Monday, Aug 08, 2022
Outlook.com

Sabarimala: Restrictions On Women A 'Recent Phenomenon'

Sabarimala Temple's newfound popularity is said to have provoked the first formal restrictions.

Sabarimala: Restrictions On Women A 'Recent Phenomenon' Sabarimala: Restrictions On Women A 'Recent Phenomenon'

Safeguard tradition. Save Sabarimala. Such have been the rallying cries of the prickled phalanxes protesting the recent Supreme Court judgment that overturned the ban on women bet­ween the ages of 10 and 50 ent­ering the Ayyappan temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. In the eyes of many Malayalis, this was an assault on a tradition that, since time immemorial, had defended the immaculate chastity of their naishthika brahmacharin (chaste, perpetual religious student) lord. But memory is short, and hoary observances can be of surprisingly recent provenance; claims that the ban was only a few decades old—and not some eternal, divinely-ord­ained diktat—have been ­doing the rounds on social ­media and in news reports.

In a series of tweets, top Mala­yalam author N.S. Madhavan stated that women used to worship at Sabarimala before restrictions were imp­osed in the second half of the 20th century. Meanwhile, T.K.A. Nair, adviser and principal secretary to former PM Manmohan Singh, recalled that he had his ‘choroonu’ (first rice-feeding, or ann­apraashana) on his mother’s lap at Sabarimala in 1940. His mother would have been well within the restricted age range as, “I have two sisters and a brother, all younger than me.” The queen of Travancore is also recorded as having visited the temple in 1939–40, when she was in her 40s. What, then, is the history and nature of the ban?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement