Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gender equality and the right to pray.

Just going through three recent happenings that have started a debate on gender equality and the right to pray, because women have been barred from these three places of worship since times immemorial. To recap, here we go:-

 (a) The Sabarimala Temple.
       It's located amid the seven hills of the district of Pathanamthitta. The temple is open during the
       first five days of every month of the Malayalam calendar and is kept continuously opened from
       the first of the Vrushchika month(Mid Nov), through Dhanu to the first five days of the month of
       Makaram(Mid Jan).

       Men(Irrespective of caste, creed or religion) and women(Except for girls after attaining puberty          and women before the menopause stage) visit the shrine, every year in large numbers. The bar on
       menstruating women is because the deity is a 'celibate'!

       Women's groups have gone to court seeking its intervention on the discrimination!

   (b) The Shani Shingnapur Temple.

        It's located in the Nevasa taluk of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The following are
        unique about the temple and its deity:-

            (i) Believed to be a 'jaagrut devasthan' meaning the deity resides in the idol.
           (ii) It's a 'swayambhu' or self evolved deity and is
          (iii) Is believed to have been existent since the beginning of the Kaliyug.

         Does not allow women entry and worship. It's a 400 year old tradition on account of the
        'harmful vibrations' emanating from the deity.

         Incidentally, all houses within a kilometer radius from the temple have only door frames
         and no doors. Valuables are never kept locked by the people as instant retribution from
         Lord Shani, on the defaulters, is believed to take place! However, thefts have been reported
         since Oct '10.

    (c) The Haji Ali Dargah.

          It's a mosque and tomb located on an islet off the coast of Worli in south Bombay. The
          key factors are:-

             (i) It was constructed in 1431 in the memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant
            (ii) The dargah encompasses the tomb of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Bukhari, who gave up all his                       worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
           (iii) The dargah is accessible only on low tide.

          Thousands of people, irrespective of faith and religion, visit the dargah everyday, especially
          on Thursdays and Fridays.

          Women are not allowed entry into the tomb.

There has been a persistent demand by women's groups to remove the gender discrimination and it's likely that more such cases might crop up in the coming days, based on the trends. It's sensitive issue that needs careful handling.

My take.

It's my belief that the prevalent traditions and customs have been put in place by the priestly class from their wisdom and prevalent beliefs. That singular fact could be the reason that quite a few of the traditions seem to be devoid of any scientific reasoning and look quaint from the viewpoint of an outsider. Any clamour for a different outlook from the existent practices calls for change which is liable to be resisted by the parties concerned as they feel that their right is being questioned.

Shunning confrontation, it's my sincere appeal to everyone concerned to sit down together and have a meaningful dialogue to arrive at a decision that would be acceptable to all.


It's a trend of the times that people question anything and everything that defies logic or can't provide meaningful answers.


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