#ReadyToWait: These Kerala women devotees campaign against women entering Sabarimala shrine

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In the backdrop of the celebrations that has accompanied the Bombay High Court’s verdict allowing women to enter the Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai, there are two sections of women in Kerala who are fighting an altogether different – though oddly similar – battle.

There is, on the one hand, a section that is rejoicing over the Bombay HC’s judgment, awaiting to see the same fate in their fight to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala shrine in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district; while on the other, there is a faction that has started a social media campaign with the hashtag #ReadyToWait, in support of the age-old practice that does not allow women of menstruating age to enter the holy area.

It is the latter segment that has set the Internet abuzz with posts, reactions and arguments. Though, why should there be the need for such a campaign is a question worth asking. After all, even if a similar judgment came in favour of the women desirous of praying at the Sabarimala shrine, the others who would like to wait till they’re 50 – can still wait!

Women’s rights activists within and outside the state have been agitating for their rights to enter the shrine since a long time. While women are not stopped from worshipping Lord Ayyappa in any other temples there, this is the only shrine that has imposed such strict restrictions.

#Readytowait campaign, started as a counter debate after a national TV news channel aired a debate with the hashtag #RightToPray recently.  The campaign emphasises that there is no ban on the entry of women, only restriction of  women of a particular age group. Women devotees are posting pictures holding placards that say ‘Ready to Wait’, which means these women are ready to wait till the age of 50 before they can enter the holy shrine. The posts that are now doing the rounds of the Internet are calling to women to become decision-makers in this regard.

Facebook user Anjali George’s post recently calling for “customs of the native civilization to be left to the devotees of the temple” apparently started off the social media campaign. Through her #ReadyToWait posts George has requested women to “foist Abrahamic Puritanism on this mighty nation which has nurtured diversity and worshipped the feminine in all its varied forms,” as an answer to the monotheism, which is being widely propagated now.

Here is the text from Anjali George’s #ReadyToWait Facebook post.

Sabarimala is not a gender issue. There is NO ban on entry of women in Sabarimala as the media is reporting. There is only a restriction on women of a particular age group. That has to do with the customs of the place. You cannot apply the Semitic scale which reduces God to a human figure to pagan traditions that worship nature and its forces. Each temple has a unique custom, and that cannot be standardised just because the so called liberals who proclaim to be atheists don’t understand it. Just like there is space for both theism and atheism in Sanatana-dharma, there is also space for male or female worship or their exclusion from worship.”
So dear Western-funded Feminists and Godless Commies, leave the customs of the native civilisation to the devotees of the Temple.
Let the voice of devotees be heard instead of insensitive atheists from alien cultures.

According to NDTV, Padma Pillai who is in her 40s and heads an IT firm said, “If it was man-made and wrong, I will fight against the tradition. But if it’s in the shastras, it’s my right to fight to obey. Women can worship Ayyappa anywhere else where they are allowed.”

This campaign presents an interesting contrarian point of view, wherein a group of women are in agreement with the religious restriction against women between the ages 10 and 50 from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala shrine, at a time when there are more voices on social media platforms that seek to end all divide – no matter how ancient – between men and women on the basis of religion or society.

Though, yet again, the #ReadyToWait campaign does beg the question – Why do we need it? In the hypothetical scenario (or till the Supreme Court or Lord Ayappa himself effects a change), should women of all ages be allowed to enter the shrine, those whose religious beliefs forbid them to do so, can still continue to wait. But, why stop others?