The custom and tradition and the form of rituals in Sabarimala is protected under Article 13 of the Constitution, and setting aside the custom and tradition and the form of practices in the temple without leading evidence is a violation of due process of law. These traditions are in practice much before our Constitution came into force, the same has been recorded by the British officers as evident in the book, Memoir of the Survey of the Travancore and Cochin State” by British officers Lt Ward and Conner, during the British Raj.
While surveying the temples of Travancore and Cochin, officers have described about the existence of this shrine and had mentioned about the devotees and practices followed to visit this temple. As per page number 136, it says, annual festival takes place from 12th January every year and continues for five days. It further mentions that devotees from most remote parts of India visit this temple amounting to 10 to 15,000 yearly, most of who during sickness, in case of emergency and losses makes vows and makes the presentation to the temple. It further mention that old women and young girls can approach the temple but those who have attained the age of puberty and to a certain time of life are forbid to approach as all sexual intercourse in that vicinity is averse to this deity. As such interfering and altering these age old practices has direct effect on the religious sentiments of lakhs of devotees who are protesting through prayers and peaceful ways, move now on the roads of Kerala and other states and even Sabarimala Ayyappa devotees practice, certainly has an unique form of worship, where the rituals practiced in the temple and the pilgrimage, believed to be followed from time immemorial. Departure from the laid down practice to be followed for Sabarimala pilgrimage directly impinge upon the religious practice and freedom protected under the Constitution.
Sabarimala pilgrimage religious rituals, which are followed by the devotees are governed by the concerned temple and practice and cannot be tested by the court as it is not within the judicially manageable standards to test religious beliefs from a rational standpoint.
Sabarimala shrine complex is not considered to be an ordinary temple, but in every aspect too unique in its nature. The entry to the temple complex forms an integral part of the ritual after culmination of pilgrimage after 41 days’ vratam observed by the devotees with the assistance and participation of other family members, including female members of the family under the guidance of a guru Swami. All devotees are required to observe the 41 days ritualistic practice under Guru Swami. A vow by the devotees with his guidance guards the way into the temple premises.
A few girls who tried to visit the shrine have broken the age-old tradition and practice. Supreme Court direction allowing entry to all women is only lifting the restrictions of age and certainly not for breaking the tradition and practice which amounts to contempt of court and hurting the religious sentiments and are all liable to be charged for an offence in true sense.
Abetment of this offence at the highest level of law enforcement agency, makes it further complicated where in governments at both State and Centre needs to immediately give clarification and render an apology to the public whose faith and religious sentiments have hurt.
But in the name of Dharma everything is forgiven and devotees carry on with the rituals after purification process at the temple. That is real Sanatan Dharma. Like mighty Holy River Ganga, flows with her reverence even when she gets polluted with dirt yet maintains her purity and sanctity for all those with faith.
I was accompanying the then President Bharat Ratna Dr APJ Abdul Kalam during presidential tenure to Tirumala Tirupathi Shri Venkataramana Swamy (Balaji) temple on auspicious Vainkuta Ekadashi day. Entry to Muslims are regulated in this temple through a letter of faith allegiance. I carried the letter signed by the President before the visit and had handed over the Executive Officer of the temple. Even as president of India Dr Kalam respected the tradition and practice of faith to the core. His visit to Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine, Karnataka’s Dhrma Sthala and Bodh Gaya are all testimony to respect the faith with utmost devotion.
Can we all learn lessons from this faith based act from Dr Kalam to respect the age old customs?
By – Lt. Col. Ashok Kini
Souce: VSK Bharat