Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Should the world be one?

Sabrimala Sree Ayyappa

Sometime ago the Princess of Thailand was refused entry to the Jaganath Temple in Puri, Orissa. There were local protests by some and later all was forgotten. I for one, do not agree with the temple rules as such. The princess is said to be a devout reader of the vedas and a follower and why should someone refuse her the right to seek blessing of the God? Only a born hindu, by race can enter the temple it seems. Not those who have faith necessarily. That I think is not fitting.

So, while I think as above why is that I support the Lord Ayyappa's Sabarimala Temple rules to disallow ladies from the age of 10 to 50?

Well, I am no expert in religion, neither on how it has evolved. I also am noone to judge the condition of women in Hinduism or some of them, as I am not a women facing the situation. I must have to listen to them to know.

So, whats the difference between the Lord Jaganath temple story and the Sabarimala's Lord Ayyappa temple?

The former is a God whose story is related to all human beings and hence I beleieve every one has the right to seek his union. But Lord Ayyappa story, specifically with regard to Sabarimala temple is about celibacy and different. The story is a bout a teenage God, who was born of two male Gods - Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva - when the formed changed form into a beautiful woman.

Now the temple's story is that the Lord Ayyappa should not connect with a woman because he has taken an oath of celibacy. So, woman between 10 and 50 are not allowed at Sabrimala where Lord Ayyappa's idol is located. That's it. Like someone abstaining.

My point is that this story is one degree of Hinduism. From among 100s of temples all over, this is one has this particular story. And that is the beauty. Now, some few 'women think they should be allowed to access this temple in the name of feminism.

But why? This particular temple's story is defunct if a female enters. Its a catch 22 situation.

Would I insist in entering a temple which was women only, because a Goddess was supposed to have taken a vow of celibacy and it was thought that she should not meet an adult man? No. I would not. I would leave the story and the faith/imagination intact. Because.... that one story and stream of events does not define Hinduism. Its a 1000 streams and that is the beauty - pulled together.

Of course, if someone points to me in general how women have been insulted in Hinduism I am ready to listen and agree. But trying to target Lord Ayyappa's temple solves none of these issues, according to me.

Anyways, this is what I have concluded and I am not the last word in life or religion. So, I will let the wiser people to defend or destroy whatever.

What however hurt me more was a recent chat show on India's leading English News Channel - NDTV.

There were these two 'modern' ladies who were logically tuned to spirituality - yes, very forward thinking. And then there was this young guy who was a follower of Lord Ayyappa and I think from a priest family. Unlike what the audience felt in the show, I found him much more broadminded, patient and easy person. The so called modern ladies, one of them a senior editor from a leading newspapers were rude, sarcastic, insulting, insensitive and without respect for those with different view points. The way they used the name 'Ayyappa' was the first sign of dissrespect. And people clapped. I guess this was an ignorant audience even though Hindu - with little regional sensitivity. No one would dare do that if it was another region. One of the ladies also sought to understand ' What is the whole idea of Lord Ayyappa? Its 800 years and he is a celibate and still averse to women?" Claps!!!

Even a person like Swami Agnivesh, who is a big reformist did little to aceept the difference between Lord Jaganath temple's incident and the Sabrimala incident. Fair enough. But, I felt he used more of his authority to win the discussion of the young guy than benevolence - which I thought should really be the epitome of a Swami.

The young guy did a tactical mistake in the discussion. He tried to say that many a Hindu history has been removed from context and painted ugly. Such as Sati - where a women follows her husband's dead body by jumping into the fire. He said that only 1% women did so and did it out of sheer love for the husband and some others followed the example thereon. But it was not forced upon them as people think and as some began to practise later. Well, he could be right or wrong - I do not know. But I am sure he was not propogating the practise. He was just stretching his imagination and in a kind manner - whatever he said - I could feel so. But the Swami shut him up by telling him that he is commiting a crime by discussing a matter banned by the Indian constitution. Now, true Sati is an ugly phenomenon forced in some parts of the country as I hear in the news. But why cannot people stretch their thoughts and speak? And a Swami asking a young person to shut up does not sound like a postive influence to me...


Now, you ask me if I am a believer in Lord Ayyappa. No, I maybe not. But I am a believer in human emotions, senses, imagination and faith. I do not beleive in religioous practises when it insults human beings whether it is Hinduism or any of the other. But I really love Hinduism's ability to give expression to so many emotions, thoughts, worldviews.

By targetting Lord Ayyappa's story (specifically with regard to Sabrimala temple) what people are trying to do is destroy this diversity. They want everyone and everything to prove their political correctness and in the end everything must look the same. And then Hinduism will not be the same, I think. People have to learn to differentiate between a specific story and the larger picture.

Women must fight it out if Hinduism does insult to them. But they have no right to destroy one set of imagination. Its easy to think that Lord Ayyappa's Sabrimala tradition is to insult women. If so, then women are insulted everytime a Monk anywhere chooses to abstain from sex. But ask any Sabrimala devotee if his choice to go to Sabrimala temple is about hate for women - he will not understand your question.

Of course, there are softer issues. Why is it that its always women who must stay away from men and why not the other way. Well, why not? But again, destroying this specific temple's tradition is not going to solve this issue.

To me it seems that when people today have differing views, especially on these chats, they will never discuss in a simple tone. They must destroy the other person, else they do not win? It hardly seems like there is any benevolence in the discussion. Its so confronting. Its very easy to think that these are two different worlds discussing - in the name of creating 'one world'.

I think otherwise. I think we are different people living in a world of diversity and we must work to maintain it. We must learn to be patient and understand the differences before we demand commonality of thinking. And the last thing we should do is use authority over benevolence to convince the others - just the way the people in the chat did with the guy.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Chacko said...

The tantris at Sabrimala are the ones to be banned from there. They are nothing but a disgrace.

2:48 AM  
Blogger trangam said...

Chacko: Thanks for your comment. Yes, it sounds pretty much so, from what I hear in the news.

10:44 AM  
Blogger anamika said...

i believe that the tradition of not allowing women to sabarimala was started to avoid sexual harrassment and related problems. just image what the situation would have been if women were part of the crowd there!!

1:49 AM  
Blogger anamika said...

i am not saying that all men are bad, but it is sure that some men would have come to sabarimala just for pleasure other than the spiritual one.

1:51 AM  

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