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Indian Women challenge the age-old taboo of banning women’s entry in temples

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Image source: VOA

After mounting a spirited challenge to centuries-old traditions, Indian women have gained access to the inner sanctum of a key Hindu temple that had prohibited them from entering for hundreds of years, and are spearheading a movement to have similar bans overturned in other temples and a historic mosque.

When 31-year-old activist Trupti Desai set foot on the platform where the deity of the Shani Shingnapur temple is placed, it was hailed as a huge victory for gender equality in a country where large strata of society remain patriarchal.

Desai’s entry in Ahmednagar in Western Mahasrashtra state this month, along with a small group of other women, marked the culmination of a high-profile campaign that she launched five months ago on hearing that priests had conducted a purification ritual in the temple after a woman offered prayers to the idol.

After police foiled Desai’s attempt to literally parachute from a helicopter onto the raised platform of the open-air temple earlier this year, women activists mounted a legal challenge to the ban.

The Mumbai High Court ruled in their favor, saying it was a fundamental right of women to access any place of worship where men are allowed, and that authorities should facilitate their entry into temples that ban them.

After some resistance, the temple trustees finally threw open the inner sanctum to women. It has not happened easily; the activists had to enter armed with a court order and protected by a ring of policemen because they faced angry counter protests by locals who wanted to protect the temple from what they felt was its desecration by women.

Women have challenged the ban on their entry to the mausoleum at the famous Haji Ali Dargah, a shrine and mosque situated on an islet off Mumbai’s coast. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Women have challenged the ban on their entry to the mausoleum at the famous Haji Ali Dargah, a shrine and mosque situated on an islet off Mumbai’s coast. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

“Many people had said that ’til the sun, moon and stars exist, you will never be able to set foot here. I am very happy that women’s power has won, and tradition has lost,” said Desai after tasting victory.

She said her movement does not target religious practices; it aims to fight the notion that women have a lesser status. Most Hindu temples allow women, but a handful of prominent ones have shut the doors on them.

As the campaign to change the status quo gains traction, women have set their sights on other temples with similar restrictions. At least two – the well-known Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik and Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur – lifted their bans on women this month.

But the battle is not over, as similar campaigns are playing out in other parts of the country. The most high-profile one is for access to the famous Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Kerala state in Southern India, which does not allow women of reproductive age to enter the temple. The ban is born out of the belief that menstruating women are impure.

The Supreme Court, which is due to rule on a challenge to that centuries-old custom, has said it will the test this restriction on the basis of the constitution.

“What right does the temple have to forbid women from entering any part of the temple? Can you deny a woman her right to climb Mount Everest? The reasons for banning anything must be common for all,” said Justice Dipak Misra, one of the three judges said during a recent hearing.

Temple authorities have defended the tradition saying the deity being worshipped is a celibate.

It is not just Hindu temples that are coming under pressure to allow women. Muslim women petitioners have challenged a ban on them in the mausoleum at the 15th century Haji Ali Dargah, one of the country’s most prominent mosques in Mumbai and a famous city landmark. The restrictions were imposed in 2011 by trustees who said allowing women in the proximity of the tomb of a revered saint is “a grievous sin” in Islam.

Zakia Soman, the co-founder of a Muslim women’s rights group (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan), questions the ban, saying both men and women are allowed right into the holiest place for all Muslims in Mecca.

She said they went to court after efforts to have a dialogue with the trustees made no headway making it clear that as women raise their voice for equality, “these people are getting even more regressive than what they are. We cannot just allow this to pass, we have got to fight it.”

Most Hindu temples, like this one in Gurgaon, do not ban women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Most Hindu temples, like this one in Gurgaon, do not ban women. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Women’s rights advocates describe the movement to enter places of worship as an important milestone in the quest for gender equality. They say what is significant is the campaign took root in a relatively small town and not in the big cities, where such battles are usually waged.

A professor of sociology at Delhi University, Mala Shankar Das Kapoor, points out that these campaigns have been drawing nationwide attention.

“A lot of more people will realize that these things need to be stopped, so that gives the women who have been deprived a little more courage to stand for their rights and express themselves. All this adds to the confidence of women asking for equality,” she said. (VOA)

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7 spectacular Hindu Temples to visit in Incredible India

Have you ever considered visiting a temple while you are struggling in life? A temple visit is enough to give you strength, calm you down and help you to reconnect with divine. Go for a temple walk. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu temples in Incredible India

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Hindu Temples
Akshardham Temple, Delhi (www.akshardham.com)
  • Hindus have more sacred sites, festivals and pilgrimages, more yogis, monks and sadhus, an older and vaster literature than any religion – Dr. David Frawley

Temples in Hinduism holds a very important place. Hindu temples are popularly known as mandiram, devaalayam or devastanam, meaning the shrine, abode or place of Ishwar. Hindu temples are at once a collective work of art, the adobe of Ishwar, a symbol of the cosmos and a path leading the worshipper into contact with the God, from the temporal to the eternal. Hindu temples are valued and respected both as a means of enabling worship in the presence of God and as a way to uphold Indian culture and dharma. Here is a list of 7 spectacular Hindu Temples in Incredible India you will love visiting as many times as possible in your lifetime.

1. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

Hinduism
Somnath, Gujarat (Image Credit : Shaurya Ritwik)

The Somnath is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Somnath Temple has been looted, destroyed and resurrected 17 times. In AD 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni first looted the temple, and then came Afzal Khan, the commander of Ala-ud-din Khilji and later Aurangzeb. While the barbaric looters are sleeping in their grave, Somnath still stands as a pillar of Hinduism, as a sign of resistance. Somnath is the place where you can connect with history and your source. Best time to visit Somnath : Well, any time of the year.

2. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Hindu Temples
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Meenakshi Temple is known for its beautiful architecture. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, a form of Parvati, and her consort, Sundareswar, a form of Shiva. The temple was almost completely destroyed in the year 1310 following the invasion of the Islamic conqueror Malik kafur. Most of the Islamic rulers were noted for their intolerance towards Hindu temples, the invaders destroyed most of the ancient sculptures of the temple. The temple was rebuilt by the Hindu Nayaka dynasty ruler Vishwanatha Nayakar in the 16th and 17th century. According to the Tiruvilaiyatal Puranam, of the list of 68 pilgrimage places in Shaivism, four are most important: Kashi (Varanasi), Chidambaram, Tirukkalatti and Madurai. The sacrality of Madurai is from this temple.

3. Jagannath Temple, Puri, Orissa

Hindu Temples
Jagannath Temple, Orissa (AKL)

Jagannath temple was built in the 12 th century by Raja Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. It is one of the Char Dhams of Hinduism in Incredible India and is situated on the Nilgiri Hill. The temple is known for its annual Ratha Yatra, which attracts millions of Hindu devotees every year. It is said that the divine mahaprasad of the temple is prepared under the scrutiny of goddess Lakshmi. During Rath Yatra, idol of Jagannath along with Subhadra and Balabhadra are placed in huge chariots and brought out to the street. Thousands of people pull the sacred chariot. The main chariot is around 45 feet high. These rathas are constructed new every year. It has wood-carved horses and charioteers. Rath Yatra is held every year during the month of Asadha as per Hindu calendar.

4. Kailashnath Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra

Hindu Temples
Kailashnath Temple, Ellora (Image Credits: AKL)

The Kailasha Temple or Kailashnath Temple is one of the largest rock cut ancient Hindu temples. A megalith carved out of one single rock, it is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment. It is a prime example of extraordinary ancient Hindu architecture. Visiting this temple will definitely give you a ride to our glorious ancient past.

5. Konark Sun Temple, Orissa

Hindu temples
Konark sun Temple, Orissa (Image Source : Wikimedia Commans)

Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God in Orissa attributed to king Narsimhadeva about 1250 CE. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificient temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The Konark temple is famously known for its architectural grandeur and for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance. If you are in Orissa you can not miss one of the most spell binding temple in Incredible India, Konark sun Temple.

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6. Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand

Hindu Temples
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand (Image Credit: Shaurya Ritwik)
Hindu Temples
Prime Minister Modi at Kedarnath (Twitter)

Kedarnath is among one of the holiest Hindu temples of Incredible India with Lord Shiva as its residing deity. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Shankaracharya himself in the early 8th century. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and the main temple of Panch Kedar. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. You must visit Kedarnath, one of the most important pilgrimage in hinduism to feel the beauty of nature and divinity.

7. Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka

Hindu Temples
Chennakeshava Temple, Karnataka (Image Credit : Wikimedia)

The Chennakeshava Temple, also referred to as Keshava, Kesava or Vijayanarayana Temple of Belur, the erstwhile capital of Hoysala kingdom is a 12th-century Hindu temple in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, Incredible India. This Hindu temple is another testament to the amazing artistry of ancient Incredible India. This place will give you sense of pride regarding what our ancestors left for us.

So, are you ready for a “Walk to Temple”? The wonderful Hindu temples Incredible India has can not be comprehended in a list, there are lakhs of them, visit them to connect with your roots, to get acquainted with Dharma which is eternal.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Three Indian Women on Fortune’s Most Powerful Business Women

Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma have been ranked among the most powerful businesswomen outside of the United States by Fortune magazine

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Indian Women
Indra Nooyi - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008. Wikimedia

New Delhi, Sep 28, 2017: Indian women have undertaken every role in each sphere of life from beauty to the outrageous corporate world with due diligence.  Fortune magazine has released the Most Powerful Women in Business Outside the US list in which two Indian women, ICICI Bank’s Chanda Kochhar and Axis Bank chief Shikha Sharma have made it to the rankings while Indira Nooyi featured in the top three businesswomen on the US edition list.

Anna Bonnin, the executive chairman of the Banco Santander Group, was ranked first in the list. Kochhar was placed fifth, and Sharma was ranked 21st in the list.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi was ranked second on the US Most Powerful Women in Business list. General Motors CEO Mary Barra topped the list while Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson took the third spot.

Also Read: 5 Women Whose Caliber, Achievements Would Inspire You 

The annual list of working women outside the United States was released 17th time.  The 50 global businesswomen represented 17 countries and had 11 newcomers this year. The methodology involved four criteria: the size and importance of the woman’s business in the global economy, the health and direction of the business, the arc of the woman’s career (resume and runway ahead), and social and cultural influence, mentioned Livemint.

 

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A welcome step for women empowerment laws, soon to be introduced law will help to prevent women’s abuse in NRI marriages: Rakesh Srivastava

Rakesh Srivastava talked about increasing women employment, equal work participation, and gender equality

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A soon to be introduced law will help in women empowerment as it will prevent women’s abuse in NRI marriages
A soon to be introduced law will help in women empowerment as it will prevent women’s abuse in NRI marriages. Pixabay
  • Efforts are required for training and skill up-gradation of women in traditional, new and emerging areas to promote women’s employment
  • In November the government will honor 100 women achievers
  • Gender Equality is still not reflected in ‘participation in economic activities’ which is not a good thing for women empowerment

New Delhi (India), September 7, 2017: Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development said that very soon a law will be finalized which will protect Indian women who are abandoned by their NRI husbands or foreign partners. He said this on 6th September 2107. It will be a praiseworthy step for women empowerment.

Srivastava was present for the inauguration ceremony of 2nd Conference on Women at the workplace- “Role of Leadership”, New Delhi. The Conference was organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

Women Empowerment by increasing job opportunities for women

According to ANI report, Rakesh Srivastava said “India has taken a lead role in gender budgeting in the world. Efforts are also required for training and skill up-gradation of women in traditional, new and emerging areas to promote women’s employment in both organized/unorganized sectors, including entrepreneurial development.”

Women Achievers will be honored

Srivastava also informed that in November the government will honor 100 women achievers. The event will be held in Hyderabad and will possibly be attended by The US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The government decided to honor women achievers will inspire other women to reach great heights of success, this step will foster women empowerment.

Equal Opportunities for Women

He further added that if suitable strategies and also laws which help in women empowerment are implemented- it will ensure equal opportunities for women to enter as well as enjoy decent work in a healthy work environment. This will also include fair and equal wages, health measures, social security measures and occupational safety.

Also Read: Misery of the outcast wives in India by their NRI husbands

Knowledge about Gender Equality will increase Women Empowerment

He cited that gender equality is critical for the development of any country. Srivastava said that by removing barriers which prevent women from having the same access to economic opportunities, education, and productive inputs as men will lead to productivity gains. It is a crucial step to be taken in today’s globalized and competitive world.

Srivastava said, “India has been ranked 87 out of 144 countries on the latest World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2016, but in the economic sphere, much work remains to be done as India ranks 136 in this pillar out of 144 countries.” He added that gender equality is still not reflected in ‘participation in economic activities’ which is not a good thing for women empowerment.

Workforce Participation Rate in Men v/s Women

“In 2011, the workforce participation rate at all India level is 25.51% for women as compared to 53.26% for men. While there is no urban-rural gap for males (53%), there is a considerable rural-urban gap for females, when workforce participation rate for rural women is 30% it is only 15.4% for urban women,” Srivastava said, mentions ANI report.

Also Read: In Netherlands, PM Narendra Modi pitches for Women Empowerment in India

Women Empowerment by building women’s Hostels for widows and women in distress

Rakesh Srivastava, the secretary of Ministry of Women and Child Development also shared that the government is working on women’s hostels that can also be utilized by the widows and women in distress in India.

Srivastava said “Women form an integral part of the Indian workforce. They need to be equal partners in the society for them to be equal participants in work. Women have to contend with discriminatory laws, institutions and attitudes that restrict their leadership and full participation in public life.” He added that what prevents women from becoming effective leaders is unequal access to resources.

October 15 will be observed as ‘Women Farmer’s Day’ all thanks to Krishna Raj, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. This move by a minister, noticing rural women’s contribution in farming paves way for women empowerment of rural women.

Krishna Raj said, “Women can make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.”


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