The Supreme Court's poser on why can't all women be permitted entry to the famed Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Monday received a mixed response, with some people expressing happiness and others wanting the tradition to continue.
As per the custom, the temple situated on the Western Ghat ranges, four km uphill from Pampa in Pathanamthitta district in central Kerala, bars entry of women aged between 10 and 50.
Incidentally, in February 2008, the then V.S. Achuthanandan led Left government had informed the Supreme Court that they would like to allow women of all age groups to enter the temple.
Speaking to reporters soon after Monday's question by the apex court, then Devasom minister and present CPI-M legislator G. Sudhakaran said that at that time when the same issue was being discussed, he came to know that government officials were preparing an affidavit to be submitted in the court.
"I immediately called the concerned officials and after discussions made it clear that where men can enter, women also should and can enter. The government is for the entire people," said Sudhakaran.
"Even today, my stand remains the same. Even now, when I attend meetings in villages, I can see many women showing their love and affection by saying it was me who took such a stand. We even asked the court to appoint a committee of the learned to study this," said Sudhakaran.
Sabarimala temple thantri (priest) Kantereru Rajiveru said this was a question of faith.
"A decision on what should be told to the court has to be taken only after discussions with all concerned as faith is of prime importance," said Rajiveru.
Devasom Minister V.S. Sivakumar told reporters that the Congress-led government will now look at all aspects before it makes its submission.
The two-month-long temple season at Sabarimala is currently on.
Some devotees expressed happiness, while a few others said let the tradition continue.
"Yes, what's wrong if women also come and pray here? We wish it's open for women also, so there can be a family pilgrimage," said a pilgrim at the foothills.
But 43-year-old Sushma Devi, a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, told IANS that even though she makes sure that her husband goes every year to the temple, she feels women need not be permitted to enter.
"I personally feel, traditions and customs, irrespective of religions, cannot be addressed by a court of law. Let the tradition go as it is, because this is faith and not a government policy, which can be altered time and again," said Sushma Devi, a homemaker who resides in the state capital.
In 2006, all hell broke loose when Kannada actress Jaimala revealed that she touched the famed Sabarimala deity in 1987, violating the age-old temple tradition.
The case is sub-judice now, but it was when the discussion started on should all women be allowed entry to the temple.