Sabarimala: Thantri and Pandalam Royals may close shrine indefinitely if women begin visiting – Swarajya Staff

Sasikumar Varma

Swarajya MagazineAny form of dilution in temple rituals will make the Sabarimala Shrine like any ordinary place. Once the Supreme Court verdict is implemented, the priest and the royal family would have to close down the temple to restore the sanctity of the temple, says Kerala Sasikumar Varma Raja. – Swarajya Staff

Amid the growing protests by Ayyappa devotees against the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala shrine, the families of the temple thantri (priest) and the royals who patronise the shrine may decide to close down the temple indefinitely for punyaham (ritual temple cleansing), reports Marunadan TV.

The priest’s family reiterated that they are the authority when it comes to the rituals conducted in the temple. Punyaham should be performed, when there is any violation in routines. The same holds when women between the ages of 10 and 50 enter the temple.

Reports suggest that the Supreme Court or the government do not have the authority concerning the performance of the ritual. If the Supreme Court order is implemented in letter and spirit, punyaham must be conducted frequently, which is supposed to be practically impossible as the temple needs to remain closed while the cleansing is done.

Temples are as important as their deities, and any form of dilution in temple rituals will make the shrine like any ordinary place. Once the Supreme Court verdict is implemented, the priest and the royal family would have to close down the temple to restore the sanctity of the temple, Pandalam royal family representative Kerala Varma Raja was reported as saying.

This decision may impact usual devotees as the Mandala-Makaravilakku season starts in November and the temple usually sees a footfall of millions every year. – Swarajya, 15 October 2018

Save Sabarimala Protest in Kerala


2 Responses

  1. Mala Araya tribals to file review plea – M. S. Vidyanandan – Express News Service – Thiruvananthapuram – 16 October 2018

    In a fresh twist to the Sabarimala temple controversy, the Mala Araya tribal community will file a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict that allowed women of all ages to enter the hill shrine.

    The Mala Araya community is believed to have established the shrine, which was taken over by the Pandalam royal family and later by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB). The Akhila Thiruvithamkoor Mala Araya Maha Sabha (ATMAMS) will file the petition through P N Vijayakumar, former district judge and chairman of the Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Sabha general secretary K K Gangadharan said the state government decision to not file a review petition against the SC verdict has disappointed community members.

    “Several rituals and customs of the temple, including the age bar, are part of tribal culture and traditions. They should not be altered,” he said. “The 41-day vruta or abstinence is part of the tribal culture. Women in our sect, as in most other tribal communities, would not visit temples during menstruation. The vruta and restrictions for women were part of our culture, which were approved by the Pandalam royals and the thantri.”

    Until the previous decade, Mala Araya residences had a separate hut nearby where women would stay during their menstrual period and delivery, he said.Gangadharan said the Sabha will request the apex court to provide immunity for the age-old custom of restricting women of menstrual age at the shrine under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.

    The Sabha will also demand to reinstate the tribe’s rights at the shrine. They include the right to light the makaravilakku, conducting the then abhishekam (bathing the idol with forest honey) and pooja rights at sub-shrines like the Karimala temple on the Sabarimala trekking path.“The Pandalam royals and Thazhamon thantri family always honoured our culture. It was the TDB that did not show any regard for our rights and customs,” he said.

    Gangadharan suspects that the portrayal of the age-old tradition as a rights issue is aimed at tarnishing the image of the shrine. “There is no ban, but a restriction. Last year, more than four lakh women visited the shrine,” he said.


  2. Sabarimala entry is a matter of faith – Justice K. Narayana Kurup – The New Indian Express – Chennai – 16 October 2018

    Dissenting judgments have made monumental contributions to the growth of law in India and abroad. To this unique category belongs Justice Indu Malhotra’s epic and masterly dissenting opinion in the Sabarimala women entry case. The dissenting judge took note of the bewildering and confusing scenario that may arise by giving a carte blanche to PILs in religious matters that would open the floodgates to interlopers and busybodies to question the constitutionality of religious beliefs and practices even if the petitioner is an atheist or agnostic, not to mention possibility of abuse of process by unscrupulous persons.

    Constitutionality of a rule or a custom shall be decided only as a measure of last resort and not routinely as an academic exercise generating chaos and confusion among millions of devotees leaving them high and dry, dazed and confused as it impinges on their faith.

    In this context, it is apt to remember faith has supremacy over everything: He who loses money loses much, he who loses a friend loses more, but he who loses faith loses everything. Swami Vivekananda said on the dynamics of faith: “Do not try to disturb the faith of any man. If you can, give him something better; if you can, get hold of a man where he stands and give him a push upwards; do so, but do not destroy what he has” (Selections from the complete works of Swami Vivekananda P356). “Columbus found a new world and had no chart except faith deciphered on the skies; to trust the soul’s invincible surmise was all his science and his art,” said George Santayana.

    It is not for the courts to determine which practice followed by a religious group is to be struck down except in cases where the practice is abhorrent and oppressive or a social evil such as ‘sati’. Matters of faith of millions are out of bounds for courts and the concept of equality cannot override the fundamental right to worship under Article 25.

    Besides, notions of rationality cannot be blindly imported into matters of religious faith creating a constitutional and spiritual imbroglio. Exclusion of women devotees between the age group of 10-50 at Sabarimala being a matter of faith of Hindus inter se shall be best left to the decision of religious/spiritual authorities such as the thantris.

    An identical question was considered by the High Court way back in 1993 where after adverting to all relevant legal provisions and evidences of stakeholders (which is conspicuously absent in the case on hand) and other men of religion it was held “women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship. That amounts to a reasonable restriction and the entry in Sabarimala temple is prohibited only in respect of women of a particular age group and not woman as a class.”

    In the normal course that should have been the end of the matter in the absence of appeal to the Supreme Court. But look at what happened in the instant case. The court has entertained the petition as a PIL instead of relegating the parties to the High Court with liberty to move the Supreme Court again in the event of an adverse verdict.

    Is there a solution for the muddle? Left to me, I would prefer the question being heard by a larger bench. Why not a bench of 13 judges to hear the matter? (Kesavananda – Basic Structure, Kathikalu – Self incrimination etc were heard by 13 judges to mention only a few.) Or let there be a Supreme Court monitored media survey in Kerala to ascertain the wishes of the devotees. At least there is a solitary judicial precedent on the matter.

    I wind up this note with the quotes of Justice Jackson and Justice Holmes of the US Supreme Court. “We are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible because we are final.” (Jackson, American Bar Association Journal, 1474 Oct 1983). “If I were dying my last words would be: Have faith and pursue the unknown end.” (Holmes, Oliver Wendell in Boston: Little Brown and company 1944, P-416).

    > Justice K. Narayana Kurup is the former Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Madras.


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