While Indian women are realizing the need to talk about menstruation finally and are #HappyToBleed, the irony is that the society still wants them to be #ShamefulToBleed. Our society which desperately needs a #BleedingWoman to give birth or to be precise to give birth to a male child, doesn’t want her to be proud of the very fact.
Our temples are no less in making this discrimination when it comes to bleeding women.
Recently The Indian Young Lawyers Association and five women lawyers approached the Supreme Court seeking a direction to allow entry of women into Sabarimala temple, located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District of Kerala, without age restrictions.
Pilgrims trek the Neelimala to reach the shrine, which has 18 sacred steps, to worship Lord Ayyapa after observing strict abstinence vows for 48 days. Women aged between 10 and 50, that is those who are in menstruating age, are barred from entering the temple.
Another group of women, part of the “Happy to Bleed” campaign, has also sought the court’s direction on whether society should continue to bear with “menstrual discrimination.”
This is not the only temple which has a special feeling for a particular gender! Last year women activists were barred from entering the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra as they tried to force their way in, in a planned protest against the tradition of disallowing women from entering the inner sanctum of the shrine.
Apart from Shani Shingnapur Temple, Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai has also been in the news related to an ongoing legal battle for women to gain access to enter. Similar rules have also been in place at the Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi, where women are only allowed close to the door and not inside the chamber where Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is buried.
Here are few more, lesser known temples where women have been prohibited –
Patbausi Satra, Assam
Women are banned from entering this temple to preserve its ‘purity’. This temple also cites menstruation as the reason behind barring entry to women. In 2010, Assam Governor JB Patnaik, who was visiting the Patbausi, Sundaridiya, and Barpeta satras spoke with the authorities of the Patbausi satra and took a group of 20 women in. Following this, the satra was briefly open to women before the rule was eventually re-imposed.
Lord Kartikeya Temple, Pushkar
The temple worships the brahmachari form of Lord Kartikeya. There is a myth that the Lord curses women who enter the temple instead of blessing them. As a result, women are banned from entering the temple.
Jain Temple, Ranakpur
Yup, the classic reason – periods! Travellers have reported that women cannot enter this temple made entirely of carved white marble which is a landmark and several Indian and international tourists visit it to admire its beauty and grandeur. However, a large board outside clearly defines when and how a woman can visit here. Again, women on their periods are asked to not enter the temple. It also has rules about wearing western clothes and accessories. The temple requires women to cover their legs till below their knees.
While the above temples are famous ones, there are several other smaller temples across the country which also place similar restrictions on women.
If we talk about gender equality its only women’s rights that we think about. No! Not our problem! Women do experience most instances of gender discrimination due to centuries of patriarchy in the country. But you will be surprised to know that our society also discriminates males at some places and alas! There’s no NGO or activists fighting for the rights of these poor men. Have a look at the temples where men are not allowed –
The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple located in Kerala is one such temple where women are the dominant force. The temple’s Pongala festival – a festival where millions of women participate – has also made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. This festival is regarded as the largest gathering of women for any religious activity. Pongala is a 10 day festival which falls during February & March and women offer bangles to the goddess (Devi).
This is another temple in Kerala dedicated to the Goddess Bhagavathi. it follows a peculiar annual rituals called ‘Naari Puja’. On the first Friday of December called Dhanu, the male priest wash the feet of female devotees who have fasted for 10 days.
Santoshi Maa Temple
Santoshi Maa ‘Vrat’ is observed by only women or unmarried girls. It is prohibited to eat sour fruits or pickles during the ‘Vrat’. Though, male enters the Santoshi Maa temple for worshiping but hardly anyone follows the ritual of ‘Vrat’ for Santoshi Maa.
The temple of Lord Brahma at Pushkar in Rajasthan
This temple is one of the most prominent temples of Lord Brahma. The married men are not allowed to enter in temple. Once in a year, during Kartik Poornima of the Hindu lunar month of Kartik religious festival is held in Brahma honour. The temple dates back to 14th century.
The Bhagati Maa temple in Kanya Kumari, Kerala
It is said that Maa Parvati went to a lonely site in the mid of ocean for Tapasya. She tried very hard Tapasya for getting Lord Shiva as her husband. So in this temple only women are allowed, men are prohibited there. This is a famous temple of Kanya Kumari, where Kanya Maa Bhagawati Durga is worshiped by women only.
Durga Mata temple in Muzaffarpur, Kharauna, Bihar
During a particular period, men are strictly prohibited to enter this temple located in Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
The rules are so strict that even a male priest is not allowed to enter the premises.
Only women are allowed to enter this temple during that particular period.
Kamrup Kamakhya Temple, Assam
Its is on the Nilachal Hill in western part of Guwahati city in Assam. It is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Shodasi, Bhuvaneswari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala.
According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Temple denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati.
This temple permits only women to enter its premises during their menstrual cycle. Only female priests or sanyasis serve the temple where the menstrual cloth of Maa Sati is considered highly auspicious and is distributed to the devotees.
There is a similar temple, with similar legend in Chengannur, Kerala too, where a menstruating goddess is worshipped only by women.
Well, whether, the men will protest or seek Court intervention for entering such premises remains a different matter. But I think feminism is not about equal rights for only women but all rights for both men and women! In this regard here’s a great example where the Bombay High court took an iconic decision –
Trimbakeshwar Temple, Nasik, Maharashtra
Women were not allowed to enter the inner sanctum of this temple devoted to Lord Shiva till 2016 following which the Bombay High Court passed an order saying that even men shouldn’t be allowed to enter the inner sanctum if women are not allowed. Since then, men have also been barred from entering to maintain gender equality.
So based on your gender, which temple are you going to visit next? 😀