The reason for prohibiting women of age between 10-50 years from entering Sabarimala is that they are supposed to be in menstruation stage which time they are considered impure because the menstrual discharge is believed to be impure. History is full of such discriminating theories and practices against women based on the belief that the menstruation discharge is impure: Invisible Injustices.
Medical and other scientific studies show that menstruation is only one of the natural biological processes of expelling wastes from human body. If menstruation is objectionable then there are several other body wastes worse than menstrual fluid making people impure. All will agree that the worst human waste which we expel every day is the human excreta and urine which are the end products of digestion without which no one can be alive. They are the worst type of human wastes causing deadly contamination in water and food due to which millions of people die in Asian-African countries. On an average every human carry around 3-5 kg of faecal matter in his large intestine and filter out two litres of urine per day. If so why not attach impurity on the people based on their contaminating excreta and urine which they carry around every day in their bodies?
Every human is continually breathing out carbon dioxide which is one of the most deadly gasses causing death to thousands of people working in sewage systems and deep wells. On an average a human breathes out carbon dioxide also 16-18 times per minute and the breathed out air contains 4-5% more carbon dioxide than the breathed in air. If menstruating women are considered impure in Sabarimala temple, then, why not all the carbon dioxide expelling human beings also considered impure? Carbon dioxide is a deadly gas while menstrual fluid is only a harmless discharge like the human sweat.
Phlegm, mucus, sputum and spits are other common types of discharges from the normal human body which are also contaminating the people and environments including temples. Such discharges from the human body occur both in men and women. In addition there are other types of vaginal discharges occurring in women even after menstruation period or due to infection in the female reproductive system between 10-50 years of age. If menstrual discharge is impure then all other discharges from human body are also impure to people as well as to temple environment. In India people are accustomed to spit anywhere and everywhere including temple premises. Why not consider the spittle and all the body waste discharges impure?
There is a special sexual discharge in all men folk called semen which is expelled by all males of age between mid-teenage to his late old age. This happens several times a week to once a month depending on the age and health of the man. It also occurs voluntarily in waking stage or involuntarily during the sleep. It may be compared to be similar to the periodic discharges of women in menstruating age. If menstrual fluid is impure then discharge of seminal fluid is also impure. In fact many religions and cultures are still attaching impurity to the discharge of seminal fluid. In Judaism emission of semen causes impurity in male. In certain sects of Hinduism s exual intercourse was also prohibited on certain days and during certain months of the year to avoid the negative influence of planets upon the progeny and the parents. In most religions nocturnal emission is considered impure or sinful. Deuteronomy 23:10 specifically refers to nocturnal emissions: "If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, he is to go outside the camp and stay there." Many young and older men struggle with their scrupulous thoughts, “Is a wet dream/nocturnal emission sinful? or how can it be a sin if we have no control over it?” Superstitions can destroy people: Invisible Injustices.
Leviticus 15 mentions four types of bodily discharges that make any human being unclean at least for seven days. The four types of discharge are, 1) a chronic male discharges due to some venereal diseases, 2) emissions of semen, 3) a woman’s discharge during menstruation, and 4) chronic female discharges due to some venereal diseases. In Leviticus both men and women become impure in any of their sex organ related discharges. Similar were the injunctions on sex related matters in most of the Semitic and oriental religions and cultures. But today no educated people hold any such brief as true. To them they are mere superstitions destroying mental health of the common people.
It requires only a little bit of common sense to realize that the menstrual fluid is as natural as any other discharge of body wastes. During child birth so much other waste discharges happen and even in large quantity like placenta which is most essential for the growth and development of a baby. But as soon as the baby is born it becomes useless or even abominable for anyone to look at it. It is secretly disposed off without even saying a word of gratitude from any of the family members. But the baby is the most precious gift in family life. In fact the baby is formed well because of those discharges including placenta. Those are the life generating and sustaining bio-materials for the baby in the making. In fact they are as precious and sacred as the baby for the growth and development of the child. They are never impure. All sexual discharges of both men and women connected with sexual union and child birth are so sacred and should be disposed off respectfully when their usage is over. Expulsion of all body wastes are only purifying the body and not making it impure.
Why only the women between the age 10 and 50 years are prohibited on the basis of menstruation? Now-a-days girls are menstruating even before 10 years of age; some women continue to menstruate even after 50 years; most belonging to LGBTQ do not menstruate though they go about like women; women who have removed their uterus will not menstruate; some women begin their menopause much before 50 years of age. It is a matter of great shame for the people of Kerala that there are men and women who restrict entry of women into Sabarimala temple on the basis menstruation which is a sacred biological process of generating human lives: Invisible Injustice.
The irony is that every rapist, murderer, thief, delinquent, every cheat in business is allowed to enter a temple, but a menstruating woman cannot. The demand for entering the temple is not new. The Dalits were barred from entering the temple because of untouchability. For centuries the Dalits and women were not allowed from entering the sanctum of various places of worship in India. But the recent Supreme Court and High Court of Bombay’s judgments have changed the scenario at the judicial and legislative level but at the executive level the implementation is still tardy.
We are in the 21st century and relying on such age-old traditions, which are many a times, unreasonable, and placing them above showcases puts India as a very backward and regressive country on the world map. For centuries, many places of worship, including temples and mosques and shrines have used the tool of tradition to keep women out of these places of worship. But it should be kept in mind that these bans are not compatible with the laws of India and even the Constitution of India.
A true Naishtika Brahmachari will not be affected by the presence of any woman nor any other alluring things in the world. Hence the Naishtika Brahmachari concept itself is against the true spirituality. A true Ayyappa Bhakta should go to Sabarimala with his wife, mother, sisters, daughters or even with his servant girl: that is the real nature of Ayyappa Bhakti or Ishwara Bhakti.
(The writer is a retired Professor, XIM, Bhubaneswar. Email: email@example.com)(Published on 12th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 46)