May good judgement prevail in the Supreme Court over Sabarimala verdict – R. Jagannathan

Supreme Court of India

R. JagannathanGiven the fluidity and non-fundamentalist approach of many streams of Hinduism, the Supreme Court bench made a huge mistake by taking an Abrahamic view of what a denomination is. – R. Jagannathan

On the occasion of Dussehra, where good triumphs over evil, one hopes that good judgement will triumph over a flawed one delivered by a Supreme Court bench last month in the Sabarimala case (read the full judgment here). Petitions seeking a review of the 4:1 judgment are already there before the court, and a new bench will have to be constituted after the retirement of chief justice Dipak Misra earlier this month.

The continuing tensions in Kerala over the court’s decision to allow women of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple, abode of the celibate Swami Ayyappa, should cause the learned judges to introspect. Sometimes, hoary principles like constitutional morality and gender justice need to be measured against the value of common sense, when even a simple reading of what the Constitution says tells us why the judgement may be flawed.

Article 26 of the Constitution is about the “Freedom to manage religious affairs”. It allows, “subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof… the right to (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law.”

This article is usually applied only to minority religions, whereas it should be applicable to any religion, its denominations, or sections. If we accept this interpretation, the question of whether the Ayyappa temple and its devotees are a separate denomination or a section of Hindus should be decided in the affirmative. The temple—and it is the only Ayyappa temple to do so—bars women in the reproductive age from entry since the deity is worshipped as a naishtika brahmachari (eternal celibate). There is no discrimination against women who fall outside this age bracket.

Common sense notions of Hinduism tell you that one is a Hindu largely by self-definition. Unlike Abrahamic religions, which define themselves through belief in one specific god or book, and hence amendable to classification by denomination, Hinduism is more fluid in its self-definition. One need not go to a temple at all to call oneself a Hindu, for worship need not be congregational. One can be a denomination—which follows a different practice of worship—in a common sense meaning of the term without denying one’s Hindu identity. You can offer pujas and observe fasts and ritual at home to be a Hindu. One can be an Ayyappa devotee without visiting Sabarimala, and, if one is a specific Sabarimala enthusiast, one has to follow the norms of that temple. If some temple’s rules specify that men must not wear stitched garments or come bare-chested, it is not an assault on one’s right to wear what one wants. If you feel offended by this rule, you can worship the same god at home, or in another temple that does not have such rules.

Given this fluidity and non-fundamentalist approach of many streams of Hinduism, the Supreme Court bench made a huge mistake by taking an Abrahamic view of what a denomination is.

A temporary restriction on women in some age groups is merely a quaint practice in one temple; it is not some kind of broad-based discrimination against all Hindu women. It would, however, be discrimination if this kind of exclusion were generic to all temples, or even a majority of temples, which is manifestly not the case.

So, one hopes that when the various Sabarimala review petitions are taken up again, the bench looking into them will look at the arguments from a common sense perspective, and also in the context of a non-fundamentalist religion like Hinduism.

A victimless crime has been declared an abomination in the Sabarimala judgement, causing a deep fissure among Kerala’s Hindus. The rift caused by the court must be set right and healed by the court overturning its previous judgement. – Swarajya, 18 October 2018

Sabarimala Protests


5 Responses

  1. Women are not excluded from Sabarimala. Over 400,000 visited the temple last year.

    The issue has nothing to do with menstruation. It has to do with the celibate nature of the deity and his special request that women of a certain age group not visit him. But admitting that would not serve the “breaking India” interest of Left-leaning secularists and women’s libbers.

    If you do not accept the Swami Ayyappan narrative and the temple traditions and rituals that go with it, you are not a devotee. And if you are not a devotee, you have no stake in the matter.

    But nobody listens to the real stakeholders, the Ayyappa devotees!

    Like the judges, you listen to nobody but yourself, Dr Rajiva!


  2. An acharya from Ayodhya has come out and said that women should be allowed admission to Sabarimala (he meant all women), In my opinion Hindus are shooting themselves in the foot by rejecting the right to pray of every Hindu inside a temple. That is now the only criterion for the Ram Mandir. The opposition has tried to make it a property issue.

    In 1936 Maharajah Maharajah Balarama Varma of erstwhile Travancore issued a Proclamation for the entry of all Hindus to a temple.

    This meant that for the first time in history the so called avarnas could enter the temple.

    The Sabarimala question is really about the declaring of menstruation as impurity. This does not make sense since it is part of the life and death cycle.The dead ova is a collection of atoms and molecules,which go into that cycle.

    I understand that in Kerala the family of a dead person cannot enter a temple for about two weeks or more.

    Judicial over reach is a related but separate topic. The judges must have consulted Islamic scholars before they declared triple talaq as not being part of Islam. In the same way the exclusion of women of a certain age is discriminatory.

    It will be interesting to study the history of when this specific law came into force.


  3. Motive hunting of a motiveless malign ( Macaulay mind set take minimum a century to erase) Like” You too Brutus” the number of “You too Judges” strength is increasing day by day. Filthy problems like homosexual, adultery etc., are taken as a case which are not worthy for any discussion. Even though as per law these acts are punishable, so far no one got punished for these unnatural act. It is just washing dirty linen in public. Similar in case of Sabarimala also.

    In a movie Senthil by mistake enter into his friend house Goundamani while his wife was changing his cloths and seen her naked. Realizing his mistake Senthil got heart and keep telling the incident to the entire villagers. But Goundamani scold him that nothing wrong in seeing my wife naked by mistake but it is totally wrong to tell the incident to the entire villagers. Court judges are also indulge in popularity gimmick by spreading negative judgment like news paper.


  4. Excellent comment.


  5. Given the number of highly-qualified religious authorities in the country, the assumption of the judges that they could make a fair assessment in this case without religious counsel is quite extraordinary. They displayed the supreme arrogance of the secular materialist.

    The judges—except one— did not listen to anybody but themselves!


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