Open Letter to the Man Who Doesn’t Want Women to Enter Sabarimala

The Devaswom Board head says, ‘Women aren’t safe on streets, why should they go on tough Sabarimala pilgrimage’?

4 min read
(Photo Treatment: <b>The Quint</b>)

Prayar Gopalakrishnan
Travancore Devaswom Board


I loved what you said in a recent interview, “God is there in all living things. There is no necessity that you need to see ‘God’ to pray to him.” (Mom, hear, hear!)

(Read more about the interview here.)

But you do realise that is an odd statement coming from a man of the cloth of a religion that is known for its temples – physical places of worship that house idols.

That said, it is a good way to cover up , especially as your temple rules have disallowed me from entering Sabarimala; you see, women in their “fertility” years are not allowed to enter your place of worship.

The reason: you don’t want women to carry about with their unsanitary sanitary- napkin business during the 41-day pilgrimage. Especially in a jungle, where there will be limited water available and no privacy.

Look, I get it, temple rules apply, just like club rules. And you just want to keep dirty, impure women out.

But you know the strong, independent type women, right? Who will insist on going to the temple, much to your chagrin?

Hey, How About Some “Inclusive Bhakti”?

Open Letter to the Man Who Doesn’t Want Women to Enter Sabarimala

Well, Mr Gopalkrishnan, maybe we could call this “Inclusive Bhakti”.

Open Letter to the Man Who Doesn’t Want Women to Enter Sabarimala

So, You Say We Should Be a Bit More Careful About Our Safety?

Open Letter to the Man Who Doesn’t Want Women to Enter Sabarimala

Well, I’d like to bring to your kind notice that this is exactly the argument that people use to question girls who go out late at night, and “unnecessarily invite trouble” for themselves.

About Your Unflinching Resolve to Preserve ‘Beliefs’

You are, shall I say, very proud of your strong beliefs – about the notion of menstruation being impure.

Open Letter to the Man Who Doesn’t Want Women to Enter Sabarimala

Yes, beliefs.

The same beliefs, which say a woman must leave the main house, and live in a small hut outside the village during menstruation. That they must rest and not work during that time; that they cannot comb their hair or bathe during those days. That they cannot cook food and must keep separate utensils. That they cannot drive or sit in a vehicle during “that time of the month”.

Aren’t all these just an extension of the clause that prevents a menstruating woman from entering a pooja room or a temple?

And when you talk about educated people following traditions, what exactly do you mean? That women stop working and become untouchables for a week, just as our beliefs had once pronounced? That they stop driving, cooking, working and living in their own house during “that time”. Because if we are so hell-bent on following traditions, let’s follow them full throttle, right?

You Aren’t the Only One, Mister

You are not the only one to protest against menstruating women entering religious places. We understand that Sabarimala’s Lord Ayyappan is an ascetic celibate deity and therefore, must be left untouched by young girls. The same reason why people do not recommend young unmarried girls to worship Lord Hanuman as he is known to be bal brahmachari. And mind you, this isn’t about one religion, for religions may be divided, but they are all united in their discomfort around menstruation.

You are also not wrong in saying that the “government and court have a duty to protect religious beliefs”. But the courts also have the duty to protect discrimination of any kind, as promised in the Constitution.

And you ain’t no regressive mandir to begin with, Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple. Yours is one of the few Hindu temples in India that is open to all faiths. You also have no restrictions on caste or creed. But why the disdain against menstruation, Sabarimala?

Hey Religion, Don’t Disown Us Temporarily

Isn’t religion as important a part of our lives as work or family? When workplaces don’t ask menstruating female employees to stay home, when families don’t temporarily disown their menstruating women, why must religion alienate them?

You are firm in your resolve, I understand. You even go on to say,

The court and government should understand the consequences if they decide against the religious belief. This is not a warning, but they should know.

Prayar Gopalakrishnan, Travancore Devaswom Board

Now, I want to let you in on a dirty secret: my grandmother, a devout Hindu, too did not want menstruating daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters to enter the pooja room. But once, my bua, a doctor, committed sacrilege.

She secretly allowed her daughter to come in and attend the pooja, as she didn’t want her to feel like we had abandoned and alienated her while she was menstruating. The unthinkable happened, a menstruating girl was inside the pooja room. This was six years back. You know the stunning thing? Nothing happened. The earth didn’t shatter. The gods didn’t punish our family.

So, my point? The gods are pretty accommodating. It is their self-appointed messiahs that misconvey their views.

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