Woman preparing to step in Sabarimala faces threats

Woman preparing to step in Sabarimala faces threats

Reshma Nishanth. Facebook

As a political narrative heats up around entry of young women to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, a 32-year-old woman from Kannur is observing a 41-day vritham (ritualistic vow) ahead of her pilgrimage to the hill shrine.

Reshma Nishanth, a teacher, says her decision comes after years of longing to see the deity but it’s also a statement of intent— “this could inspire lakhs of devotees to visit the temple,” she said in a Facebook post.

The Supreme Court had on September 28 lifted restrictions on entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years to the temple.

Reshma said she had in the past observed the vows during pilgrimage seasons, accepting that she would not be allowed inside the temple.

Her post has found about 6,000 shares and she is being lauded for going public with her plans.

It has also set off protests, on familiar lines.

Reshma told TV channels that a group of about 50 people staged a protest near her home on Sunday.

She said that she was also being targeted by cyber bullies for “denigrating” the temple customs also added that she expected a backlash.

Reshma, whose decision is being supported by her husband Nishanth Babu, said that she would approach the police against the harassment.

The mandalam season of pilgrimage at the shrine commences on November 16. 

The court order has set off massive protests in Kerala with members of the tantri (head priest) family and many devotees contending that entry of women of menstruating age is against traditions pertaining to the deity, a naishtika brahmachari (celibate).

More young women, including Reshma’s friends, are reported to be preparing for the pilgrimage.

Hindu outfits have announced protests at Pampa and Nilakkal, on the foothills, against the Supreme Court judgment.

A Padmakumar, Travancore Devaswom Board, president said that young women who truly endorse the temple's traditions will not take the pilgrimage.

Reshma said since she considered menstrual blood just like sweat or excreta, that something the body has to discard.

She believes that she could observe her vows.

“In faith, there can’t be discrimination,” she said and sought support from the government and the public in her “journey for equal justice”.