On Sabarimala, Congress is treading the difficult middle path of standing by believers, but pursuing matter only through constitutional means.

It’s never pleasant to suffer the opprobrium of one’s friends, and I have had to endure a fair degree of unpleasantness since laying out my views on Sabarimala in this space a few weeks ago. Many of those who have stood by me on other issues that matter to liberals have turned on me in language ranging from disappointment to fury. Their disillusionment with me is evident in dozens of articles and tweets, and echoed in a hundred social media barbs directed at me daily.

The reason for all this is easy enough to understand: I have consistently, for over four decades, advocated liberal principles in our public life and in our political space, even when it was not ‘safe’ to do so. In my speeches, articles and books, I’ve critiqued the Emergency, stood by Shah Bano, defended Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen, condemned the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots, and stood up for M.F. Husain to paint as he pleased. I have been an early and consistent voice on women’s rights, advocating that stalking be made a non-bailable offence, criminalising marital rape, supporting every woman’s bodily and personal autonomy, endorsing the #MeToo movement and signing up to the Women’s Reservation Bill. I do not believe menstruation should confer any disability on women or restrict them from any position or activity, and have submitted a private member’s bill in Parliament to protect women’s menstrual rights.

Then why am I – to quote the words of my friend Thomas Isaac, finance minister of Kerala – now “on the wrong side” on Sabarimala?

My liberal friends would nod appreciatively at the phrase. For them, the issue is clear: the Supreme Court has decreed women of menstruating age cannot be denied entry into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the name of traditional customs. Liberals see this as a welcome step forward in favour of women’s equality, a stand no liberal can possibly oppose.


Also read: Sabarimala cleaned after women enter: Faith in tradition or resistance to change?


I envy them their clarity. But as a public representative myself, daily discussing the issue with hundreds of the people I represent in Parliament, including large numbers of women of precisely the age that is intended to benefit from the Supreme Court’s judgment, I find the issue anything but clear.

Liberals confuse the restrictions on women’s entry into Sabarimala with earlier restrictions on the temple entry of ‘lower’ castes, whose abolition a few decades ago (in the teeth of conservative opposition at the time) is now almost universally taken for granted. That’s how change comes, liberals assert. The diehards resist, but in the end, everyone accepts, and after a few years everyone wonders what the fuss was about.

Except that Sabarimala worshippers – and there are millions of them – don’t see it that way. They make the arduous trek up to the shrine because they believe in its legends the way Catholics believe in the Virgin Birth or Muslims in the divine revelation to their Prophet, as beliefs integral to their faith. Just as a Supreme Court verdict ordering the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests and bishops in the name of gender equality would occasion outrage rather than compliance, so also this verdict has been rejected by those who believe it assaults the very foundations of their faith in the deity installed at Sabarimala.

The cause of Dalit entry into temples was championed both by large numbers of Dalits and by many of their co-religionists of other castes, who all felt that the ban was an abominable social practice with no religious sanction. There has been no similar mass movement of believing women clamouring for entry here. Indeed, as many have pointed out to me, the nature of the deity at Sabarimala is such that if you believe in Him, you would not wish to disturb Him as a naishtika brahmachari. They are therefore “Ready to Wait”. Those few women of reproductive age who seek to go there are by definition going not out of belief, but curiosity.


Also read: Why Sabarimala issue leaves instinctive liberals like me torn: Shashi Tharoor


So what, the liberal might say – why shouldn’t they? It’s an issue of women’s rights after all, and it doesn’t harm anybody. But to the believers, the harm is real – this violation of the essential principles guarding their deity is an assault on their place of worship, and they feel personally violated.

And then there’s the politics of it. The Communist state government of Kerala – which has shown no similar eagerness to implement a longer-pending Supreme Court verdict on an issue that divides Jacobite and Orthodox Christians -smuggled in two women to the shrine, covered in black and escorted through a side-entrance reserved for police, rather than up the holy Eighteen Steps. Their zeal has little to do with women’s equality, still less with religious faith. It was cynical politics – a deliberate provocation.

My liberal friends took exception when I used that word in a TV soundbite on Sabarimala. Headlines alleged that I “slammed” the women who sneaked into the temple. I did not. I slammed the state government’s role in arranging their entry in this way, with the deliberate intention of inflaming passions for their narrow political purposes. They are needling the Sangh Parivar to overreact in the streets (as the Hindutva elements can be counted upon to), because they calculate that the resulting polarisation will be to the Communists’ political benefit. As for the BJP, which could easily have defused the situation through legislative action at the Centre, they have no desire to see the crisis resolved, since unrest in the streets serves their interests — by convincing voters that Hinduism is threatened, and only the BJP is standing up for them.

So, I did not use the word “provocative” for the women, but for the actions of the state government, which is acting in the service of a dubious political strategy – promoting communal polarisation in order to drive enough Hindu Congress voters to the BJP, for the Left to win elections as a result. Neither the Communist government nor the BJP is animated by principle, but their cynical theatrics are driving the issue. I believe the liberal values I cherish require me to place some value on the political viability of the Congress Party, which is treading the difficult middle path of saying that we stand by the believers, but will pursue the matter only through constitutional means, not through violence, obstructionism or provocation.

So forgive me, my liberal friends, if I am not ready to join you in asserting the unconditional right of women of reproductive age to enter Sabarimala. Forgive me if I am not willing to overlook how much their faith means to my people, the people it is my duty to represent. Forgive me if I am not willing to ignore the political cynicism of the Communist-led state government and the country’s ruling party. Forgive me for choosing to respect the sacrosanct beliefs of my constituents rather than substitute my liberal rational judgement for their faith.


Also read: Girls, why do you want to go to temples like Sabarimala at all?


Forgive me for pointing out that few, if any, of my critics have faced an electorate, let alone sought to fulfil one’s ideals within the framework of the politically possible. Forgive me for believing that the larger issues one is in politics to fight for should not be sacrificed at the altar of misplaced zeal on this one issue.

It may well be that the Supreme Court might have its way in the long term and that in the future, young women will gaily breeze in and out of Sabarimala, with future generations amazed that in 2019 so many opposed this happening. But as a popularly-elected politician, I think of the future, yet must live in the present.

As novelist Manu Joseph memorably wrote on this very issue, “If you keep pampering the future, you will disregard the present of the people, and they will drag the future deep into the past.”

Dr Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 18 books, both fiction and non-fiction; his most recent book is The Paradoxical Prime Minister. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor.

ThePrint’s YouTube channel is now active and buzzing. Please subscribe here.

  • 10.1K
    Shares
37 Comments Share Your Views

37 COMMENTS

  1. In expressing these views, Sashi Tharoor is just a politician, but less than a leader or a statesman, to the liberal he champions to be.

  2. Yes. Devotees can vote or at least politicians presume this. Principles cannot vote, or again politicians presume this. This MP’s thinking is cynical politics at its hypocritical worst.

  3. Instead of blaming others Tharoor or his party Congress should have moved a bill in the Parliament. Shedding crocodile tears will not solve the problem.

  4. //state government of Kerala – which has shown no similar eagerness to implement a longer-pending Supreme Court verdict on an issue that divides Jacobite and Orthodox Christians//

    Jacobite and Orthodox case is ownership of a building issue between those two parties. The state gov has nothing to do with it.

    The liberal mask is off.

    • State govt filed an affidavit in Supreme Court asking for more time to implement the order peacefully. Wonder why the zeal to implement Sabarimala verdict in rush? Or different set of idealism for different religion ?

  5. There’s a considerable amount of whataboutery there, Sir! Thanks for being honest enough to confess that you don’t think this issue is important enough or winnable enough to risk sacrificing your goodwill with your constituency. That’s where you have disappointed us, of course. “You have chosen – poorly”. You could have brought a sane voice of reason to this hysteria, whipped up no doubt by politics, and I believe people would have listened to you. I believe they still may. What is at stake is not faith, surely, but tradition, and Kerala’s ubiquitous patriarchy.

  6. That is a perfect example of a “Forked Tongue”. Tharoor has arrived at last, because this is how Congress always says and does.

  7. Sir, millions of devotees express their dissappointment at their beliefs not being upheld and their traditions being violated, and you decide to stand with them. You are not able to go against their wishes because it concerns their long standing faith and belief. So, belief is more important for you than reason and a willingness to see both sides of the issue objectively. Legends are plenty, their are urban legends as well, their are legends created about Muslims, about nationalism, about leaders, and these legends are utilized by those who gain from these. So, Ayyappa legend has been utilized by the Thantris and the Royal family to create the Ayyappa cult and make Sabaramila the centre of glory both financially and religiously. And, when rituals take over reason and doubt, many peoples selves get thoroughly invested in them, Their whole minds are mesmerized and soaked into these rituals and beliefs in order to gain security and fill their inner void of boredom and loneliness. And, these are also accepted by women, because they too become mesmerized by the rituals, songs, and beliefs. These beliefs are akin to beliefs about women, which say that women should only manage the household, should not go after careers, should study and get married. They are as strong a belief as these beliefs about Sabarimala. If beliefs were to be seen as sacrosant, then society remains stagnant. What is happening in Kerala is the Ayyappa cult predonimnantly help by the upper caste Hindu society not willing to sacrifice their notions of their religious dominance to the voices of reason. Its difficult for you to see reason, and therefore you stand by those who proclaim belief and ritual to be greater than Constitution. Instead of stating your support for the devotees, you could only say “You are as much for beliefs to be maintained rather than taken away” and you are afraid of taking away the beliefs as it will bring hell upon you. The women who cry for gender equality in the name of entering a temple are as ignorant as the devotees who proclaim their right to maintain traditions. Hinduism can absorb many changes and can evolve if it is allowed to take in all the changes without resistance. Hinduism will not change if women are entered into Sabarimala, Only Thantris and Royal family may lose their complete control over the Ayyappa cult.

  8. Tharoor lost the narrative and he failed miserably in this article. Tharror do believe that by playing soft hinduwtha he can sail through in the coming election. But when people have the choice to select from mild to wild, they will go to wild and Tharror will end up in lose.

  9. Feelings of a devotee is well articulated by Mr Sashi. In my view if any individual or a group has a strong feeling about a given issue and if the opposing group do not have such a strong feeling it is advisable to not forcefully change. There should be healthy debates and persuasion and political parties should encourage for the same.

  10. 1. Please do not bring up Jacobite vs Orthodox issue, there is no fundamental constitutional rights being violated there.
    2. The ready-to-wait gang can wait until they turn 50. No one’s forcing them to go now. Likewise same decency is expected back from them to NOT stop those who don’t want to wait. This is the most fundamental of all liberal values. How could you not see it?
    3. As for faith, turning 50 is by no means an indication that menstruation is over and done with for a woman. Besides there are thousands of male devotees violating of ritualistic 41 days of Vrutham including sub clauses that mandate specific lifestyles. No one moves a finger. I find it hard to believe its a matter of faith more than it is of patriarchal values. If a God doesn’t want to be ‘disturbed’ by women of menstrual age, what does that God stand for? Patriarchy?
    4. I have not heard one consistent argument about why history of Sabarimala and Hindu Shastras prescribe this ban. All I get to hear is Ayyappa is a Naishtika Brahmachari. Most of the devotees who oppose this don’t even know what that means let alone answer why that particular stature of diety prohibits women from worshipping it.
    5. How is it different from the old untouchability? Savarnas of that era, genuinely believed Avarnas were impure and would compromise the sanctity of the diety. So there is no dichotomy to be found.
    6. Why are you not trying to make the devotees aware they’re not being wronged in any way by this instead of pampering a faith borne out of misconception?
    7. Why is there no engagement over a dialogue to find out how much of this belief system is consistent with Hinduism?
    8. From what I see, most of Hindus do feel that they are under threat and do not get justice from places of power as other religions do. Why is BJP able to convince this to the Hindus in Kerala?

    • 1. You can’t insist that supreme court rulings hold value only if it is to do with fundamental rights.
      2. Sabarimala was established for Devotees to enter and worship, not to uphold liberal values. A devotee is one who believes in the story and history of the deity. A
      young woman asking to visit Sabarimala is NOT a devotee. Devotees who wait until 50 to visit the temple have fundamental rights to practice their faith without
      someone trying to interfere and rewrite the core practice of their faith.
      3. Menstruating Hindu women of Kerala don’t enter temples. They are stopped at home, not turned away from temples. There is no reason for Sabarimala or any
      Kerala temple to devise any particular plan to achieve a result that is already achieved. Menstruation is an easy ploy to vilify the temple and its devotees.
      4. Noise and rhetoric had buried the truth that is known to local Hindus who still had not found a voice. Sabarimala pilgrimage is undertaken to offer the deity
      penance because he had been wronged by ALL, especially 2 young women. One orchestrated an attempt on his life while the other tried to break his
      Brahmacharya. Young women keep off the temple to offer penance and respect while ALL other devotees partake in penance by observing a long period of
      austerity. The trek to Sabarimala is such a treacherous one, it is also tied to the concept of penance.
      5. A person pushed in a puddle is not a person in a swamp. Why do you think the counsel for Kerala govt didn’t support this argument? Untouchables lived the
      lives of untouchables all breathing moments of their lives. They couldn’t wash off their worries on the 3rd day. In other minor details, Savarna’s fear couldn’t be
      based on evidence, it was a blanket ban and cross-aisle cooperation is what helped in lifting the ban Here, the filtering is evidence-based, it’s not a blanket ban
      and there is zero support from the devotees.
      6. Where is the misconception?
      7. Why does it need the stamping of Hinduism? This temple is truly unique. Why box it?
      8. BJP didn’t convince me or scores like me. They are useless as ever. Even before the ruling was out, there was an influx of videos in my inbox re-enacting upper
      caste atrocities from early 1900’s. While I wondered about its relevance, came plenty of talks by CPM think tanks blaming temples and Nairs/Brahmins of the
      state for all its troubles. In the same breath, they praised with new fervor, the spiritual leader of a 25% strong Hindu OBC group in the state and the temples he
      established! The govt won’t dare do this to the 27% strong Muslims of the state or the 18% strong Christians. They don’t mind isolating the 13% upper caste if that wins them the 25% OBC group. That is why there is so much Nair/brahmin bashing happening right now using the ‘untouchability’ tool.

  11. Swamiye sharnam ayyappa

    Sabarimala temple gives life experience for men to enlighten himself in spirituality and Yogic experiences.

    A man has to do 41 days bhramhacharya vratham no alcohol no meat daily twice bath and manly no sex they don’t even sleep with their wives for 41 days bhramhacharya.

    So if women starts coming to this temple.

    1.temple values will be demolished. Because of breaking temple traditions. So sabarimala temple will lose its values

    2.women will be a distraction in males environment and spoiling the concentration of the male devotees. So the purpose of strict bhramhacharya will be broken and it will not as effective as it is now. So if women are really interested in lord ayyappa temple. They can go to other 1000 of sabarimala lord ayyappa temple in Southern India. Are they can have their own temples where only women’s are allowed. Just like there are more than 10 temples in india not allowing males.

    3.belief tantra and agamas – There are complex sciences that go into building temples and the rituals involved in maintaining them. Ancient Indian knowledge systems such as Agama Shastra practiced by few stapathis(Architects) are used in temple construction and involve complex geometry.

    Why Sabarimala restricts entry of all women who could menstruate?

    Unlike other temples which only restrict menstruating women, the Sabarimala temple restricts entry to all women of the menstruating age (10 to 50 years). This is not just to be on the safer side in case menstruating women break the rule. To understand this, we need to understand what exactly happens when people pursue brahmacharya or absolute celibacy, as is required of every devotee who wishes to enter the Sabarimala temple.

    Brahmacharya is the state of transforming sexual energy with the intention of directing it upwards for spiritual enlightenment. It is different from the western understanding of celibacy which talks about mere abstinence from sexual activity.

    Tantra substantiates its techniques of spiritual development on the control and channelising of sexual energy.

    While in men, semen is the fluid containing the sexual energy, in women it is the menstrual blood. Both these have life giving properties and are considered potent. Practices which involve brahmacharya and attainment of spiritual upliftment transform the sexual fluids into subtle energies which Ayurveda calls ojas and tejas. So if women followed brahmacharya or came in contact with energies which helped to transform their sexual fluid into subtle energies, what could happen?

    If women took to practices which transformed their sexual energy, the menstrual flow would reduce and ovulation might eventually stop. Obviously, this would affect their ability to reproduce. So while women can definitely pursue the path of renunciation and follow practices that the Ayyappas do, they should be aware and okay with the idea of not menstruating. If women stopped menstruating, life would come to a stop. Could this be the reason why women of menstruating age are denied entry into Sabarimala even if they are not menstruating?

    The above explanation is not a “belief” to be dismissed or accepted. Afterall, if temples do negatively impact menstruating women, we need to be aware and not leave it to a question of following one religion or not. At least for the sake of curiosity, if nothing else, let us dig deeper to really understand whether or not temples actually impact menstrual cycles. Let’s not reduce feminism to fighting for things which we have no knowledge about, and worse still, might actually cause us harm.

    4.there are lakhs of temple and gods in india for women to pray. So don’t say discrimination and all those nonsense things. It is like feminist asking her daughter admission in boys school. So if feminist can build a temple for lord ayyappa or Maalikapurathamma Temple for womens only temple. We males have no objection for such things. We don’t have any pusedo ideas like women

    5.it lord ayyappa wish not that temple is discriminating. Why should pusedo feminism simply wasting nations time on such issues.

    6.Supreme Court should take responsibility for all these nuisances chaos. Supreme Court has failed to uphold constitution and showing its dictatorship so Parliament should be made Supreme in religious matters.

    Supreme Court has again and again failing to give proper judgment in religious matters.and causing coumunal disharmony among religions. Allowing political parties to create havoc disharmony and chaos in religious matters.

    Supreme Court is not allowing us to have our fundamental rights of practicing and following religion’s peacefully. It is allowing nonbelievers to force believers to be like them.

    It is just one sabarimala ayyappa temple age old tradition of not allowing women

    Sabarimala Temple does not discriminate ladies from entering the temple. Instead, it is Lord Ayyappan wish to honour Malikapurathamma’s love and sacrifice that made the Lord avoid women in menstruating age. It is out of pure respect for Malikapurathamma that Lord Ayyappan avoids ladies in menstruating age. If the feminist have respect for Malikapurathamma (which they should have) they must never take to the streets against the age-old ban on women in menstruating age from entering Sabarimala Swami Ayyappan Temple.

    Even in ram mandir despite is still not given any good judgment. We can’t wait till eternity for judgements in religious matters.

    So supreme court is failing again and again in religious matters. So Parliament should be made Supreme in religious matters. Because both Parliament and Supreme Court are to uphold constitution. So why not Parliament be made Supreme in religious matters.

    7.Sabarimala lord ayyappa is following his promise given to a devotee that it and nothing else

    Maalikapurathamma is the goddess who is worshipped in a subsidiary shrine at Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple. Maalikapurathamma Temple is visited after having darshan of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.Malikappurathamma is also called Manchambika and Mancha mathavu (Mancha matha).[1][2]

    Maalikapurathamma (Mahishi) is the sister of Mahishasura, who was the daughter of the sage Galvan. A student of Galvan’s cursed Mahishi, turning her into a buffalo-headed demon. The demon was killed by Lord Ayyappa, ending the curse and changing her into a beautiful woman. She wanted to marry Ayyappa, but Ayyappa was a Brahmachari. He asked her to reside near his temple in Sabarimala. Her temple in time came to be known as Maalikapurathamma Temple.

    Ayyappa also told her that he would marry her when first timer (kanni Ayyappa) does not comes to sabarimala Ayappa knows all year new kanni ayappa comes to sabarimala for darshan

    The legend goes further saying that in honour of Malikapurathamma, Lord Ayyappa does not receive any menstruating woman. Also, the women’s chose not to visit Lord Ayyappa for it would be an insult to Malikapurathamma’s love and sacrifice..

    So lord ayyappa doesn’t want any kanya means the women in menstruating age to be nearby him because Malikapurathamma the women devotee asked him to marry her. So on her request lord ayyappa is not allowing kanyas in sabarimala

  12. Sabarimala issue is not about women’s equality. Mensturation is considered to be impure in Hindu religion. Therefore women in mensturating age group are banned entry into Sabarimala temple. If God created humans, He also created mensturation. Nobody thinks that God considers mensturation impure. Who are these priests to put restrictions on women in that age group. Tharoor sab you know all this and yet parroting your party line.

    • Raoji, people like you are the problem. Menstruation is NOT the reason why Sabarimala filters young women. In Kerala, menstruating Hindu women don’t enter temples. Why would then a particular temple devise a particular plan to achieve the outcome that is already achieved and practiced?
      Truth is lost in so much noise.
      1. Sabarimala pilgrimage is undertaken to offer the deity penance because he had been wronged by ALL, especially 2 young women. One orchestrated an attempt on his life while the other tried to break his Brahmacharya.
      2. Young women keep off the temple to offer penance and respect while ALL other devotees partake in penance by observing a long period of austerity.
      3. The trek to Sabarimala is such a treacherous one, it is also tied to the concept of penance.
      4. Young women who visited the temple in the ’80s did so quietly using power and personal influence. Realtives of Manthri, Thantri’s, Queen, King.., Movie Stars..,
      all VIP’s, no commoners. Since the temple is closed most of the year, what goes on there don’t get noticed except during the pilgrimage season. Even if rumors came out, average devotees had no voice to protest this power play until one devotee decided to approach Kerala HC in 1990.
      5. Kerala HC mandated 10-50 age limit in 1991 when communist govt was in power. No one protested long 17 years. But now suddenly, it is a matter of equality!
      6. 2006 Sabarimala petition was filed on a made up story. By the time, Kerala crime branch inquiry came out with the conclusion, the petition was already filed.
      7. Kerala Hindu women don’t enter temples when they menstruate. Why then any particular temple come up with a particular plan to achieve the result that is
      already achieved? Menstruating women face isolation at home. Not at public places. Public places have no means to know when women are menstruating! This
      propaganda is nothing more than an easy ploy to vilify temples and devotees.
      8. ‘Untouchability’ is an essential political tool for the state govt to persuade the 25% strong Hindu OBC group Ezhavas. Plenty of videos and talks left a clear trail of
      this plot. Nair/brahmin bashing by the govt is no accident. 13% vote of upper caste is something they can afford to lose. But they won’t dare do anything to upset
      the 27% strong votes of Muslims or the 18% Christians.

  13. Sabarimala issue is not about women’s equality. Mensturation is considered to be impure in Hindu religion. Therefore women in mensturating age group are banned entry into Sabarimala temple. If God created humans, He also created mensturation. Nobody thinks that God considers mensturation impure. Therefore it’s improper to put restrictions on women in that age group.

  14. After all you are contesting from a seat where BJP is very influential. Not surprised by pre election stand. Pl don’t try to confuse liberals by stating the earlier ban on lower caste to enter the temple. The forms are different but the means are same and you also knows this. So better win seat by confusing liberals… don’t make us sasiiiii!!!’

  15. Mr.Tharoor has gone to desperate length to justify his stand and also make it look like not dictated by political necessity or opportunism. Well he has failed miserably and continue to disappoint us. His party’s State wing has even gone to the extent of rubbishing and ignoring their party President’s stand on the issue is another matter. What Tharoor must realize for his party’s good is that in Kerala the Congress have gained nothing but contempt in the Sabarimala issue and if someone gained it is the BJP.
    Tharoor’s arguments here have been efficiently dealt by the Supreme Court and so provoke no more attention. The mumbo jumbo story of “naishtika bramchari” and faith that he latched on has been thrown out by the Supreme Court in the course of the long years of arguments.
    Now about the Piravaom church, it is surely not that he is not aware of the difference. But yet he chose to relate it here. Another weak argument! One can accept his allegation that the LDF government showed undue haste and alacrity in getting women into the shrine. Well what if those women or at least one went to Court and alleged that the State government failed to heed the Supreme Court’s verdict? So Mr. Tharoor you ought to be forthright here and little anecdotal past stands like that on Salman Rushdie etc holds now water. The fact is simple and plain votes matter. That is a resonating fact.

  16. Shashi Tharoor need not bother about conservatives of Thiruvananthapuram. There are a lot of liberals in Malappuram district . In the coming Parliament election, he can win from there, if that is his worry.

  17. God or any such belief cannot stand the scrutiny of logic and rational especially constitutional morality. There were many customs developed across the world based on God belief and if, court or state starts interfering in each and every custom then they have to first deny the right to worship a God or practice a religion because it cannot be proven scientifically. A custom around belief should not altered because it is meant for only believers. If, it was a prohibition on women entry then there was a justification for a court scrutiny but a regulation based on belief cannot be equated to prohibition. I fully endorse the view of Shashi Thaoor but he has to do it more openly than reluctant endorsement just to satisfy his constituents (It sounds more political than sincere)

  18. I gave this a quick read. Shashi Tharoor has admitted he has to keep electorate in mind. For a seasoned debater of yesteryear, the arguments do not convince the reader, they fall flat. What happened to the star debater who won big trophies for his debating skills during his student days? It reads like an apology for caving into the pressures because of the censure he received. At least in the beginning I thought he had the interests of the voter in mind, which means he was perceptive and sensitive to their needs, but after reading this article it seems it had to do more with the elections in mind, which is keeping in mind how the votes would be cast. I guess that is what happens when people enter politics, they take a stand they would not perhaps have, had they had not been part of it. I wonder what he feels really about the matter (in his head) is different from the position he has taken publicly. I don’t know whether to call it a sad political reality or a sad reality of everyday life of people.

  19. As a menstruating half-Hindu woman, my two cents on the issue : we women have enough and more issues as is to deal with on a daily basis. As a nation there are more than enough problems of gender inequality to sort out that this whole Sabarimala debate shouldn’t be of the highest priority right here right now. Once we finish stopping the female foeticide and infanticide rampant in Haryana, increase the literacy rate of women throughout the country, reduce the primary school drop out rate, bring about equal representation in the workforce, implement equal pay for equal work, eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace and a thousand other things then maybe we can come to issues like Sabarimala. I may be wrong and you may disagree with me but like I said before this is just my opinion on this issue right now

  20. I do appreciate your stance as this cannot be a political tussle… But still I maintain my stance on Twitter that you’re a misfit to Congress and the family run mafia… You’re really valued and needed for higher things. CM or PM…

  21. Sir,you have written with conviction and quite convincing for the reader too.I too would have got convinced save for a couple of questions that were at the back of my mind as I read you.
    First one-Shabarimala was not a strictly out of bounds zone for young women till 1991
    Since the time when the monthly pooja practice began in the mid eighties, till 1991 when the court order came. large number of young women have visited the shrine.This makes it evident that the it was the 41 days Mandalam penance that discouraged women from trekking the hills.
    Even otherwise we have heard a few,but rare, instances of young women visiting the temple before monthly pooja started.
    So after all,it was menstruation that mattered when you view it in connection with the 41 day penance.
    My questions to you-why are we making a big fuss over a religious practice that is only 27-28 years old?
    How is the court authorised to decide Ayyappan is a celibate?

    Second one-Learned people have come out to say that one of the prayers chanted for the deity within the sanctum sanctorum includes the name of his two wives and one of the sacred jewelry that is carried from Pandalam to adorn the deity every year has the two wives engraved in them.
    Should not you examine the above facts closely before you argue the case?

    • Jayashree, Young women who entered in the ’80s were all VIP’s or VVIP’s. Manthri’s PA, Thanthri’s daughter, King’s relative, queen, Movie Stars…, it literally was a power play breaking the traditions there. An average devotee didn’t get to see it or hear about it since it was done quietly in quiet days. Also note that when atheists are given charge of temples, these sorts of issues are bound to happen. There were rumors that Sabarimala customs were getting broken. Then a picture came out showing a retired temple administrator’s young daughter in the temple. So an upset devotee decided to approach the court in 1990. Though Kerala HC mandated the 10-50 only in 1991, the filtering existed for generations as a voluntary practice. Just that it had to be made into a rule after people started disrespecting it.
      It is not menstruation, but the story of Ayyappan that matters. He was wronged by ALL, especially 2 young women. One plotted to kill him and the other tried to break his Brahmacharya. So the penance young women offer the deity is more important. Young women keep off to pay penance and respect. All other devotees undertake a long period of austerity and a hard trek to offer their penance. Ayyappan’s Brahmacharya is widely known in the state through oral traditions and a text Bhoothanatha Upakhyanam. The court doesn’t have to authorize it.
      You should ask the same learned people why is it shocking for priests to offer chants that praise the different forms of the same Devata. When you chant Ayyappa sthotram, do you not mention his other names? Don’t we call out to deities, using all the names and forms known to us?

  22. Sashi Tharoor – You have been bold enough to sift the chaff from the grain! Kudos!
    True believers from any and all faiths will always respect the prevailing sentiments of another faith instead of trying to ‘test the ropes’ and degrade another person’s beliefs!! Raising issues of caste discrimination are not valid any longer after the temple gates were opened up for everyone! So now you have to seek out other battle lines!
    Surely your faith and Divinity will not condone your consistently needling people from other faiths about their practices with the target of ultimately trying to prove your faith is the ‘better one’ and with the ulterior motive of ‘converting’! When you start engaging in the derison of another human being or disrespecting wishes, you cease to be a devout believer in your faith and worse- you cease to be the tolerant human being that Indians are reputed to be!!!
    Let the Hindus settle this issue amicably as they are wont to do or is that too tame spelling your failure to deride and convert!!

  23. Mr. Tharoor needs to win his LS seat, which he cant without Hindu votes.

    Period.

    So, he is now against Young Women going to Sabarimala.

    If he is honest, he shud go to Delhi and get the Prince & Queen Mother to support him.

    All else is drama to fool Hindus into voting for him.

  24. Truth is lost in so much noise.
    1. Sabarimala pilgrimage is undertaken to offer the deity penance because he had been wronged by ALL, especially 2 young women. One orchestrated an attempt on his life while the other tried to break his Brahmacharya.
    2. Young women keep off the temple to offer penance and respect while ALL other devotees partake in penance by observing a long period of austerity.
    3. The trek to Sabarimala is such a treacherous one, it is also tied to the concept of penance.
    4. Young women who visited the temple in the ’80s did so quietly using power and personal influence. Realtives of Manthri, Thantri’s, Queen, King.., Movie Stars..,
    all VIP’s, no commoners. Since the temple is closed most of the year, what goes on there don’t get noticed except during the pilgrimage season. Even if rumors came out, average devotees had no voice to protest this power play until one devotee decided to approach Kerala HC in 1990.
    5. Kerala HC mandated 10-50 age limit in 1991 when communist govt was in power. No one protested long 17 years. But now suddenly, it is a matter of equality!
    6. 2006 Sabarimala petition was filed on a made up story. By the time, Kerala crime branch inquiry came out with the conclusion, the petition was already filed.
    7. Kerala Hindu women don’t enter temples when they menstruate. Why then any particular temple come up with a particular plan to achieve the result that is
    already achieved? Menstruating women face isolation at home. Not at public places. Public places have no means to know when women are menstruating! This
    propaganda is nothing more than an easy ploy to vilify temples and devotees.
    8. ‘Untouchability’ is an essential political tool for the state govt to persuade the 25% strong Hindu OBC group Ezhavas. Plenty of videos and talks left a clear trail of
    this plot. Nair/brahmin bashing by the govt is no accident. 13% vote of upper caste is something they can afford to lose. But they won’t dare do anything to upset
    the 27% strong votes of Muslims or the 18% Christians.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here