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Browse Law School Education Constitutional Law Discussion on the Sabarimala Case

Charu Mathur: So in this case, Lord Ayyappa is a Naishtika Brahmachari, that is celibate deity, so isn’t it part of his being esential that I don’t see a woman of a particular age.

Prashant Padmanabhan: That is one way of argument. The other, the court looked at it from a wider angle. It looked at different Hindu temples—Kashi Vishwanath temple or Puri Jagannath temple. All those temples are not different sects; they all are part of Hinduism. In the same way, Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala is also a part of Hinduism because the people who go there, they, of course, do that Vratha—they take a penance for 41 days and then go there.

Charu Mathur: What do they do there for 41 days?

Prashant Padmanabhan: They don’t eat non-vegetarian food, they don’t abuse, they don’t use filthy language to anybody, they condone their tongue, and so many; they have to address each other as Ayyappa. They give respect to others. And it is considered that they have to cook their own food and eat it. So many conditions, but we don’t know exactly how many people are following that strictly. But that is a concept. So one way of looking at it, some people say that women cannot in any case observe this 41 days Vratha—women between the age of 10 to 50. That is a very illogical argument because that puts a stigma on that period of menstruation and, say, that because in 41 days at least once the women of that age group would undergo that period, you can’t have a Vratha, that you are impure during that period. So it's a clear stigma on account of physiological defects. So that is how... And then I will answer your question—See Justice Chandrachud only deals with that question. He says you can’t put the onus of a man’s celibacy upon a woman. You can’t say that you don’t come there because of the belief that the deity is celibate or the people who go there, they are like following a special ritual. The court looked from the angle of settled law. Settled law from theShirur Mutt caseis that when somebody goes to the court and say, this is essentially a religious practice. The court will see whether such a practice is essentially in that religion or not. Because first you have to ensure your locus.

Charu Mathur: Right.

Prashant Padmanabhan: So the question is—Is it part of hinduism that women of menstruating age should not visit Sabarimala. They could not find anything either from Vedas or any authority. There was nothing which says that women of that age group should not visit Sabarimala temple and in the northern Hindu temple, such a practice is there. And those people who go there to Sabarimala Temple, who are they? It’s open to all religions, sects and castes and as a matter of fact, people from other religions also come there.

Charu Mathur: Ok.

Prashant Padmanabhan: But mostly, the majority of people who are going there are Hindus only, and other religions they come back and they lead there and follow their own path. Hindus also after doing 41 days Vratha, they go there, they come back and they visit other temples also; only for that period only, they wear that particular colour dress and all that. So that does not mean that it is a separate sect or a denomination.

Charu Mathur: So the first threshold you have to clear is, you have to do this Vratha of 41 days. Yes. Only then you can proceed to the next stage where you have to do the trekking and everything and do the darshan of the deity.

Prashant Padmanabhan: That is the strict practice of going to the shrine.

Charu Mathur: But there is no way to check whether the men are following this.

Prashant Padmanabhan: That’s right. That’s right.

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