Fowarding as received…
An open letter to the honourable Judges and the Newsroom specialist called Arnab Goswamy
Respected gentlemen, God itself is a debatable concept. No scientist can offer scientific proof for God and it cannot be tested in the laboratory. If God itself is not proved where is the need for temples would be the next logical questions. Logic and reason not, with standing majority of the humans on this planet accept and worship God in one way or the other. Temples, Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Gurudwaras cannot be removed with your verdicts, based on perfect logic and indisputable reason. I am sure you gentlemen will agree with me so far.
You learned gentlemen, I am sure, are aware of India and its philosophical grounding and the development of theistic and atheistic schools. When a philosophical idea or concept is put forward, it must satisfy certain Pramanas. There are seven accepted Pramanas in India namely 1. Pratyaksham, 2. Anumanam 3. Upamanam, 4. Sabdam (Sruti) 5. Anupalabthi, 6. Arthapathihi and 7. Aagama or Tradition. Theistic schools such as Sankya, Vaiseshika, Nyaya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa and atheistic schools such as Buddhism, Jainism, Charuvakam all accept a varying numbers of these Pramanas as a way of authenticating and validating new knowledge and concepts. The seventh of the Pramanas is Aagama or Tradition which is accepted as a valid Pramana by many schools and this tradition need not be based on sound scientific principles repeatable in a laboratory, but on a continuing practice for centuries.
I will give you an example for you to understand. The Christians all over the world believe that Jesus resurrected on the third day after he died on the cross. If you ask for a scientific proof or scriptural validation they cannot give you because there were no eyewitnesses to that event in the Gospels themselves. Now if you gentlemen decide to scrap that belief on the grounds that it is not scientific will the Christian community accept it? I dare you gentlemen to try it.
The Muslims all over the world believe that Mohammed was the last prophet sent by a disillusioned God. If you ask for proof you will draw a blank. Why don’t you try telling them not to believe it? It is a tradition they have been following, without so much of a scientific proof. Traditions continue in different ways in different parts of the world!
In religious beliefs one cannot offer scientific proof. Millions of temples are surviving because, the temple goers find some sort of solace, peace, benefit after visiting a temple. If you ask a devotee for scientific proof or laboratory validation he cannot, because science cannot explain, love, compassion, empathy, bliss, self realization, enlightenment, God experience, sacredness etc. Can you gentlemen deny the existence of these things?
When Matha Amirthanandamaye said that ‘Chaithanyam (Grace of God) or pure consciousness is like an ocean. Ocean has all the fish and fauna in it! But one cannot go to the ocean to bask in the grace of the Chaithanyam every time. So we build temples on Aagama principles to trap as much Chaitahnyam as possible! Temples are like fish tanks where we keep a few varieties of fish and it is impossible to trap the entire ocean in a fish tank! The food we offer each fish tank depends on the fish it contains. Similarly the design, consecration, Prahna prathishta, the rituals etc depends on the deity in that particular temple! All temples cannot have uniform design, consecration, prana prathishta etc. Similarly one cannot prescribe the same practices and rituals for every temple. The deity in each temple varies. The flowers used, the neivedhyam used, pooja rituals all differ. There are temples which do not allow men at all; there are festivals in Kerala only for women. These are not gender discriminations. Women are worshiped in this country. Every village has an Amman or Devi temple. There have been women saints like Meerabai, Andaal, Awayaar, Mangayarkarasi, Karaikkal Ammaiyaar, Isai Gnaniyaar etc. Which religion boasts of women saints?
Having said that, the restriction of woman entering Sabarimala should not be viewed as gender discrimination. Ayyappa was not a mythical character. He walked this earth some 800 years ago and before attaining Samadhi it was his last wish that he would remain a Naishtika Bramachari (eternal celibate) in this yuga.To fulfill his adopted father’s wish he shots an arrow and it lands in the forest in the Sabari hill, where a temple was constructed.
Lord Parasuram who reclaimed the land of Kerala from the sea, sculpted a statue of Ayyappa, in an unusual pose, and installed it in the temple. This special pose is with ankle, knee, and hip joints folded, Right arm in Abaya mudra, left arm placed stretched on the left knee, a squatting position on a stone peeda. He has a band of clothing tied around his squatted legs and body, depicting his commitment for Brahmacharia.
Lord Ayyappa, is believed to have laid down a strict religious code to enable people to receive his blessings. First, the devotees would have to observe a 41-day penance before embarking on the temple pilgrimage. They would also have to maintain abstinence from physical pleasures and family ties, and live like a celibate or ‘brahmachari.’ Moreover, the devotees have to trudge miles on foot, bathe in the holy river Pampa, and finally, brave the steep climb of Neelimala to reach the Sabarimala temple. Traditionally women during their reproductive age were barred from visiting the shrine due to the harsh vrata anushtanams.
Here we must understand a little about Sabarimala shrine and the preparation one takes to visit it. Traditionally Sabarimala shrine has been a sporadic temple and not a perennial temple, which means it is open only during certain days in a year. So devotees mostly men prepare for the visit well in advance observing a life of celibacy, piousness, cleanliness and vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol and cigarettes for a period of 41 days which is called a mandalam. During this time the other members of the home also observe a life of piousness and austerity.
The men folk try to emulate Lord Ayyappa by being a Brahmachari in those 41 days. Please understand that the Brahmacharya is not only for men, but also to the women and children in the house hold! The whole household assumes a sacred and pious life to support the ‘Brahmacahris’ who are trying to emulate Lord Ayyappa. There are people who believe that one mandala of abstinence from sex improves the virility and recharge the reproductive system in men.
There is a Guru Swamy who would lead small groups of men. On the appointed day they set out from home carrying a twin bag containing coconut filled with ghee and other offerings to Ayyappa. Chanting Lord Ayyappa’s name they set out. Since it is a sporadic temples lakhs and lakhs devotees converge in the Sannidhanam for a short period of time.
For men who observe 41 days of celibacy and abstinence, presence of women among them can be certainly a distraction and is undesirable. Needless to say Lord Ayyappan can maintain his Brahmachariya, but the same cannot be said of the lakhs of men who assemble in a small area to finish the last part of their pilgrimage. After offering prayers, the devotees return home and remove the special rudraksha or tulsi mala, the devotees are expected to resume their family life.
Gentlemen please tell me is it desirable to send women also to this sporadic temple where the men folk are required to observe a vrata for one mandala? Should they be thrown with women, in the final leg of the pilgrimage? Our forefathers were not fools; there must be valid reason for imposing such a restriction, which probably we do not understand today. Every year the crowds keep increasing and men and women thrown together is definitely not good for the celibacy vrata the devotees have observed for 41 days! For no other Ayyappa temple this type of vratha is prescribed. If they have prescribed this type of vratha for this temple, why don’t we respect it and leave that alone?
This is not gender discrimination. The women folk take part in the vratha, co-operate with men to make their celibate pilgrimage a success. The men of the house are trying to emulate Lord Ayyappa and the women folk are expected to stay home and make the men’s endeavor a success. Is it wrong to ask the women to stay away from this shrine?
Honourable Judges of the supreme court, Socrates would have lived longer, if only the court which sentenced him saw his view point! Jesus would not have been crucified if the court which tried him had better understanding of his teachings! The court which tried Joan of Arc just could not fathom the fact that God talked to her! Justice Kunha found the late Jayalalitha guilty where as Justice Kumaraswamy found her not guilty! May be vagaries of justice system! May I request the honorable judges not to demolish the sacredness and the chaithanyam exuded by the Sabarimala shrine by removing an age old tradition. Do you gentlemen think that you can reproduce a temple with the caliber of Sabarimala? If you cannot, gentleman please leave it alone! I pray and beg.