“From my childhood I believe that those rituals should be saved and I don’t think those beliefs should be legalized,” said Radhika Nair, an economics postgraduate student as she emerged from viewing an art exhibition in Kochi in Kerala state.
She is referring to the centuries-old custom that barred women between the ages of 10 and 50 from climbing the 18 golden steps that lead into Sabarimala, one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines. A raging controversy has centered on the hilltop temple in Kerala after the Supreme Court lifted that ban, saying it constitutes gender discrimination. The order was seen as a huge step for women’s equality and a blow to entrenched patriarchal traditions.
But in India’s most literate state, lying on its southern tip, the view is far more complex. In towns and cities, many ordinary women, young and old, are vehement that temples are not the place to stage the battle for gender equality and want the traditions in Sabarimala to be left undisturbed. The handful that take a more liberal view prefer not to be quoted on an issue that has raised strong emotions – not just among political parties who have waded into the controversy, but in ordinary households.
Women of menstruating age are barred from the temple because age-old belief holds it would dishonor the temple’s deity Lord Ayyappa, believed to be a celibate. Vowing to preserve that tradition in defiance of the top court’s order, devotees forced the handful of women who approached the temple to turn back until two slipped in undetected with a plains clothes police escort earlier this month. As violent protests erupted, they went into hiding and needed police protection for days.
39-year-old Kanakadurga, who returned home in mid-January, had to be hospitalized after she was allegedly attacked by her mother-in-law and was later locked out of the house. She is living in a government shelter. Her brother has asked her to apologize to devotees. 40-year-old Bindu Ammini’s family has been more supportive and she is back at her job as a law professor.
On the streets of Kerala, not many are willing to defend the temple visit of the two and dismiss them as activists. 60-year-old Vijay Lakshi, who is a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, said that by entering the shrine, they proved that they were not genuine believers. Then why are they going there? As per our opinion women should not go to Sabarimala.”
Ammini told VOA she visited the temple to exercise her constitutional right to equality. “This is not question of activist and devotee. In India rule of law is practiced. All people in India have duty to obey constitution and other laws.”
But what finds wide resonance in Kerala is the sole dissenting voice on the top court’s five-judge bench that delivered the landmark verdict. Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge on the panel had said that “issues of deep religious sentiments should not ordinarily be interfered by the court,” and religious practices cannot be solely tested on the basis of the right to equality.
“I am not that much devoted to God, I am not that much against God also. I am a common person with all the feelings,” says Smita Subhash, a school principal. “But when we are living in a particular society, it is better that we have to follow the rules and regulations of that society, that is very important.”
Some point out that Kerala is home to a temple that does not allow men on certain days. Many non-Hindus also want religious customs to be treated as sacrosanct. “Leave Sabarimala as it was before,” said Kochi resident, Mary Bosco. “It is not the place for showing women empowerment. It is not a place to make problems, issues.”
Ammini feels differently and said, “Gender inequality is also part of religion” and needs legal redress. The man who facilitated her visit to Sabarimala by launching an online group for women who wanted to enter, Shreyas Kanaran, also asserts that equal access for women into religious spaces is an important facet of ushering in social reform. “We have to be patient. A mindset change needs time,” he says.
But it is difficult to find women who openly favor the entry of women in Sabarimala in a state where, although they are more educated compared to women in many other parts of the country, the hold of conservatism is also strong.
Two women sitting in a café say they don’t care whether women enter or stay away from Sabarimala and believe that more important issues such as rape should be the focus of governments and society. But they don’t want to be quoted because their husbands and in-laws would be angry.
The final legal word on the controversy has yet to be pronounced. The Supreme Court is due to hear petitions seeking a review of its judgment but it remains to be seen whether it takes a second look at the contentious issue or lets the earlier verdict stand.
Either way, strong passions will continue to swirl on the issue in Kerala, and for the time being, the voice of those who favor retaining the traditions at Sabarimala is much louder. That means for some time to come the millions of devotees dressed in black who head to the temple every year after a tough 41-day penance, will continue to be men.
Women like Radhika Nair have made up their minds. “We are ready to wait. I don’t need to go there between these 10 to 50 years.” (VOA)
The majestic Himalayan Mountains are home to the highest and most magnificent peaks on Earth. These mountains are not just majestic and beautiful but also extremely holy. From ancient times, the mighty Himalayas have been the abode of divinity. Hundreds of Hindu shrines are nestled in the majestic Himalayan foothills and the lofty ice-clad peaks. Many of these shrines are closely associated with the epics which form the backbone of Hindu culture and ethos. Here are 10 sacred Hindu temples situated in the lofty Himalayas, that you should definitely visit at least once:
1. Badrinarayan Temple
Badrinath Temple located in the state of Uttarakhand in India, between the Twin Mountains of “Nar” and “Narayan”, is a holy pilgrimage visited by lacs of devotees each year. It is mentioned in many Hindu Scriptures, “There may be many sacred pilgrimages in the heaven, earth and the nether world, but there has been none equal to Badrinath, nor shall there be“.This sacred temple is located at a height of around 10,250 feet above sea level and surrounded by landscapes on all sides. The temple is open only six months every year (between the end of April and the beginning of November), due to extreme weather conditions in the Himalayan region.
The temple is mentioned in ancient religious texts like Vishnu Purana and Skanda Purana. It is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, an early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is believed that once the Shraddha Karma is performed here, the descendants need not perform the yearly ritual. Badrinath temple has world-famous legends that surround it and it is one of the most esteemed Hindu Temple around the world.
Situated amidst the mighty Himalayas of Nepal is the small yet very powerfully revered temple of Sri Muktinath. According to ancient Hindu beliefs, Sri Muktinath Temple stands for masculine as well as feminine divinity. On one hand, it is considered the most ancient temples of the God Vishnu and the Vaishnava tradition in Nepal as well as one of the 108 Divya Desam, or holy places of worship of Lord Vishnu and, it is also one of the 51 Shakti Peetha goddess sites. Muktinath is a pilgrimage shrine located 140 miles from Kathmandu in the snow-clad Himalayas. It is located near the Gandaki River famous for the Salagrama stones. River Gandaki is also known as Narayani or Salagrami.
3. Pathibhara Devi Temple
Pathibhara Devi is also known by the name Mukkumlung, as mentioned in Mundhum of Limbu people is one of the holiest places for Limbu and for Hindus in Nepal. It is located on the hill of Taplejung. Worshippers from different parts of Nepal and India flock to the temple during special occasions, as it is believed that a pilgrimage to the temple ensures fulfillment of the pilgrims’ desires.
After the Gorkha attack of Limbuwan, the sacred temple of Limbu people (Mangham in Limbu language) was additionally included in the standard Hinduism and is likewise loved as one of the Hindu Shaktipeeths without changing the previous conviction or the acts of the Limbu individuals.
The Goddess at Pathibhara temple is accepted to have otherworldly powers and tirelessly answer enthusiasts’ supplications. She is considered by her devotees as a sign of the celestial female additionally called with different names as AdiKali, Maha Maya, Maha Rudri among numerous other of her perfect structures.
The explorers offer creature penances, gold, and silver to satisfy the goddess. It is accepted that neighborhood shepherds lost several their sheep while touching at a similar spot where the place stands today. The bothered shepherds had a dream in which the Goddess requested them to do the formal penance of sheep and assemble a place of worship in her respect. At the point when the sacrifice was offered the lost group apparently returned. The custom of offering penances inside the temple is accepted to have begun after this occurrence.
The slope goddess Pathibhara after which the spot is named is accepted by the aficionados as a savage goddess who can be effectively satisfied with a basic and magnanimous demonstration of sympathy, supplication and conciliatory contributions (penance in Hinduism indicates penance of sense of self and insatiability), while is unmerciful and extreme to one who has malignant goals underneath.
4. Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple
Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple is situated in the Dolkha district of Nepal. The temple is situated in Kalinchowk VDC in Dolkha at an altitude of 3842m from sea level. Kalinchowk Bhagwati can be promoted as a destination for both religious as well as tourism purposes. It is believed that the temple is at a place where all the wishes of the devotees’ are fulfilled in Kunda (Pond) of Bhagwati mai that lies at the hilltop.
Sundhara and Tama, two natural springs that originate from this area are the main sources of the very big two rivers the Sunkoshi and Tama Koshi rivers. One can witness an excellent view of Annapurna, Lamjung, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Shisha Panga, Langtang, Dorjee Lakpa, Jugal Himal, Amabamori, Gauri Shanker, and Namburi Himal from this place.
5. Amarnath Cave Temple
According to the legend, Shiva has given Gods immortality by blessing them with the celestial nectar. Hidden (and lost and forgotten during Middle Ages) in the tough region of Himalayas Amarnath cave is the place where Shiva explained the secret of immortal life to Parvati. Every yogi and Shaiva desiring to conquer Maya, get freed of illusion and become immortal dreams of worshipping the Lingam of Amarnath. Until recently, this yatra was considered the most dangerous in the Himalayas – few people had been able to perform it and for many sadhus, this had been the last desired one-way life’s trip.
Inside the cave of Amarnath there are ice stalagmites: increate Shivalingam, to the left there is a block representing Ganesha and to the right – Parvati and Bhairava. They often change in size, reach the largest size during the full moon, and begin to wane during the new moon.
6. Kedarnath Mandir
This temple is situated in the snow-secured territory of Himalayas. One can just visit this temple during a half year of a year, the remainder of the month, the day off, outrageous virus don’t allow fans to enter. In that capacity, the Kedarnath temple stays shut for pioneers. Because of the extraordinary snowfall of Kartik, the Sri Kedarshwar symbol is brought out of the temple in the wake of lighting a ghee light, “Nanda Deepa” and the temple is shut for the winter. This symbol is moved to the Urvi Math, in the valley. The temple just opens later in Baisakh. Individuals visit here to see the Nanda Deepa, and when they see this, they believe themselves to be honored.
It is another significant site of consecrated Chota Char Dham way is named after King Kedar, whose little girl Vrinda was a manifestation of Lakshmi, Goddess of magnificence, love, and flourishing. The place of worship was worked in the eighth century and it is one of the twelve temples, lodging a Jyotirlingam, which is accepted to discharge from wretchedness each and every individual who genuinely loves Shiva.
This temple is extremely old, it’s even referenced in Mahabharata, in the scene where the Pandavas were attempting to please Shiva with their austerity to make amends for their wrongdoings. There is a spring close to the temple called Udar Kund, its water is accepted to be a blend of 5 seas and to remain new for a long time. This sacred water is frequently utilized in exoneration customs.
8. Gangotri Temple
Gangotri Temple remains on the starting point of the Ganges River. Most Hindus trust it to be the home of Ganga, Goddess of Wisdom, and the hallowed soul of waterway Ganga. It is on the Greater Himalayan Range, at a range of 3,100 meters (10,200 ft). As per the famous Hindu legend, it was here that Goddess Ganga slid when Lord Shiva discharged the forceful stream from the locks of his hair. Its other significance is for the purpose of the Chota Char Dham yatra course. The temple was initially worked by the Nepalese general Amar Singh Thapa in the XVIII century.
As indicated by Hindu sacrosanct history, King Bhagiratha contemplated at this spot so as to gain the favors of Goddess Ganga to have the option to clear the transgressions of his forerunners. After severe atonements, Ganga took a type of a waterway to free their spirits and award them salvation. Each April Goddess Ganga comes back to Gangotri from her winter cover. This day has been celebrated for right around 700 years with carrying on the cart the Goddess’ Idol in red and green garments.
9. Yamunotri Temple
The temple in Yamunotri is located on the left bank of the river Yamuna named after river Goddess Yamuna. The temple usually opens at the end of April and can be visited until Diwali. There are two hot springs near the place, the famous Surya Kund which has boiling water, where the pilgrims poach the rice for the Goddess, and the Gauri Kund with warm water for ablution. According to an ancient Hindu legend, sage Asit Muni bathed all his life in Ganges and Yamuna. When he was too old to go to Gangotri, a stream of Ganges appeared before him in Yamunotri.
10. Kartik Swami Temple
Situated in an all-around flawless setting at a tallness of 3050 m above ocean level, Kartik Swami temple is a worshipped Hindu sanctuary in the Indian Himalaya. The sanctuary is committed to Lord Shiva and Parvati’s senior child Kartikeya who is known as the president of the gods. The temple stands separated from the different temples as its stature is considered higher by devotees. It is close to Kanak Chauri Village of Rudraprayag a good way off of around 40 km from focal Rudraprayag. A stone cut symbol of Kartikeya Swami is adored here.
It is accepted that when Kartikeya got vanquished by his more youthful sibling Ganesha in a dubious scholarly showdown, he relinquished his issues that remain to be worked out Father Shiva severely. This is where the occurrence took.
These Hindu temples are an adobe of divinity. Each year they are visited by scores of tourists, devotees, and travelers. They offer not only peace of mind but being situated in the majestic Himalayas they offer some great visuals. These temples have a very surreal aura and should be a must-visit on everyone’s list.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, abbreviated as ISKCON is a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organisation which was founded 53 years ago, in 1966.
At present, ISKCON consists of 850 temples, ecovillages and centres worldwide, out of which India comprises of over 150 temples.
The motto of ISKCON is ‘Krsnas Tu Bhagavan Svayam‘ which headquarters in Sri Sri Radha Madhav Panchatattva Temple (ISKCON Mayapur), Mayapur, West Bengal, India.
Recalling an incident from 1976, the organisation was planning to conduct the first massive Rath Yatra in New York City with the permission to use 5th Avenue. The massive wooden carts were to be made within the reach of the starting point of the parade and hence a huge empty site was required.
Everyone who was approached refused due to understandable insurance risksand whatnot.
When almost all devotees had lost hope, they were informed that Donald Trump had recently purchased the old railway yard and suggested to approach him regarding the issue.
The ISKCON devotees were not able to find a large empty site for Rath Yatra preparations. Pixabay
The old railway yard was a perfect location for the organisation but why would Trump be any different from the dozens of people they had approached previously?
The devotees went to his office with a big basket of Maha Prasadam and a presentation package. Trump’s Secretary received the devotees and their package and warned them saying “He never agrees to this kind of thing. You can ask but he is going to say “No”.
The devotees received a call three days later from the same secretary. “I don’t know what happened but he read your letter, took a bit of food you left, and immediately said “sure, why not?”, said the secretary, adding “come on down and get his signed letter of permission.”
The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress party has written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday to open all places of worship which are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter has been written by Lucknow Congress president Mukesh Singh Chauhan.
The letter said that the way the Central and State governments have issued orders to open shops for essential commodities, in the same way now all the big and small places of worship — temples, churches, mosques, gurdwaras should also be thrown open for the devotees.
Chauhan in his letter said, “India is a multi-religious and faith oriented country. Here people believe that worship of God will reduce their suffering. But due to the closure of the places of worship, people are not able to pray to their God. Therefore, major religious places should be immediately opened with social distancing in full compliance with the lockdown norms.
Chauhan said sanitizer machines should be placed at the entry of major places of worship just like it is done in government offices. He also said if liquor shops can be opened, in the same way, the temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches should also be opened in full compliance of the social distancing norms.
The president of the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri, had also raised similar demand of opening of temples across the state. He had demanded from the Yogi government to open the doors of all temples for the devotees.
Giri had said, “Because of the closure of temples for the last two months, the livelihood of priests and other temple staff is also getting affected. When the government can allow liquor shops to be opened for revenue, why temples should not be allowed to open for the same reason.”
He had assured that after the permission to open the temples, the priests would follow the rules and protocols of social distancing and get the devotees to do it too. (IANS)