Kerala’s Sabarimala temple in south-central Pathanamthitta district is a famous hill-shrine that doesn’t traditionally permit the entry of women of menstruating age. Reason: the deity, Lord Ayyappa, is believed to be a Naishtika Brahmachari who follows a celibate life.
In the past three decades, this custom has evoked random resistance and protest from various segments of society. And triggered a long legal wrangle.
Hearing the case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said women have the constitutional right to enter Sabarimala temple in Kerala and pray like men without being discriminated against. The apex court will continue hearing the case on Thursday.
Here's a timeline of the 20-year-long struggle for women's entry to the Sabarimala temple:
A look at it:
1991: Kerala High Court upholds an age-old restriction on women of a certain age-group entering Sabarimala temple. A two-judge bench decrees (on April 5) that the prohibition by the Travancore Devaswom Board that administers the hill shrine does not violate either the Constitution or a pertinent 1965 Kerala law. Reason: the ban was for women (even before 1950, as per the testimony of the vintage temple’s chief priest) between the ages of 10 and 50, not as a class.
2006: A famed astrologer conducts a temple-centric assignment called ‘Devaprasnam’, and declares having found signs of a woman’s entry into the temple sometime ago.
2006: Soon, Kannada actress-politician Jayamala claims publicly that she had entered the precincts of Sabarimala in 1987 as a 28-year-old. Even touched the deity inside the sanctum sanctorum as part of a film shoot, she adds, stating this was done in connivance with the priest.
2006: The allegation led the Kerala government to probe the matter through its crime branch, but the case was later dropped.
2008: Kerala’s LDF government files an affidavit supporting a PIL filed by women lawyers questioning the ban on the entry of women in Sabarimala
2016: The India Young Lawyers Association files a PIL with the Supreme Court, contending that Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules 1965 that states “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship” violates constitutional guarantees of equality, non-discrimination and religious freedom.
November 2016: Kerala's Left Front government favours the entry of women of all age groups filing an affidavit to the effect.
2018: Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing the PIL, questions the temple's authority to deny entry to a particular section of women
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