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Can temples have Gender-specific rules?

Men and women are the two wheels of society who play equal roles in building a life on earth. When it comes to our patriarchal society, many reforms have been seen where men were the lawmakers and breakers. Some made the laws for women and some did that to safeguard themselves from women.

Over the past few years, it has been noticed that women have started raising their voices against some discrimination. One of those discriminations can be seen in religious places, i.e. Temples, mosques, churches, etc. They have started questioning the rules that forbid them from their Fundamental right, “Right to Freedom of Religion” in Article 25-28 of the Indian Constitution. There are many cases in the High Court related to their entry into the temples as they must be allowed to practice what they believe and want to follow when it comes to offering prayers to God and Goddesses of their choice.

In ancient times, temples (of all religions) were built on the place of high positive energy from magnetic and electric wave distributions of north and south pole thrust. And the idol of God/Goddess was placed in the center called “Grabhagriha” which used to be the place of highest positive energy on the floors that could conduct the vibrations through the feet of the visitor. That is why men were taught to visit temples bare chests and women to wear a good amount of ornaments in some cultures as they absorb energy.

A researcher, in his paper, “Gender-Specific pollution in the Hebrew Bible” says that there are few pollutions created from men and the rest all are from women which make them impure and untouchable for some time. While a man who has a seminal effusion is unclean for one day, the experience of childbirth and menstruation pollutes a woman for longer. He also added:

“People from priestly backgrounds assume that persons and things classified as “ritually” polluted must be kept away from anyone or anything deemed “holy” as holiness and pollution are utterly incompatible according to their cultic worldview. This means that the “ritually” polluted person cannot enter the temple or any other sacred locations. Since such entry would threaten the holiness of that which is understood to be sacred.”

 

This mentality of the impure body during menstruations is still carried by a large population and is used to justify many rules followed in temples. But let’s see the Vedic reason behind the same. During menstruation, a women’s body tends to absorb the energies around her. Confiding her to a separate room or seclusion hut was to give her space for self-care and keep her away from the low-level energies from her surroundings. In the temple of the Bhagwathi in Chengannur (Kerala) and the temple of Kamakhya Devi (Assam), the Goddess is believed to menstruate and the temples remain closed for three days to leave her energy undisturbed.

 

Also, according to a scholar, a menstruating woman is so pure that she was worshipped as a Goddess. And if she (a living God) enters the temple, the energy there in the idol will move to her, leaving the idol lifeless.

When we look at the Sabarimala temple issue, the preachers of Patriarchy came up with the idea of providing a separate entrance to the women belonging to a certain age group to ‘ensure their safety'. But the actual reason behind the ban on women entry was because Lord Ayappa was a celibate who must not be distracted. In Puranas, it is said that Ayappa, son of both Shiva and Vishnu was born to destroy a female demon who was a beautiful cursed lady. When the demon was killed, the freed lady, worshipped as Malikapurathamma, asked Ayappa to marry her. He refused her explaining his mission to answer the prayers of his devotees in Sabarimala and assured her that he will marry her when Kanni-swamis (every first-time Sabarimala pilgrim) will stop visiting Sabarimala. After which, Malikapurathamma is believed to be waiting at the shrine next to the main temple.

From the above two examples, it is clear that the ban over women entry into the temple was nothing to do with their impurity as many believe. They were made with the pure intention of providing space for positive energy to flow freely without any hindrance. But this is not the case always.

Today, we can see temples everywhere and most of the time they are not built concerning the energy centers around. That is why even with so many rituals a very few people find peace there. So, the idea of energy flow cannot be in effect there. Worshipping is a fundamental need of any human and it's totally up to them that what, when, and how they want to worship.

In the initial period of Islam, no proves has been found that can say that there should be any segregation between men and women in Mosques. But over time, with the advancement of patriarchal society, men came up with the idea of gender segregation through screens or walls. It pushed women to a place lower than men and in Hadith literature, it was said:

“The Prophet said that a dog, an ass, and a woman interrupt prayer if they pass in front of the believer, interposing themselves between him and qiblah (The direction of Kaaba to which Muslims turn at prayer).”

 When asked about the reason behind this, it is found that Islamic scholars believe that a woman is an evil seductress who can tempt a man who is deeply in the prayers and worships. From this, I felt that the law of gender-based prayer systems followed, in this case, was not because women were impure but because the men could not focus on the prayers in presence of a woman because of their own sexual temptations.

So, to conclude, I strongly feel that it is good to have gender-specific rules in the temple but only when it is for someones’ good but not to discriminate against them or to prove someone’s supremacy over the other. God has made the living being to live peacefully in a symbiotic system where every living being has equal rights to maintain a healthy balance in nature. And the choice must be given to an individual when it comes to worship, if they wish to go to the temple to offer prayer even after knowing the valid reasons behind the rules, they must be free to do that. 

Author: Deeksha Verma (linkedin.com/in/deeksha-verma-93ab51219)

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