Woe be to ye Gods who want puny men to protect them
In matters of Gods most humans lose their sensibilities. The recent drama around the Sabarimala verdict establishes that even more. For those not in the know, here is a good introduction to what happened. There are many more articles that will provide similar coverage. Gather all that you might need before continuing with this article.
Most people in favour of the verdict are essentially serving some flavour of “women’s rights”. Most people against the verdict are serving one of 2 arguments – (a) some new-age energy theories about menstruating women (and no one has been able to prove any) OR (b) historical & traditional arguments about Naisthika Brahmacharya & unsafe forests (those forests with their tigers are more unsafe for non-menstruating women).
My arguments essentially dismiss all of the above. I think I am shooting in both directions which might leave the reader wondering what my particular stance is. I might provide the same in plain words at the end of the article.
A temple is a monument to one’s belief. That a God is enshrined in there or lives there is also one’s belief. I strongly believe (pun intended) that one’s belief is not subject to judgement. That someone believes in a charlatan is not for me to press upon him/her. That someone believes in a tome or dome is their choice. That someone doesn’t believe in anything is also their choice. Neither makes one more stupid or less so. I have known people who believe deeply in godmen & gods making me wonder why! But they are so clear in their belief that I see the pointlessness of convincing them out of it. They aren’t harming anyone.
I treat a temple/mosque/church/gurudwara/etc. as a club with its own rules – if you don’t like the rules, build your own club. For someone to come in and force a new set of rules on an existing club is an abuse of power. I think the SC demonstrated just that. Clubs have rights of admission. A temple might choose to disallow a non-believer. I am not sure why that is inordinate. Tomorrow we might demand that a non-believer to be appointed as a pope or bishop or imam or priest because – equal opportunity! Again, if we have the power, we can do what we wish.
Every wo/man who wishes to enter Sabarimala in violation of a tradition, a set of rules, essentially declares that s/he doesn’t believe in the temple rules & hence, the monument. It doesn’t matter whether I approve of the rules or not. Your approval, too, doesn’t matter. The monument has its devotees & its rules. It is impossible to disassociate the temple from the God & the temple from the rules. A person who chooses to disregard the rules of a monument declares disrespect for the rules & hence, the monument & thus, the God enshrined. Which is why many women rose up against the SC verdict. If women themselves are divided on a matter, who is the SC representing? Should we have a temple with rules reflecting the grand presentism of some minds? Sure. Build a temple where only women are allowed. Or one where only women no taller than 5′ are allowed. Build a shrine where menstrual fluids are offered as oblation. Do whatever you believe in or establish whatever human criteria one wishes. But leave each church/mosque/temple/etc. to its ways as much as people should leave your new temple/mosque/church/etc. to your ways. Else we might be going after Aghoris & forcing them to change their rules because someone in the present state of modernism believes it is not good for them or someone else. Don’t. Leave them be. Leave the monuments alone. Build another monument with your choicest figurines & statues & colours & rules. If you don’t believe in one monument don’t force your flavour of right on them. To treat a monument as merely a public place from which no one can be denied entry is the same as treating it merely as stone & mortar or human life as merely carbon, hydrogen & oxygen (and hence, how can you define murder or rape of elements in a periodic table?). Every temple can be proven to be incomplete in its rules. Let them be, as they are merely manifestations of an incomplete human spirit.
And now on to the matter of spirits & spirituality. All this talk about energies is hogwash because I don’t believe that anyone representing the Church of Energies has any clue about it. We have lost our connection with feeling deep energies (unless couched in long beards & robes & paraphernalia). For anyone to say that menstruating women emit a kind of energy that is this or that is smoking stuff which can’t be prescribed even in Ayurveda. Given that we don’t have that connect, it is only wise that we stop arguing along that line. Maybe someone is sensitive to energies & can understand the entirety of the universe in terms of vibrations & energy – sadly, I haven’t heard their voice anywhere on media. A God cannot be shaken by the entirety of this human race (although they are a virus capable of destroying anything). Because a God is in one’s mind. And if you believe in a Divine energy, surely it isn’t that feeble to be stumped by a bunch of humans?
So given that we don’t have a connect with the core of life & the Divine, given we are surrounded by non-believers who wish to use law to question belief, given that we are all so ignorant to assume that we know, what is the point of imagining that we need a bunch of humans to protect the Gods? What should one make of such a God? But yet, if they were utter violations of the God’s dictum wouldn’t they have been struck down? So isn’t the non-believer’s God also a weak one who cannot be modern enough to stand up for X’s rights? One could argue this way or that & basically choose not to stand up for what one believes. But then on the flip-side, isn’t that the same line of thinking which made us lose so many languages and dialects & left us with a lot of our historical knowledge undocumented or lost because no one tried to protect them?
What is truly worth standing up for? Who decides that? Why is a village geriatric’s love & passion for his palm tree trivial compared to one who is fighting against poverty? And if some scientists proved that preserving that palm tree was vital for the cure of breast cancer, you’d suddenly love him? Or if some culture-bigwig showed you how the voice of the downtrodden echoes in pith of that tree you will become highbrow enough to fabricate some great importance to his passion? You see the pattern? We are all ignorant (as are our institutions like the SC) & some of us are powerful enough to override others.
In short, I believe that the SC had no business in matters of belief. No body has the right to judge belief. If you don’t like the rules of a place, build one to your rules. I also don’t think that a monument should be married to its rules esp. given that they have often lost a connection with the Divine anyway. Yet, I believe that something run on belief should be left to be as long as it doesn’t force or oppress or hurt someone. Build your own monument if you can’t make it to your favourite one. Ravana too tried to tackle his inconvenience of commute to Kailasa by uprooting the mountain. Shiva put his foot down (literally) & let him know that he can build his own in Sri Lanka. If women feel that a monument is violating their rights, then why would they still want to go there? A monument is not a place to prove right & wrong. It is a place of devotion & belief & those who possess neither should stay away, anyway.