Authorities temporarily shut down and cleaned the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala after two women below 50-years of age visited it in the early hours of Wednesday morning. ‘Purification’ rituals were also performed.
ThePrint asks: Sabarimala cleaned after women enter: Faith in tradition or resistance to change?
Cleansing rituals have to performed by priests to maintain sanctity of a temple
Activist, Ready To Wait Campaign
There will be traditions associated with any temple. And there are some common rules for every temple. Many people are aware that you cannot carry certain things inside a temple, or visit it if you have certain conditions, or if a person in your family has passed away.
In some temples of Kerala, even if an animal enters the temple, they perform “shuddhi-kriya” or a cleansing ritual. There are certain temples that don’t allow men to enter and if a man enters, they perform the cleansing ritual. There is a reason behind all these traditions.
This is done as part of the promise made by the temple authorities when the temple is consecrated. They promise to keep the sanctity of the temple intact and when it is breached, they have to do the cleansing rituals, which are usually performed by the temple Tanthri (chief priest) and the pujari (priest). They make a promise to follow the guidelines that the deity has prescribed. When a Tanthri has made this promise, every time it is broken, he will have to do penance.
It is clearly our faith in traditions and culture that continue these religious systems. This is not resistance to change. The temple authorities are apolitical, they are just believers of God and have nothing to do with politics.
Cleaning after women’s visit amounts to practicing untouchability
Feminist and social critic
This is resistance to change. It points to the notions of purity and pollution. The very name of the ritual – “shuddhi-kalasham” – refers to purification, and this is necessary only when someplace gets ‘polluted’ or ‘contaminated’. In this case, it is the presence of certain women who are being seen as ‘impure’. This is clearly a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India. It amounts to untouchability and clearly that cannot be practiced. There are many who are justifying this, but this cannot be justified in temples.
Untouchability cannot be practiced in any sacred space. I have also heard that there are churches in Kerala that do not allow menstruating women to come in. It is a taboo. The ban on women of a certain age irrespective of whether they menstruate or not isn’t acceptable.
Women want change. That is clear. This is not a matter of whether women want it or not, it is a matter of democracy and giving women the option to go. I am quite certain there are many women who believe in this tradition and do not go. But those who are willing they should not be stopped.
Sabarimala temple needed to be urgently shut down to perform the purification rituals
Former president, Travancore Devaswom Board
It has been the tradition of the Sabarimala temple to not allow women. The temple is a part of our lives. It is important to understand that the main authority of the temple is the Tanthri or the chief priest. It is the Tanthri who has decided to call for purification of the temple.
Thousands of devotees come to Sabarimala to offer their prayers and when its sanctity is violated, it is necessary for the purification process. There was an urgent necessity for the temple to be closed down, especially the Sannidhanam (sanctum), and a “parihara-kriya (cleansing ritual)” be performed. That is what was done. What needs to be done further will be discussed with the temple officials.
Our visit to Sabarimala was peaceful and pre-planned; didn’t expect the cleaning rituals
Psychologist and friend who accompanied the women who entered Sabarimala temple
I went in with Bindu and Kanakadurga and it was the first time for me entering Sabarimala. I had heard a lot about the situation and we knew that the place could spell trouble for us. But when we landed there it was peaceful and people actually cooperated with us. We spent some time at the coffee shop by the temple, and it was such a wonderful experience.
It was absolutely unnecessary for them to have gone ahead with the cleansing ritual. This temple follows very old traditions. We have the SC court ruling in our favour and what the temple authorities have done is completely unfair. They have made it look as if the women were pollutants or some kind of infection. They’re trying to push their Brahminical agenda and they are being supported by Right-wing activists. All this was planned and we do not agree with them.
This is definitely resistance to change and the temple authorities are too adamant. Kerala is a very progressive state, but such acts make the state look regressive. This is not the Kerala we know.
Cleansing ritual will take place every time someone tries to break our traditions
President, Ayyappa Seva Samajam
This cleansing ritual is absolutely necessary and this is how the system works. We believe in Lord Ayyappa, and as believers, if any ritual or belief of the temple is broken then prayaschitha(penance) has to be done. This will take place every time somebody tries to break our tradition.
Soon after the entry of these two women, we closed down the temple to cleanse it despite a direct threat from the chief minister. The chief priest or the Tanthri closed the temple for an hour and performed all the necessary rituals to make the place pure again. They have conducted pujas in the areas that may have been violated. We started the “shuddhi–kriya” of the temple and after that, the temple has been opened to the devotees again.
Lakhs of people have been inconvenienced because of these two radical people. They are doing this because of their arrogance. They don’t have the audacity to do it during the day, and the police went around telling people that were transgender people and that is how they gained entry.
By Rohini Swamy, associate editor at ThePrint.