Putting the Sab in Sabarimala: The Kerala Temple’s Lesson in Inclusion

Culture

Putting the Sab in Sabarimala: The Kerala Temple’s Lesson in Inclusion

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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n delivering its final verdict on the contentious Sabarimala temple case, the Supreme Court made a long-overdue observation: The right of a woman to pray is equal to that of a man. If you’re surprised that such an obvious fact had to be spelled out by the highest court in the country, allow me to familiarise you with the ridiculous rule that prompted it.

Following the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules 1965, the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala prohibited menstruating women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the sanctum sanctorum, as the deity Lord Ayyappa was considered to be celibate. According to the rule, “Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship.” Back in January, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, had even made it mandatory for women to carry age-proof documents when they visited the temple premises.

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