I don’t know much about India, nor Hinduism. I found this BBC article to be interesting.
Sambilamara Temple in India is a shrine to the temple’s deity, Lord Ayappa. According to mythology, he was confirmed bachelor and had taken an oath of celibacy; therefore, women were not allowed in the popular temple. However, Indian women have been protesting this ban. The Indian Supreme Court recently ruled that the temple must open its doors to women, but the temple’s devotees are resisting. There have been counter protests and violent clashes, and police have been involved. Two women entered the temple, but male devotees kept them from accessing the inner sanctum in a “stand off.” This week, Indian women created a human chain 385-miles long (5 million women) as a demonstration. That’s a monumental demonstration!
The whole situation raises several questions in my mind. Can women overcome the stigma of being considered “unclean”? Can mythology be reinterpreted and still retain its sanctity? Also, what are the wider implications of the secular Supreme Court ruling to reverse this religious ban?
More details on the deity and the controversy here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-45901014
Ah, the joys of ignorance, myth, magic and superstition. What do the women get out of this, killing of a god? And I wonder how they check for menstruating women…
Why would they want access to this god? Surely there is a female god somewhere in Hinduism who considers men unclean. It’s sort of like a girls club/boys club. Who wants to be around those gross boys/girls, anyway?
Will someone please tell the people that religion is optional and fictional?! They can make up anything they want and worship it, and if someone else doesn’t like their god, then a gentle reminder of my first sentence should do. But since religion is taken very seriously by many people, to the point of war and murder, then there is little hope my first sentence will make sense to them.
This conflict really is about new civil rights colliding with ancient traditions. The articles I listed are worth reading for the details. There are actually two different myths purporting to explain why women cannot visit the temple. My assumption is that originally these grew out of a culture which honored men above women. A very hierarchical religion. Menstruating women were considered “unclean,” and were segregated out of important spheres.
I also wondered, along with EN, why women are so keen on entering this prominent temple. Maybe to partake of what they consider holy and up until now forbidden? Or maybe to strike a blow at the “unclean” stigma?
Here is today’s news update on the situation:
The local state government provided police protection for 2 women to enter the temple, the first able to do so since the ban was officially lifted a year ago. Protests again erupted, and police resorted to tear gas and water cannons. After the women visited, the temple was “closed for purification.”
The scale of the conflict is so large because, basically, India has so many people. Millions of men visit the temple every year. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have participated in protests against allowing women (aged 10-50) into the temple. And as mentioned above, 5 million women formed a human chain to show solidarity for lifting the ban.