Don’t try to change character of deity at Sabarimala, senior advocate tells SC : The Tribune India

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Don’t try to change character of deity at Sabarimala, senior advocate tells SC

NEW DELHI: Senior counsel K Parasaran on Thursday defended the restriction on entry of menstruating women into Sabarimala Temple in Kerala and asked the Supreme Court to refrain from attempting to change the character of the deity who is a celibate God.

Don’t try to change character of deity at Sabarimala, senior advocate tells SC

Devotees wait at Lord Ayyappa temple, in Sabarimala. PTI file photo



Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19

Senior counsel K Parasaran on Thursday defended the restriction on entry of menstruating women into Sabarimala Temple in Kerala and asked the Supreme Court to refrain from attempting to change the character of the deity who is a celibate God.

“If you are saying the deity is not a ‘Naishtika Brahmachari’ (unfailing celibate); you are changing its character… the character of God”, Parasaran, who is representing the Nair Service Society told a five-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

The bench also comprising justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra is seized of PILs against the age-old tradition of keeping women of menstruating age (10-50 years) out of the famous Sabarimala Ayyappa temple—one of the holiest Hindu shrines—situated on a hilltop in Kerala. The tradition is rooted in the belief that the deity is a celibate (Naisthik Brahmachari).

The petitioners have challenged Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorization of Entry) Rules, 1965, which restricts entry women between the age of 10 and 50 into the shrine.

The Bench—which would resume hearing on July 24—termed the condition of observing 41-day ‘vrat’ before undertaking a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala shrine as “impossible”, saying it led to the ban on the entry of women of menstruating age.

“You are imposing it. You put 41 days so that a woman can’t go. It is imposition of an impossible condition...What you can’t do in law, you do it indirectly,” said the CJI.

On behalf of Devaswom Board—which manages the over 800-year-old Lord Ayyappa temple, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said it is only shrine in the world which didn’t allow women of menstruating age inside it.

Interestingly, the CPI (M)-led LDF Government has supported the petitioners seeking entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple while Devaswom Board controlled by the same party has defended the restriction.

Singhvi said people from all castes and religions were allowed to visit the temple and only women in a particular age group were not permitted because it was impossible for them to observe penance for 41 days before undertaking the pilgrimage.

Dismissing the allegations of gender bias in the age-old practice, Singhvi submitted argued that the restriction was because of the special nature of the installation that was supposed to depict “naishtika brahmacharya” (eternal celibacy).

Justice Indu Malhotra, lone woman on the Bench pointed out that there was a temple in Kerala, which did not allow men. “What about that?” she asked.

The petitioner’s advocate said even that amounted to discrimination.

Questioning the practice, the Bench had on Wednesday said, "When a man can enter, a woman can also go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman also.

Likening the restriction on the entry of women of menstruating age with untouchability, senior advocate Indira Jaisinh and Raju Ramachandran had on Wednesday told the Bench on behalf of the petitioners that such a practice violated the mandate of Article 17 of the Constituion that prohibited untouchability in any form.

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