Sabarimala Temple has been in controversy for quite some time now. There was a series of petitions against its order allowing the entry of women of all ages in the temple which the court reviews today. In a rather confused judgment, the court passed on the verdict to a larger constitution bench.
Earlier the verdict was based on a decision by a constitution bench comprising the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. He was joined by justices Fali Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra.
The Supreme Court will again reconsider its decision of allowing women between the age of 10 and 50 years into the temple. One side of this case is women should not be allowed as it will hurt the faith and age-old beliefs. On the other hand, there is an assertion that discrimination of women on the basis of their physiological condition is a violation of their rights.
After reconsidering the judgment, the SC clarified that the right of women to enter mosques and that of Parsi women to enter fire temple are also connected matters. Noting that, the court referred it to a seven-judge bench.
Why are women barred?
Last year with a majority of 4:1, the apex court had lifted the ban that prevented menstruating women from entering the Ayyappa shrine Kerala. After this decision, there was a massive protest against it by right-wing groups. Some political parties called it an attack on Hindu faith and customs. Even after the verdict was out, women were barred from entering the temple for months.
The protest gained momentum when two women managed to enter the shrine in January with the aide of cops. But why are women barred from the temple is the real question. Let take a look:
There are two types of stories behind the rule:
The hilltop abode of Lord Ayyappa temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan. He is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini – the feminine incarnation of Vishnu. The temple is the site to one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world. Every year, millions of people wait for hours to climb the 18 gold-plated steps leading to the shrine.
Stories behind barring women
One legend says that Lord Ayyappa does not allow women in the temple in honor of Malikapurathamma. She was a demon lady who was defeated by the Lord after which she proposed marriage to him. The Lord had set the condition that he would marry her the day devotees stop visiting him at Sabrimala.
The second one follows with Lord Ayyappa was born into the royal family of a kingdom located in Patthanamittha. He had given up on all the worldly desires including contact with women, after defeating an Arab intruder called Babar or Vavar.
Considering both history and mythology associated with the temple, women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed. It is believed that allowing women would disturb the temple’s celibate deity.
But the records suggest that women have visited the temple on intervals for years. Kerala’s High Court made the tradition a law in 1991, which was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Timeline Of Events
1990- A petition was filed in the Kerala High Court seeking a ban on the entry of women.
1991- The Kerala High Court upheld the restriction of women of a certain age.
2006- The Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court for the entry of women between 10 to 50 years.
2008- Two years later, the matter was passed to a three-judge bench.
January 2016- The ban was questioned by the Supreme Court and they said this cannot be done.
April 2016- The United Democratic Front government of Kerala led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy informed the SC that it is bound to protect the right to practice the religion of Sabarimala devotees.
November 2016- Kerala Govt said that they are in favor of Supreme Court to allow women inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple
2017- The Supreme Court referred to the case to the Constitution bench.
September 2018- A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court allowed the entry of women of all ages in the revered shrine. The state government sought time to implement the verdict; however, even after the entry was allowed, a large number of followers camped outside the shrine to prevent the entry of women of all ages.
February 2019- The order was reserved by the Apex court. The order expected to be announced today is likely to uphold or set aside the 2018 order.
The verdict on the Supreme Court has been passed to a larger seven-judge bench. The Chief Justice Of India Ranjan Gogoi said,
“The question of whether women of all ages should be allowed into Sabarimala is part of a larger debate that includes issues like allowing Muslim and Parsi women to enter religious practice and female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Fresh opportunities to be given to all parties.”
The case has been passed for a while again as it is considered the part of a bigger debate.