Any man who has even a basic minimal respect for his mother should have the sensitivity to stand against the discrimination against women on basis of menstrual hygiene. We all are product of that menstrual fluid, we all stayed in the womb of a woman for 9 months nurtured by very same menstrual fluid.
So yes, when we hear of any Temple discriminating against women who menstruate (technically all ladies in their prime age) and considering them as a symbol of impurity, that temple should invite our outrage. But Sabarimala is not one of them !!!
The media, online blogs and newspaper websites are full of authors decrying on this issue as an issue of menstrual hygiene and conveniently not touching the real reason why Sabarimala devotees are resisting women’s entry to the shrine. They are making those those people who haven’t understood the issue to see this as another example of male bastion discriminating against women.
There is no mention of the commitment given by the Ayyappa diety to a lady (Goddess Mallikapuratma) who is waiting for him to marry her. Many of us might ask why will she ask her a commitment that Ayyappa won’t see any women of prime age (in today’s world being called the menstruating women)? Why was this goddess so obsessive?
Well if our historical lady devotees are seen, a great number of them are believed to merge with their tutelar deity as a wife of the god. Akka Mahadevi merges with Shiva as a wife, Andal with Ranganath & Meerabai with Krishna. But there aren’t counter examples of male devotees becoming ‘wife’ of the Lord while merging. In Indian culture, we consider women devotees to always have this advantage over male devotees to merge with their lord as a wife. You won’t find a counter example of male devotees of the goddess merging with her as a husband. They will always address the goddess as a mother. Perhaps that’s the advantage we always felt a woman has in her spiritual journey which a man.
Coming back to the insecurity of the demon turned Goddess Mallikapuratma, if one has to believe in the ancient tales of this culture, it won’t come as a surprise that she asks for this strange vow of commitment from the deity that he shouldn’t see any other woman of prime age while she waits for him in perpetuity. Yes she sounds like a possessive goddess, but in Hindu culture we all have acknowledged the exhibition of human characteristics, especially by our Gods and Goddesses.
Now all these mythological stories may look like a laughing matter for one but they are story of reverence for another one. Whether one believes in this tale or not, for millions of Ayyappa devotees this story is their truth. The commitment given by their Lord Ayyappa to the lady named Mallikapuratma who asks for this assurance is the commitment they have to maintain. If they let this commitment be broken, they feel they have let down their lord.
Again and again, people with vested interest will keep in decrying this god as discriminating against women, overlooking the fact that in South India from ancient times (not just in recent world) there have been 108 sacred shrines of Shasta or Ayyappa run by same family of Temple priests who haven’t been discriminating against women’s entry – well because there is no such vow taken at those shrines by their lord.
Now it’s up to us whether we want to listen to the other side of the story media is not going to tell us or just make our own presumptions.
Standing up for Sabarimala, Standing up for Ayyappa !!!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.