When Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar led a group of dalits to taste the water of Mahad lake in 1927, there was a huge uproar, mostly from the upper castes who had systematically barred the lower castes from being a part of the mainstream society.
Look around and you would see the ills of caste system still ail us.
Women too have been kept away from certain religious practices and have got restricted entry to temples of Hanuman (a Brahmachari) and Shani, the god of Saturn. The basic argument against allowing women inside the holy sanctums of temples/masjids is menstruation or periods. “A woman can at anytime have menstrual periods,” the Haji Ali Dargah Trust stated in response to a petition challenging women’s entry to the famous Mumbai dargah.
As you can see, the ills of gender inequality also ail us.
Do the gods/goddesses hate menstruating women? Is there any religious scripture that justifies Gods’ dislike for women during their periods? If anyone has proof in support, please produce it so that we can weigh its validity against constitutional rights of an individual. Meanwhile, we can very well abandon the age-old discriminatory practice that tends to create another divide in our already fragmented society.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has supported Bhumata Ranragini Brigade’s attempt to storm the inner sanctum of Shani temple in Shani Shinganapur on January 26. About 400 women were stopped from climbing the holy platform because they were women and ‘impure’. The CM is absolutely right in saying that Indian culture and Hindu religion give women the right to pray. But he has also rightly called for a discussion on the issue. Breaking traditions without taking the traditionalists into confidence may backfire — politically and socially. An attempt to build consensus will go a long way in establishing a new set of practices that truly reflect the progressive nature of our society.
Meanwhile, for records, stepping on the holy platform at Shinganapur is restricted for men as well. The one who wants to perform an ‘abhishek’ has to make a donation of Rs 11,111/- besides wearing a wet dhoti while worshipping the deity. Now this points at the larger issue of myths and believes dominating and guarding our conversation and relationship with God.
Hinduism is arguably the oldest religion in the world, but it is also a fact that it has been fighting its own demons that crop up time and again in the form of superstitions, archaic practices and rigidity of thoughts and believes.
By giving women their right to worship, we will only help Hindu religion evolve and thrive in these testing times.
In the next article, we will see other examples which demonstrate the same gender inequality.