Vicky Donor's Sabarimala

Oct 28, 2018, 06:07 IST | Meenakshi Shedde

Perhaps, if women actively held their own prayer festivals at other Ayyappa temples, the Sabarimala brouhaha would die quickly

Vicky Donor's Sabarimala
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeRaja Andhayug spluttered with rage. "How dare the Supreme Court allow women under 50 to enter Ayyappa's temple at Sabarimala?" he roared. Guru Tamasoma also choked. "Ayyappa is a celibate God, so we cannot tempt him by allowing menstruating women into the temple," he thundered.

Vidhushak could not believe his ears. "Maharaj! Are you suggesting that God will be tempted by his own women devotees? And men should discipline God's temptations, because He cannot be trusted?" he asked.

"That's not what I said," replied Raja Andhayug, who was easily confused, and could not clarify what he did want to say.

Vidhushak continued, "But Maharaj, when women are allowed in all the other Ayyappa temples, why not here? Please do not link two unrelated issues, religion and sexual harassment or #MeToo. The court may ask us funny questions that we won't be able to answer."

Another thing, Maharaj, Vidhushak persisted. "Aren't all men born of menstruating women, and therefore are as pure or impure as these women? Or are only 'pure men' born from Vicky Donor test tubes, allowed entry into Sabarimala?" he asked. By now, Raja Andhayug's head was reeling, so he called in the local Shiv Sena, to settle this impeccable logic with goon power.

According to Vidhushak, there are two ways of dealing with backward, insecure Thugs of Hindostan. One is to tackle them head-on, as the courts, the police and some women, are trying to do. The other technique, Vidhushak added, is: "Ignore the men and do your own thing. When the Dalits, fed up of being treated like dirt by the Brahmins for centuries, converted to Buddhism and Christianity, the Brahmins panicked and quickly offered them sops to keep them in the fold of Hinduism. For instance, the Maharaja of Travancore permitted Dalits to enter all public temples in his state in 1936. This strategy can have consequences more far-reaching than merely getting entry into this or that temple."

Vidhushak pointed out the triumphs of the revolutionary, Muslim, all-women jamaat in Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, recorded in Deepa Dhanraj's inspiring documentary, Invoking Justice. A jamaat is traditionally a Muslim, all-male council, held in mosques, whose frequently patriarchal and misogynistic interpretations of the Islamic sharia, especially in personal and family law, never even allowed women to be present at the hearing of their own cases. And this was in serious cases of murder and violence against women, triple talaaq, and dowry. So the spunky Sharifa Khanam founded the Muslim Women's Jamaat in 2004, that has given justice according to the sharia, but with more honesty, justice and compassion, in over 8,000 cases. When the women begged men for justice and were treated like dirt, they simply ignored them and did their own thing. Perhaps, if women actively held their own prayer festivals at other Ayyappa temples, the Sabarimala brouhaha would die quickly. Or even bring the women an invitation to enter.

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at meenakshishedde@gmail.com.

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