Sabarimala is not about Lord Ayyappa. It's about women worshiping men to keep the 'manly' world order intact
It is actually adult women — women in their prime — who intimidate Hindu men the most.
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In India, there is a God for everyone and every season. In the complex Hindu pantheon of 33 crore Gods, believers have deified a God for every reason — money-God, knowledge-God, food-God, wellness-God, fertility-God, animal-God, half-animal God, male God, female God (sorry, we call them Goddesses).
However, there is only one 'divine' truth — a world created and ruled by men.
It is the sheer Godliness of being a male member of the human race that gives one the right to decide everything else for everyone else.
So, it's men who have been making the rules and deciding what all others should worship, how to worship, where to worship — and how and where not to.
A file photo of devotees at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. (Credit: PTI photo)
With the breakout of the latest war over God and 'His' place of worship, Sabarimala pride protectors have conquered one more fortress of male hegemony — finally declaring an open war against women.
As the Kerala government fortified the Sabarimala shrine for the one-day darshan to keep 'troublemakers' at bay, the BJP and the Congress have decried the heavy deployment of police. They are worried it will disturb the "serene atmosphere of the temple and curb free movement of pilgrims".
The irony here is not how many personnel (around 2,300) have been deployed to ensure the monthly darshan of Lord Ayyappa goes off smoothly — but the fact that the idea of women (between 10 and 50 years) entering the shrine has necessitated this 'emergency' deployment. In deploying at least 15 women police personnel, who are over 50 years of age, in the temple complex, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, even if unwittingly, acknowledged the age permissibility set by the custodians of 'Save Sabarimala'.
The war cry — 'Save Sabarimala' — is actually a slogan to save male dominance. Maintain the status quo.
It doesn't matter if some are calling it a matter of 'protecting tradition'. It also doesn't matter if others are backing the 'right' of women of all ages to enter the shrine. What matters is the fact that this is a war which has already been lost by the women. The fact that women have to fight to enter any place of worship itself beats all logic, but then, who can beat traditions set in stone by men?
In any case, this war's rules will be decided by men. Everything depends on men — and their generosity.
How many temples forbade men from entering any place of worship just because they are men?
The question here isn't about whether women are menstruating, or whether menstruating women are clean or not for a Lord. The real issue is about worshipping men and their diktats — men made of real flesh and blood, living in a real world, with unreal expectations from women.
All those women fighting for their right to pray are after all fighting to catch a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa — a powerful male God. The deeper causes of women's empowerment attached to the symbolic entry of women into Ayyappa's premises are hardly of any consequence.
Radical Hindu outfits and political parties have pitted women against women in the name of Lord Ayyappa. (Credit: PTI file)
Men, out of their habit of 'objectifying' every aspect of life and creation, have also defined God in terms of human form and what they feel God should look like — sometimes, a powerful male provider, sometimes, a care-giving woman, a woman protecting the wealth and reputation of the family in all her feminine glory. Since men believe that a woman has to menstruate in order to be complete, they decided to allot a specific time of the year for the female God to menstruate as well. Then, they decided no one can visit the mother goddess when she is bleeding. Only a few select men go and clean her up post her periods and make her suitable for visitors to worship her.
The row over Sabarimala has exposed one more truth about Hindu men and how it's actually adult women — women in their prime — who intimidate them.
They don't have a problem with girls below 10 and women above 50 entering the temple. While young girls are too naive to see the real face of men, there is very little that women, above 50, could and would do to break the manly world order after living under their thumb for 40 years.
Forty years is a long time to control the body, mind and soul of women. That is one reason why some women believe that they don't need to break the tradition of entering Sabarimala. Sabarimala is not just a temple, but indeed, a male bastion that the men are guarding so zealously.
Those who are arguing that Hindu scriptures and traditions describe God in female imagery and, therefore, they respect women should know that it was never about women — it was about men and their many moods and desires. The urge to create a world where they have women around — not by their side or, God forbid, leading them.
Truth be told, God is not a woman. God is also not a man. God, in fact, is our creation.
So, we have created a God in whom we can see our reflection — of male Gods in a world where women carry out their 'God'-given role.