Sabarimala developments echo Chandragutti row

Sabarimala developments echo Chandragutti row

When the Karnataka government banned nude worship, protesting devotees assaulted women reporters covering the ritual.

Women in Kerala are taking to the streets to prevent women from entering the Sabarimala temple. Some groups are threatening women with dire consequences if they dare cross the Pampa river to enter the Ayyappa temple. As we write, reports are coming in of women journalists being assaulted. Metrolife spoke to independent voices to understand why the scene has turned so ugly.  

C K Meena, journalist and novelist: The roughing up of women journalists at Sabarimala is an almost exact replay of events at Chandragutti in Karnataka decades ago when the law banned ‘nude worship’ and women devotees attacked women, reporters and activists, because they felt their faith was being threatened. For the protesting women devotees at Sabarimala, their faith trumps the law of the land. They do not appreciate the attempts made by their progressive sisters to emancipate them, nor their arguments against gender inequality and the patriarchal norm of ‘menstruation equals pollution’. Just as in Chandragutti, the custom of ‘nude worship’ faded away because of a gradual change in attitudes, a similar change has to take place before peace reigns in Sabarimala. However, I don’t see this happening if political forces keep the controversy alive. It is ironic how all parties are throwing their weight behind the protesting devotees rather than following the Supreme Court ruling.

Dr M G Chandrakanth, Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru: If you look at it from the point of view of a devotee, then it would be right to say a devotee has no sex because the soul is the same for all. There’s no male soul or femalë soul. Every devotee has the right to approach God, irrespective of the physiological process. It should not be considered impure. It’s all in the mind. We should not deny anybody entry into religious places on the basis of gender. What about transgenders, what will they do? Aren’t they also a creation of God? In sociological terms, equity means showing concern or being fair to everyone.

Vivek Shanbhag, novelist (recent work: Ghachar Ghochar): It is a very complex thing. Women who are protesting are probably believers. For them this is not an issue of gender equality but faith and hence they see this as violence by non-believers. Rules are made by the temple management but the perception is that they are divine. Women should have the right to enter any place of worship. The Supreme Court is right in saying so. Sanctity and bhakti are in our minds. The story of Kanakadasa (denied entry, but the Krishna idol in Udupi is said to have turned 180 degrees to reward his faith) is a great example.

What’s happening?

Sep 28: Supreme Court strikes down ban on entry of women of menstrual age into the Sabarimala temple.

Oct 17: Temple opens doors to women of all ages. Several groups protest, stop women from entering the temple, assault women journalists.

Chandragutti in 1986

After the Karnataka government banned the practice of bettale seve (nude worship) at Chandragutti in Shivamogga district, a frenzied crowd of devotees assaulted and stripped women police personnel, activists and journalists for attempting to stop the practice.


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