Sabarimala: Feminism Vs. Tradition??? No not at all

I came across this article on one of the blogs. It offers an interesting perspective – that what is happening in Sabarimala is nothing wrong. They don’t prevent ladies from entering – but it is just that they have a small catch of menstruating ladies not to enter – that’s all. We should respect their tradition for what they are. Read on.

Women and Sabarimala

A few years ago, a women’s magazine in Malayalam asked some of us- the so called feminist writers in Malayalam – to write on the ban on women going to Sabarimala. I wrote then that the ban neither hurt me nor did I want to defy the ban. My argument was that if such a tradition existed in a temple, why should I forcibly break the tradition and enter the temple? It doesn’t give any pleasure to defy something for the sake of defying it especially when I know that it will hurt the sentiments of lakhs and lakhs of people who believe in those traditions.

I also wrote then that there were hundreds of Ayyappa temples in Kerala and also outside where I could go if I wanted to. And, I don’t believe that I have to go to only Sabarimala to pray to Lord Ayyappa. When Sabarimala follows certain rules, why should I bother to fight to break it? What pleasure do I get from that? None.

But the fact is Sabarimala is not just another Ayyappa temple. It is not open throughout the year, and Sabarimala devotees do not just go there like they go to other temples. They take 41 days of rigorous vratham or vow during which period they abstain from sex, smoking, liquor and many other such things. Everyone knows that a female who has attained puberty cannot take 41 days of vratham. So, in effect it is not that women are banned from going to Sabarimala; only women between the age of 10 and 50- those who have monthly periods- are not allowed. My mother had gone there as a ten year old walking several kilometres, all the way from Pamba to Sabarimala.

What is being followed in Sabarimala is not untouchability like some people project now. Unlike other Hindu temples, Sabarimala is one temple where people belonging to all castes and religions can go and worship.

But what has disturbed me now is the kind of contempt the so called progressive, secular intellectuals have for the traditions that Sabarimlaa temple follows. The main anchor of a news channel asked sarcastically, ‘This is the 21st century, and how can such temples which ban women from entering exist today?’ My question is, what has tradition got to do with the 21st century? It is either you believe in traditions, or not. I may not believe in so many things others believe in, and I may not follow them in my private space but I will never do it at the cost of hurting somebody else’s beliefs. If you don’t believe in it, why should you bother about the believers?

That is why when I was asked to write that article for the women’s magazine, I wrote that I had no intention to fight for the entry of women between menarche and menopause to Sabarimala. The nonplussed Editor, a feminist herself asked me then, ‘how could you write like this?’ Other fellow feminists also did not like my point of view. I feel it is not like fighting to get into a college or an institution. Even today, I will say, let it remain as it is, and let people who believe in the temple go there. Why should we be bothered about who should go there and who should not?

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