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Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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The fundamental question is that can you debar women from worshipping Lord Ayyappa? This is a question. And these women are keeping the pictures of Ayyappa at home and they are worshipping. When a picture or anything similar to that is kept in the house, what does it mean? Ayyappa is present and he is present during their menstruation. What is the difference between one idol in Sabarimalai and so many pictures at home?

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Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru. 

I have an email before me which has to be replied. I started replying, came here in between. It is that I should find a solution to the problem of women being permitted or not to Sabarimalai.

Our tradition says that the deity is supposed to be a celibate, austere person or God. And His celibacy will be disturbed when women during their middle age, say from ten to fifty, when they have periodical menstruation happen to visit Him.

Now, the Supreme Court has asked a question. “Is worship exclusively only for men? What was the custom and practice in the Vedic days? Under the constitution, can you debar anybody from entering a common and public place of worship?”

The matter has assumed serious proportions. The advocates and the petitioners say their life is in danger and some of the writers and others amongst the women have said “This is an area where court and others should not interfere etc. Why did it become necessary for the court to interfere there? These matters should be discussed and decided upon by sober people who have the wisdom as well as the austerity to deal with any kind of a custom that we have.

Any temple is erected by man. The practices are instituted by man. Man’s own mind has invented mantras, tantras, the different forms of worship, the idols, their history, their shapes, the disciplines with which the worship should be done; all have their genesis in the human mind. Is it right to say that our old people had wisdom and austerity to lay down all these and we people are nobody to tamper with them? You don’t tamper with them, deal with them in an even much better manner.

Study the whole genesis of worship, God, scriptures etc. Alphabet is evolved by man, the Vedas are all expressed in alphabet. So, were not the Vedas then written or evolved by human beings? Why is it that Vedic authors were human and practitioners of Vedas are not sufficiently human? Can you take such a stand? So this is a point where I have very firm views.

We are worshipping God considering Him to be superior to human beings. The excitable nature of man cannot be grafted to God whom we worship. We worship God to get rid of all our failures and to become pure. We have the story of Ganesha. When Parvathi proposed to organize a marriage for Ganesha, Ganesha said, “My dear mother, I will marry only one who is as good looking as you are. Only when I find one, I will get to marry.” Then Parvathy said, “Very good. Go and take your seat in the Ashwattha tree, at the bed of it, where people will come after their bath wearing wet clothes, so you can see them in their natural comeliness. If and when you find somebody acceptable to you like me, I will get you married.” Lord Ganesha continues to sit there even now. He has not found somebody suitable to marry. Is Ganesha excited by the sight of young girls, one of whom he is looking for? So Ganesha has this history.

Ayyappa has another history. The question here is that if women or girls upto the age of ten and after the age of fifty can see Lord Ayyappa, then the others also can see and worship. But going to that mountainous temple is a little difficult and arduous and it is said to be associated with a 41 day vow of celibacy. Now, the 41 days to have freedom from menstruation for women is not possible or thinkable. Maybe that is the reason why middle aged women were not going there. If that is the idea and we have opened the temple other than during makara-sankrama etc. can we not have a specific period where women can come, have vision exclusively? Let no men go there, because to ensure the safety of women in such a crowded place is impossible. So, can we not arrange matters in such a manner that women are allowed during a certain period and they alone will come? Whether they will come properly or improperly is not something for men to decide.

We are all born of women. Whatever women are incapable of doing, specially in these matters, I don’t think we can trust ourselves, men. Menstruation is a very natural process. We are all born because of that. Why are we looking at it in a wrong manner? I think doctors will be able to explain what is menstruation, and what are the effects on the body and maybe on other factors.

Can we not trust our women? “This is the ‘vrata’, austere vow that is required for the place. Please make sure that you observe.” Are not they going to the other temples? Do they go while they are having menstruation? If they will avoid going to the temple during menstruation and menstrual disturbances, they will not go to Sabarimalai also. Where is the trouble?

The fundamental question is that can you debar women from worshipping Lord Ayyappa? This is a question. And these women are keeping the pictures of Ayyappa at home and they are worshipping. When a picture or anything similar to that is kept in the house, what does it mean? Ayyappa is present and he is present during their menstruation. What is the difference between one idol in Sabarimalai and so many pictures at home? The only point is that, that idol is located in a mountainous shrine and you can have something very special about it. But tell what is special and leave the practice to the women.

Is there anyone in this world who can say “I know more than my mother in the matter of female disciplines and the rest”? This is where corruption in our practices and custom is creeping. Any society is bound to have corruptions in practice. One man has written a letter to me saying this Lord Guruvayoorappan, Guruvayur Temple, people say that it is a Sri Krishna idol. Is it a Sri Krishna idol or a Maha Vishnu idol? I have been telling for many years now whenever I get an opportunity - Guruvayur temple is not a Krishna temple. It is a Maha Vishnu temple. And the idol is said to have been worshipped by Krishna’s parents, Devaki and Vasudeva. Now, Devaki and Vasudeva are cleverly forgotten and the legend is also forgotten and they call it a Krishna temple. And this is done by a Devaswom Board, a Devaswom committee which is appointed by a democratic government where they what everything to be termed, to be judged in terms of reason etc.

In our constitution, there is a clause. There should be a scientific thinking, promote scientific thinking and a rational temper in all matters. Now it is under that constitution that our government, MLAs, MPs and the others assume their office, their seats and directly under their nose, this blatant lie is being propagated and nobody has been able to change it.

Do you want our great Sanātana Dharma whose different forms are there in temples and other customs and ways, do you want it to be pure and sustaining or do you want it to be eaten up? Similarly, after Makara-sankranti, the only day in which the Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimalai is anointed with his full princely dress, ornaments, swords and other things. People go there only to see him decked with the traditional ornaments which are specially brought for that day. That day, suddenly people were clandestinely hoisting a flame calling it ‘makara-jyothi’. All the people started looking at false pseudo ‘makara-jyoti’ showing their back to Ayyappa. They are showing their back and Ayyappa is forgotten and ‘makara-jyoti’ has taken precedence.

And what is this ‘makara-jyoti’? The Kerala High Court finally asked “Tell us whether it is a human flame or a divine flame.” The Devaswom Board started speaking this and that and they tried to escape. They forced the Devaswom to give an answer. And they said it is hoisted by the Devaswom Board. So they were keeping the whole devotees under a delusion. And then because of the mass requirement, High Court said, “Okay. You hoist it by a priest of the temple and debit the expenditure to the Devaswom. Now does it require a Court to say this? Are we such liars and such incapable people that our religion should be interfered with for its need of propriety by the Court?

If you say that the court is a secular court, why should they deal with a religious matter? But the concept of the court is whenever there is a dispute or an indecision about any matter, suppose somebody says Arabian sea has been set fire to, they will have to say, they will have to come up with an adjudication. So you cannot blame the court. Whenever a matter is taken before the court, they have to adjudicate because the citizens can go only to the court. Sometimes government, parliament, assembly, all of them err in their judgment. The only way it can be redressed is by going to the court. Just see?

They say an idol is installed, Padmanabha Swami is installed by people and if necessary, you can take out the idol and conduct a rejuvenation. But the offerings received in the name of Padmanabha Swami are kept in a particular room. That room should not be opened because opening that room will undermine the sanctity and divinity of the idol. How can we permit this kind of an argument? But mostly it goes under tradition and custom. There are very rare people who have the austerity, confidence and clarity to say it is not so. Our Hindus should themselves be able to resolve this problem. Instead of that, because of mass devotional movement behind this, it finally goes to the court. It is a very, very deplorable situation.

Our shastras are very clear. We have enlightened people also and ultimately, the Hindu thinkers are never given an opportunity to solve the Hindu problems, dhārmik problems. They are taken to the court and you say court should not interfere. What else will they do?

So, Kerala High Court asked the Travancore Devaswom Board “Tell us whether it is a humanly raised flame or a divine flame.” Such a question had to be raised by a judge, can you imagine? Shamelessly the Devaswom board was trying to wiggle out of it. So I was just mentioning the subject and I am writing a reply. I thought of sharing it with you.

Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.