The state government has made it clear that the sentiment of devotees should be respected while taking a decision.
The Supreme Court's question as to why women are barred from Sabarimala has triggered a high-decibel debate in Kerala, with many coming against and in favour of the centuries-old custom prevailing in the hill shrine.
Welcoming the court suggestion, noted historian Dr M.G.S. Narayanan said denying constitutional rights to women is not suitable to a civilised society.
However, noted social activist Sugathakumari is opposed to altering the existing rituals and said she couldn't see it as a human rights issue. Those who want to pray Lord Ayyappa have a lot of other temples, she said and added that everybody was bound to follow norms.
Although a number of women activists argued that the authorities should put an end to what they termed as the sexual discrimination in the temple, the government has made it clear that the sentiment of devotees should be respected while taking a decision.
Temple affairs minister V.S. Shivakumar on Wednesday said the government would file an affidavit in the court taking into account the centuries old customs and traditions. The former CPI-M government led by V.S. Achuthanandan, however, had earlier informed the top court that it was not against altering the customs.
Women aged between 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the famous forest temple situated in Pathanamthitta district of south Kerala. As per the tradition, the journey to Sabarimala is a 41-day long pilgrimage and religious experts argue that women cannot remain “pure” as she will undergo the menstrual period before completing the journey.
VHP State President S.J.R. Kumar said that the issue involved not only religious and ritualistic aspects, but also of the safety of women. The Nair Service Society and the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom are also strongly opposed to the women's entry and urged the government to protect customs and tradition.
TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said the court observation was without understanding the specialty of the rituals of the temple and the deity Lord Ayyappa, who is considered to be naishtika brahmachari (perennial celibate).
The court's observation has sparked off a wide-range debate on social media also.
Why just focus on #Sabarimala ? Menstruating women are not meant to enter any temple (not even the puja room at home) acc to Hindu tradition— Seema Goswami (@seemagoswami) January 12, 2016
#Sabarimala adheres to its sacred traditions. As a woman & as a native my opinion is to let it be like that only. Swamye Sharanam Ayyappa 🙏🙏— Dr.Piyu Nair (@Piyu909) January 11, 2016
The SC doesnt have guts to punish wrong doers against the country, now sitting in judgement about faith! #Sabarimala— IndianF1Fan (@rsenthilkumar) January 11, 2016
The top court on Monday wondered if the temple authorities had any constitutional right to prohibit women in the temple premises. While the Devaswom Board argued that the restriction was based on certain customs, the court asked if it had any proof to show that women did not enter the shrine over 1500 years ago.
The court said "A mutt preventing entry of women into its premises is understandable. But how can a temple, which is a public place, be made out of bounds for citizens on the ground of sex, age or any other criteria."
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Indian Young Lawyers Association and five women lawyers in this regard.