...

Falstaff, I agree that exercising any kind of exclusion gives an institution a sense of power.

In this particular issue, it is the men who are filling up the coffers of the temple, because they are the ones allowed there, and not the women. So the idea of shunning would work if the *men* refuse to attend the temple. But if the temple is still being crowded with devotees, despite its discriminatory practices, then it is not fair to say that the women 'are voluntarily choosing to adopt because they see it as meaningful'.

What I am trying to say is that though your point is valid theoretically; but realistically speaking, in the religious context the concept of completely shunning a temple will not work. Given the intensity of people's beliefs and emotions in such matters, the idea of shunning a biased/discriminating temple will not work. There are just way too many people who can never be convinced to stay away. So the small minority who does agree to shun the temple, will hardly even create a ripple in the pond, let alone force the institute to even wake up to any need for change.

Hence, if one wants to be successful in bringing about the change in this matter, then one has to look towards other means to bring it around. In such cases, government intervention is something that can really work - and quickly at that.

As for your point about the broader spectrum of discrimination that organised religion flourishes on, I agree with you. The issue is much larger than just about the denial of the right of entry to women. But at some level, the change is taking shape. Women are coming out of the purdah, participating in ceremonies in a more active role, including last rites. Yes, unfortunately, it is a slow process and happening in pockets, as individual cases. But participation of those denied access till now, should be promoted, encouraged, practiced and where required, even enforced. That is one way of achieving the change.

~N.

Anonymous said...

Falsttaff, IMO you are missing one point here. It is a matter of faith as to what the Ayyappan temple at Sabarimalai stands for. You can argue that the notion that menstruating women are not pure is discriminatory, but then so is the fact that women are the ones who endure childbirth, while men walk away scot free! Does one complain about it and try to rectify it?

Now I know of one Devi temple in Kerala, where only women are allowed. Does anyone complain about the situation there?

Eventually, no matter what sort of argument is presented, such practices might seem regressive to you. Now no offence to you, but given some data, you will interpret it based on your already existing perceptions. I take it that you are an atheist, which means that any notion with regards to God will seem ridiculous to you. Similarly, to a person who believes in the concept of Ayyappa, the restrictions are perfectly valid.

You really cannot expect to understand such ideas from your viewpoint. And if you are an atheist, you do not have to.

Finally, any change in such restrictions is not going to come about because some people think its discriminatory towards women. For the most part, people who believe in the concept of Ayyappa are comfortable with these restrictions, and the ones who have no such connection are tying themselves up in knots, making an issue out of one that never should have been.

Anonymous said...

This article in the Pioneer presents the same arguments as mine more clearly.

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Anonymous said...

Religion and the concept of God has come such a long way that,now religion has very little to do with God.What people follow as religion now is just an interpolation of what it originally was.People tweak and mend the rules for their own convenience and to satisfy their ego.Why will God not want menstruating women when He himself created women and menstruation??
That's foolish to say the least.

If men propagate such ideas,we can atleast pity their ignorance.But what about well educated women who still want to continue this heinous prejudice.

And sabarimala is just one manifestation of this age old discrimination.The real problem is the mindsets of people who think women are meant to do arduous work each of their non-menstruating days and be treated like shit on those three gruelling days.