Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sabarimala row and beyond

There seems to be more to the controversy surrounding the defilement of Sabarimala temple by a Kannada actress, Jaimala, than meets the eye. Her revelation came after the temple conducted a deva prasnam — an astrological examination of the state of affairs of the temple -- which had reportedly found several ‘inauspicious’ goings-on in the management of the temple’s affairs.

She says she touched the idol with utmost reverence after being pushed by the crowd. But I don’t know how it could happen since the idol is not in a place where you can even accidentally come in contact with it. Secondly, during her visit, she was clearly at an age where it would have been apparent to anyone (importantly, the large number of officials and policemen) that her presence was in contravention to temple regulations. What were they doing?

There were deva prasnams before also, but no indications of defilement were noticed.

Regular rituals and other procedures for conforming to spiritual correctness can and should carry on in accordance with temple rules and customs. I have no dispute with that. After all, these are matters of faith, and temple administrators are the best to determine what is right and what is wrong. We aren't dealing with science here.

But that doesn't mean certain temporal aspects should be lost sight of. Sabarimala temple officials should focus more on enhancing facilities for devotees. Of course, things have improved by leaps and bounds. Every year, one can see some change for the better. But considering the increasing number of devotees there’s a lot more to be done.

Every season, it’s always a near stampede-like situation. The officials should think in terms of throwing open the temple permanently, rather than merely during the season and on the first of all Malayalam months. The queues should be more efficiently managed. The present situation is a danger to life and limbs. The administration should computerise the queue system and examine options like providing advance tokens etc.

The temple officials should also set apart of good amount of the income to charitable work, like providing educational aid to children, sponsoring orphanages and old-age homes, helping to make the lives of terminally ill patients more comfortable, subsidising life-saving drugs for the poor etc.

A society progresses not merely from government patronage but also from philanthropic activities of communities, among them especially cash-rich religious institutions. Serving the poor and disadvantaged, after all, is the best ritual and offering to the God.


  1. Pradeep,

    Thanks for dropping by my blog.
    Yes I totally agree that is not possible to be 'pushed' towards the deity. And customs are customs. Noone told her that she wasn't supposed to go? No policemen stopped her? I think the woman just wants some cheap publicity.

    I despise such people.

  2. "Serving the poor and disadvantaged, after all, is the best ritual and offering to the God"

    This is the essence of all religions. The questions you have raised here is very pertinent. Even I was wondering how a lady can escape attention in Sabarimala.

  3. VT, Silverine,
    Thanks for the comments.
    Unfortunately the issue is shifting to "shouldn't women be allowed into Sabarimala". That's a different issue, which can be debated. A rule is a rule, whether one likes or not. It's everyone's duty to follow rules. When the rule exists, she shouldn't have violated it.

  4. Hey, it seems that this out of job actress is just craving for some cheap publicity. She proably has never stepped into the temple to know the rules or the logistics.

  5. Leaving Jaimala aside, I wonder why religion tends to feel women as outcasts and want to purify and sanctify the temple because a woman touched the idol?

  6. -- Usha, temple authorities are equally to blame. They should also try to find out why her presence went undetected on that day, and why it remained suppressed all these years. Why issue of defilement cropped up now?

    -- Kishore, I agree with you. Even rules of the temples are made by human beings. They have their baggages of the past. Many rules have a context and a background. In cases where they are anachronistic, they should disband these rules. The basis of sexuality, caste, etc have lost their relevance; and faith shouldn't be held hostage to them.

    The Times of India (Saturday's issue) is has an elaborate article on this issue of exclusion of sections of people on various grounds from temples.