sabarimala

The Sabarimala Case – Can one maintain the equilibrium?

If we are to compare all the religions around the world we will come to a conclusion that
some aspects of religion have been in conflict with woman rights. Misogynistic traditions have faced the
heat of reason and equality for generations but unlike clearly brutal traditions like sati and the
system of dowry, the issue of women entry in Sabarimala is much more complicated. To
understand the legal and constitutional issue that revolves around the case it is important to
understand it from a religious perspective.

The Sabarimala temple is located in Kerala and is the devoted to the Hindu Ayyappan, who is
considered to be the God of all celibates. The temple is already limited and open to worship
just for a few times a year. Additionally, it is also the site of the largest annual pilgrimage in
the world.

The Sabarimala Conflict-

Temples all over India have few traditions which devotees generally believe keep the ground
holy and maintain its sanctity becomes an essential part of the said religious practice. One of
the said practices related to the temple of Sabarimala was the non- entry of women aged from
10 to 50 in the premises of the temple. The reason behind was that the said age group
comprises of women of menstruating age and their entry was objectionable because the
temple is essentially a shrine to the celibate Lord Ayyappan.

The case was stirred in 2006 when members of the Indian Young Lawyers’ Association filed
a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the restriction on women of the said age group.
Considering the arguments from both the sides the crux boils down to two main points
against the entry. Firstly, it is the duty of the devotees to respect their Lord Ayyappan’s
choice to stay celibate and help him focus on the same. Secondly, menstruating women are
traditionally kept away from holy places and religious grounds in Hinduism. While those
opposing the long placed custom mainly reiterate the violation of fundamental right under
Article 14, 15, 19 and 25 i.e. equality, the right against discrimination, freedom of movement
and freedom to practice their religion.

What changed in 2018- The Sabarimala Judgment

The 2018 judgment given by five judges of the Supreme Court by a 4:1 majority overturned
the long established bar and allowed for the entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala
Temple. The then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra upheld the supreme rule of the
fundamental rights and established that patriarchal notions and traditions cannot be allowed
to over-power equality in devotion.

It is also notable that in the present bench of five, the dissenting judgment came from the only
woman on the bench. Justice Indu Malhotra cited that Article 25 (Freedom of Religion) is
still subject to exceptions that should be taken in consideration in a pluralistic and secular
society.

The situation now-

The arguments have been presented in Court, the judges have considered both the sides and
the judgment is out. So why is the issue still alive in the news today?

Even though the law has spoken and many attempts have been taken by the Kerala
Government to enforce the verdict much of the implementation depends on the devotees and
the priests of the temple.

Most recently two women were successful in entering the temple
and that is one step forward but surely there is still a long way to go.