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The Sabarimala Case: The Religious Confrontation

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The tussle between reason, religion, and patriarchy and gender equality is the core baseline to under the proceeds of the Sabarimala case, which produced one of the most controversial judgments in the year 2018, bringing a sense of equalization and also the distrust to some group of the parties, especially is the southern side of India. The petition was first filed in the year 2006, by the Indian Young Lawyers Association and others against the State of Karnataka to lift the centuries old ban of no permitting women of the age 10-55 with entering into the temple due to their ‘impurity’.

Putting an end to this centuries old tradition was by the five-bench judge at the Supreme Court of India, headed by the Chief Justice of India himself, and said that “the provision in the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965, which authorised the restriction, violated the right of Hindu women to practice religion It also said that patriarchy in religion cannot be allowed to trump the right to pray.” However it was a 4:1 favoured judgment where Indu Malhotra bought into light to not entertain the petition, as it is somewhere against the courts to transfigure religious traditions and customs. She says ‘worshippers of Sabarimala temple constitute a separate religious denomination’.

This judgement resulted to be just a beginning of the religious warfare; this judgment is opposed by a huge number of protestors, bringing into attention of the mishap being originated in the Hindu temple. The tradition constituted to be a very old custom, a sudden change in the same has disturbed the worshippers. Resulting in gathering enough propulsion to force the country’s political influences to join the battle by demanding a judicial review and also a reaffirmation of the temple’s traditions in form of legislations.

On the other hand, is the struggle of women and their groups to facilitate a place to allow them to practice their tradition in a way to no disturb any other group of people. The concept of equality is a long lived havoc in our country. Even in this case, the equality is what is questioned; the ban constituted a Hindu woman to not perform her religious belief, which results to inequality. Susan B. Anthony known for her feminist activity, succinctly puts, “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” It is a clear message explaining how it is to be constituted in the country of great tales of independence and democracy. Our country is a field of traditional customs and various generations of people challenging some of them to seek on different ground of equality, belief and acceptance of change. One of the major precedents was when the Supreme Court of India, even executed a proposal to allow non-hindus to enter the Jagannath Temple in Puri. This even with some disturbance to believers was executed without any fuss. It shows that maybe not right now, but India is ready to accept change in matters as such.

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When legislations and customs come together at the field of battle, and when legislations take over is when there is eradication of these customs and practice. This cannot be told as the right path, because India is a country built with customs and practices that makes our country rich in culture. Therefore legislations taking over might not always be favourable to the group of people. It is distress to be forced to stop believing in their religious belief. It again varies in situations, like how in the Sabarimala proceeding, the petitioner’s lawyer bought into picture how this treatment towards women is nothing less than a practice of untouchability, which even adopted by the customs, is a violation of one’s fundamental right which is unconstitutional in nature. Customs like child marriage, sati, regulating terms of marriage and divorce are maybe a tradition that is adopted from years before our legislations were constituted, but that doesn’t favour them to exist as they are a hardship in today’s modern state of development among citizens. Therefore, it can always be looked in two perspectives. That’s the position where Sabarimala case has put us in, to be in favour of customs or our legislations.

The proceedings in the court was beautifully drafted by both the parties, where the petitioners spoke about how important it is for a women to feel valued in a society, and how important it is for her to be allowed to practice her religious belief in a way she finds fit, in this case by visiting a temple. As, the court says, ‘neither the said message nor any kind of philosophy has opened up the large populace of this country to accept women as partners in their search for divinity and spirituality. In the theatre of life, it seems man has put the autograph and there is no space for a woman even to put her signature.’ Basically the reason so told for the ban was the age of the women being 10-50, which is the menstrual age of any women, which leads to being impure within the walls of the temple; however it does have a mythological story behind the same. Apart from that, banning a woman because of her biological factor does lead to discrimination. On the other hand; the defendants put forth the mythological history of this custom, and the method to which a worshipper must visit the temple. It says that the lord situated in the temple is a ‘Naishtik Brahmachari’ i.e. an eternal celibate. And the lord himself had explained the manner in which the pilgrimage can visit the temple i.e., by observing a 41 day ‘Vratham’. It a customary practice to discipline and train the devotees for the evolution of spiritual consciousness which leads to self-realisation, which consists of penance such as giving up all intoxicated method of consumption, living with family or any kind of relationship with one’s spouse. The defendants also explained how restriction of women is also an essential practise of this temple.

However, the courts at the end formed a view to eradicate these kinds of religious denomination that leads to displeasing a class of the society. Like how Henry Ward Beecher said; ‘“Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place in the contents. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. Nothing ever happens twice alike. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects. The most tranquil house, with the most serene inhabitants, living upon the utmost regularity of system, is yet exemplifying infinite diversities.’

This judgement was an explicit act of social modernity, asking the customs to meet with today’s modern exercises. The Supreme Court played a part to strengthen the attitudes towards the preamble of our country by explaining how customs and society needs should walk hand- in-hand.



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The Sabarimala Case: The Religious Confrontation. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2023, from
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The Sabarimala Case: The Religious Confrontation. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 May 2023].
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