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The holy temple of Lord Ayyappa Swami in Sabarimala yet again finds itself in a controversy over its prohibition on the entry of adult women (between the age 10 and 50).
Hearing a petition filed by Young Lawyers’ Association seeking entry for all women, the Supreme Court questioned the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the temple to explain the rationale behind the prohibition. Justice Dipak Misra has been quoted as asking: “Why can you not let a woman enter? On what basis are you prohibiting women entry…What is your logic?”
Though, the issue of entry into a temple is clearly a religious issue, lately there has been sustained attempts to give it a color of gender discrimination and make it an issue of women’s rights.
The present petition, which was filed around ten years ago, was filed on the grounds that the prohibition on the entry of women in the temple amounts to gender discrimination. Last November, when some women launched #HappyToBleed campaign on social media to express outrage over comments of a representative of the Sabarimala temple about allowing women in the temple, it chose to make it an issue of sexism and menstruation taboo.
Commenting on these deliberate attempts by some activists to hijack the religious discourse around temple entry, Nagaraja Gundappa, a friend posted on his Facebook timeline thus: “The Shabarimala temple issue is now being discussed as a feminist issue. This is a religious issue and not a feminist one. It is because of a specific nature of the deity and the conditions that must be fulfilled to gain entry into that temple that Shabarimala temple bars entry to women. This being a matter of religious issue, how can Supreme Court be competent to decide religious matters? Age old traditions should not simply be tampered with.”
Gundappa raises a few very valid questions like how can a secular institute like Supreme Court be competent enough to decide on religious matter? More importantly, a corollary to this question will be: How can a decision on religious issue be arrived at without taking religion itself into account? How valid will be such decisions? Can a decision on a religious issue be truly called justice, if it were to rely on modern narratives like feminism and exclude religious beliefs and underlying religious principles from consideration? How can any secular analysis of religious and Dharmic issues, which completely sidelines Dharmic doctrines, be accurate?
To better understand why the Sabarimala temple entry issue is a religious issue and not an issue of women’s rights, let us explore why the entry of temple is barred for women of reproductive age.
There are hundreds of temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in Kerala. In some he is present in the form of a child and in some as old person. In many temples, he is present as a married person accompanied by his wives- Purna and Pushkala. But, in the temple of Sabarimala, Lord Ayyappa is in the form of ‘naishtika brahmchari’- a form of eternal celibate.
This particular fact that the deity is a ‘naishtika brahmachari’ has been repeatedly cited as the central reason behind the prohibition of adult women from entering the temple. Thus, it becomes very vital to understand what exactly this implies.
To begin with, it is important to understand what a ‘Murti’ or idol means. A Murti, by definition, refers to a body or an object that can hold the energy and the essence of the particular manifestation of Brahman. Thus, an idol acts as a body of a particular Devata (deity) and it is the focal point of the manifestation of that particular aspect of energy at that location. This manifestation of energy in-turn assists the devotees to imbibe the essence of the Devata and slowly become one with the Devata.
Now, consider the temple of Sabarimala. It is inhabited by the essence and the energy of Lord Ayyappa. What is the essential feature of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala, which sets him apart from other temples? It is that he inhabits the temple in the aspect of ‘eternal celibate’. That is, the temple is inhabited by the energy of Brahmacharya (sense-control and celibacy) and Vairagyam (dispassion).
To use the language of Vedanta, the energy of the temple is conductive to the path of Nivritti Marga (the path of renunciation) and is not conductive to the path of Pravritti Marga or Grihasta (the path of the family). This is further corroborated by the stipulation of very hard austere practices that those who wish to visit Sabarimala must undergo for 41 days. These practices aim to induce Brahmacharya and Vairagyam.
Women are in many senses unique and different than men. Women alone have the capacity and privilege to conceive and become mothers. Men can at best become fathers, but never mothers. They are not entitled for becoming mothers. In Hinduism, motherhood is considered the highest expression of love, of goodness, and an ideal in society. Salutation to mother always comes first, even before salutations to fathers and teachers. Thus, the ability to conceive, to give birth to a child is considered as the privilege, a swadharma– a personal duty of women, which only she is entitled to perform. This is not to suggest that women are to be treated as ‘child bearing machines’ as some orthodox people have come to do. Such a perception is horrible and demeaning to women. The point being made here is, biologically, women alone are equipped to become mothers. The entire biological process of menstruation occurs in women to make her capable of being a mother. Recognizing this, Hinduism has stipulated motherhood as both a privilege and a personal duty (Swadharma) of women. And this privilege, this Swadharma puts women at the center of family, center of ‘Pravritti marga’.
The prohibition on the entry of women of reproductive age into the Sabarimala temple must be perceived in this context. The prohibition is placed not because women are considered inferior, but because the energy in the temple may interfere with the Swadharma of women.
According to Ayurveda, during menstruation the body removes excess energy and Doshas (Bio-energies- Vata, Pitta, Kapha) from the body. This removal of blood, which is the storehouse of the excess energy, is accomplished by Apana vayu-the elemental air or life force that governs downward movement. Ayurveda further says that all activities that interfere with this downward movement of Apana vayu must be avoided. The energies and Doshas that gets expelled from the body are both biological and subtle. This downward movement of Apana combined with removal of Doshas is at the root of calling the whole process ‘Ashaucha’– unclean and unfit to practice spiritual practices as spiritual practices involve harnessing of energy, which interferes with Apana flow. This is also the reason for traditional practices like avoidance of going to temple, puja, etc. during menses.
Thus, if menstruating women were indeed allowed into Sabarimala temple, then there are high chances that the energy of the temple may interfere with the movement of their Apana Vayu and cause imbalance to the menstrual cycles in such women. This in-turn may cause obstruction to her ability to conceive, which is her privilege and Swadharma. Similarly, the energy, which is expelled by the woman’s body during menses may also interfere with the energy and vibrations of the temple. This will in turn cause imbalance in the spiritual atmosphere of the temple.
To avoid this, the temple has prevented the entry of menstruating women from many centuries. Since, nobody can actually examine whether a particular woman is having her periods at any given time or not, the prohibition has been placed on all women between age of 10 and 50. Thus, as far as tradition is concerned, the prohibition serves two purposes: One, it prevents any imbalance from happening to the menstrual cycles of women, which may hamper their ability to become mothers. Second, it prevents any imbalance in the spiritual energy and atmosphere of the temple.
Hence, it is quite clear that there is no gender discrimination behind the prohibition rule of the Sabarimala temple. Instead, the temple tradition is clearly sensitive towards women’s Swadharma and the prohibition shows how they do not want to hamper with their Swadharma. This again clearly fits with the larger Hindu vision expressed in Gita, wherein Lord Krishna asks every person to practice their Swadharma. Swadharma being both a privilege and a duty.
Thus, the Sabarimala issue is clearly a religious issue. Any judgment or opinion, which is not based on the religious principles spoken above, will be doing great injustice to the sacred practices of India. Yet, one rarely finds any of these religious nuances spoken about in the media discourse on the issue. Instead, one report quotes one of the petitioners as saying: “It is a pity to say that the Lord can’t keep his ‘brahmcharya’ if women entered the temple,”
The fact that the entire religious principles behind the practice is rejected by the petitioners by making a shallow statement depicts not only their ignorance of the religious principles, but also their unwillingness to be open minded enough to explore underlying religious principles. The Hindu conception of God is clearly that of God being infinite and without limitations. So, obviously, neither will the Lord of Sabarimala lose his celibacy, nor will he become offended if women enter the temple. The only thing that will happen is that the energy of that particular aspect of God, which is present in the temple, will be disturbed and diluted, and in the long run, the temple will become unfit for the dwelling of the Lord there! And the loss is entirely of the people and not the deity!
Of course, the entire religious principles can be easily brushed off as superstition and left-liberal-activist brigade often tends to do it. But then the very concept of God, Devata, Murti, etc. can be rejected as superstition. If, the whole religion is superstition for the activist brigade, what moral right do they even have in raising fingers at religious practices? Temples are first and foremost places of worship and they have been constructed to assist devotees worship God. And devotees, by definition, adhere to the principles of religion. So, the question is, if devotees have no problem with religious practices, then why should atheists and agnostics have an issue?
Thus, it is clear that the activist brigade is deliberately trying to make it an issue of women’s rights and dilute or sideline the religious principles associated with the religious practice. It is now to be seen, whether the court will entertain these feminism arguments, or will it base its eventual judgment on the principles of religious traditions associated with Sabarimala temple.
Though, the court has shown its insensitivity towards Indian traditions in cases like its interim ban on Jallikattu, or its ban on Jain Sallekhana, all hope is not lost yet. The Supreme Court, had in the past, upheld Hindu traditions in many cases. Hopefully, the SC will base its judgment on the religious and tradition principles even in this issue.
Final preparations are in full swing at Six Senses Fort Barwara which will host the much talked about wedding of celebrity couple Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif.
According to sources, the event company working for this wedding has procured crystal balls and chandeliers from abroad to give a royal look to the wedding. These will be installed in the hotel soon.
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Six Senses Hotel has also parked indicator vehicles on the road at frequent intervals for the guests to reach the hotel easily. A glass 'mandap' has been prepared and decorated in Rajwada style for the couple to take 'pheres' (rounds around the fire) as per Hindu rituals. Moreover, the glass carvings on the mandap is such that it creates an optical illusion.
This wedding ceremony will be held amidst tight security arrangements. Secret codes have been given to each of the guests, so that it is impossible to know which guest is staying in which room.
Mobile phones have been banned inside the venue. International photographers have been hired to shoot the entire wedding. The ceremonies will be held from December 7 to December 9, with bouncers and police personnel looking after the security arrangements. As many as 100 bouncers have arrived from Jaipur to look after security arrangements at the wedding.
Katrina and Vicky's wedding is to be solemnized on December 9.Unsplash
Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif's outfits have been designed in Mumbai which they will wear during different wedding ceremonies.
As per information, Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal are scheduled to reach Hotel Six Senses Fort Barwara located at Chauth Ka Barwara, by 9 p.m. on Monday, via car from Jaipur where both are expected to receive a grand welcome by the hotel management.
Along with Vicky and Katrina, their family members too will reach the hotel on Monday. However, some close family members and other guests will reach the venue separately. Katrina's sister Natasha and friends reached Jaipur airport on Monday afternoon from where they left for the wedding venue by car.
Katrina and Vicky's wedding is to be solemnized on December 9. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : wedding, Bollywood, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, Rajasthan, hotel, Fort Barwara, ceremony, photographer, bouncer, outfit)
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Meta-owned WhatsApp on Monday announced an incubator programme in India that will select 10 organisations and help them build digital solutions to tackle critical health issues.
Called the WhatsApp Incubator Programme (WIP), the initiative aims to facilitate positive and measurable health outcomes at scale by leveraging the WhatsApp Business Platform.
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"During the pandemic we have seen several innovative use cases of the WhatsApp Business Platform by government organisations, civic actors, city administrations and many more NGOs, both large and small, across sectors and locations," said Abhijit Bose, Head of WhatsApp India.
The selected organisations will also be provided with technical support in order to design, prototype and pilot their health use cases.Unsplash
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"We hope the WhatsApp Incubator Programme brings forth more such innovative and unique solutions that will help solve India's healthcare needs," he said in a statement.
The selected organizations will also be provided with technical support in order to design, prototype and pilot their health use cases.
The company said that participating organizations get the opportunity to be mentored by industry experts, access on-ground ecosystems, receive support with impact measurement guidance, and a chance to network with funders to scale their use cases.
The programme, for which applications are open till December 24, is being administered by Quicksand Design Studio, WhatsApp said. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Whatsapp, incubator, organizations, digital, health, business, pandemic, innovative, technical)
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By D.C. Pathak
Advent of Biden Presidency with its resonating calls of 'America is back', 'we will repair our alliances' and 'will engage with the world once again' on one hand and the rise of President Xi Jinping with a stronger hold on China after the Plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of CPC, on the other, have got strategic analysts to examine if a new Cold War was already on the horizon.
India has to define its stand and negotiate its international policy keeping in view the nation's best interests of the long run. Sino- Pak military alliance that chiefly worked against India, natural friendship between the two largest democracies of the world and the need for a rapid advancement of our Defence capabilities, are the major paradigms that should determine India's approach to both development and security.
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Xi Jinping is implementing a two- fold strategy of seeking the economic route to becoming the second superpower and pursuing 'Sinicisation of Marxism' to define the future of Communist China. In a huge give and take between the Godless dictatorship of China and the fundamentalist regime of Pakistan, the former has invested on CPEC located on the territory of PoK ceded by Pakistan to China in the face of the Indian protests and got an opening into the Muslim world where sympathy for Islamic radicals has been on the rise.
Pakistan is close to the pro- US group led by Saudi Arabia and yet has a good equation with Islamic radical organizations represented by Taliban. With one leg in the camp of 'revivalists' -- Pakistan -- it mediated between the US and the Taliban on Afghanistan -- would be in a position to assure the Chinese that the Cold War game of the West using Pak-Afghan region to 'radicalise' Muslims of Xinjiang and other parts of China, would not be allowed. The axis of the two principal adversaries of India has become very active after the Indian Parliament scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019 and converted J&K and Ladakh into union territories. India had successfully evolved a strategy of dealing with both China and Pakistan together.
Also Read : Why are India and China overpopulated?
It needs to be recalled that China drew the best lessons from the demise of the USSR -- it could clearly see that the Soviet regime had become an oligarchy that ignored the internal economic decline because of which it was not able to sustain the war in Afghanistan. This led Deng Xiaoping to adopt the policy of opening the Chinese market to the world in a controlled fashion and thus initiate a process of faster economic growth on which China has not looked back. China has become the second biggest global economy by investing in markets abroad and accessing technological knowledge wherever it was available -- including the research work of the US universities where it established 'Chairs' to reach out to the same.
Xi Jinping combines the persona of Deng and Mao Zedong and while consolidating Chinese economy further, he has reverted to the concept of supremacy of the Communist Party of China as the symbol of Marxism. This has helped him, among other things, to keep his leadership going on the strength of ideology and project it as something that was free of any personal vested interest. The recent conference of the Central Committee of CPC credited Xi Jinping with achievement of the first Centennial goal of making China a 'moderately prosperous society' by 2021 -- the hundredth year of the party's existence and acknowledged his pledge to make China a 'great modern Socialist country' by 2049 -- the second centennial mission marking the completion of hundred years since Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. By highlighting the importance of 'ideology' and 'line', Xi Jinping has identified himself with the Party so completely that his leadership can not be easily challenged by any dissenters.
Under Xi Jinping, China is progressing economically and also politically extending its influence in the world taking care to buy time for its mission and somewhere following the doctrine of winning a war without a battle. It is joining multilateral platforms to create a non- combatant image, inducing economic dependence of other smaller nations on it through its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and forging bilateral alliances and pacts to further its geo- political advancement.
Pakistan is close to the pro- US group led by Saudi Arabia and yet has a good equation with Islamic radical organizations represented by Taliban.Unsplash
Sino- Pak strategic alliance -- an illustration of this multi-prong objective of China -- is a cause for great concern for India. China knows it can not change the Western systems and is not in a hurry to challenge the global economic order -- it is exploring alternate approaches of invading others economically and doing it successfully. As far as territorial expansion was concerned Xi's China adheres to its known 'two steps forward one step backward' strategy -- which is salami slicing of sorts -- that was in evidence on LAC as also in the Indo-Pacific. India has suitably responded to these moves on land as well as on sea by undertaking a matching military build up and actively joining in Quad, respectively.
Some analysts have perceptively noted that President Xi Jinping has embarked on a larger than life mission of surpassing Mao Zedong in building China as the dominant power of the world -- matching the place it once occupied in its civilizational history. His new strategy of bringing all 'under one heaven' compels a recall of the description the Chinese Emperor once enjoyed as the 'son of heaven'. It is remarkable that a Communist dictatorship carrying the stamp of Marxism today is deriving strength from the country's civilisational roots. This reflects the desire for world domination -- the Emperor of China expected 'tribute' from other countries as protection money.
Xi's China is also working on fail -- safe alliances -- using its economic hold as in the case of Pakistan. The defence expenditure of China has been on the rise -- in comparison to India it rose from a near parity in the Nineties to more than three times of India's defence budget, as at present. China's move forward is neither transactional nor transformational but a strategy of continuum -- steady in pace and direction --attempted on a good understanding of the global 'space' on land ,sea and air. Geo- politically China is now in the frame so far as the emerging scene of the world getting divided between two superpowers, was concerned.
The defence expenditure of China has been on the rise -- in comparison to India.Unsplash
India has set in motion a well- considered strategy of handling the economic and security challenges emanating from this situation. There was never any doubt that the US and India must together anchor the collective effort of the democratic world to counter the threat from the Communist dictatorships on one hand and that from Islamic extremists on the other.
The policy of the Modi government to have bilateral relations on the basis of mutuality of interests in the economic and security spheres has been very successful. India is enlarging the ambit of friendships with European democracies, Australia, Japan and Israel -- including association with Quad -- to promote collective security against these dangers. As a nation with a voice in the global matters pertaining to war and peace, India is working for self-reliance in the area of defence and building military strength to take on any aggressive move of the PLA on the LAC and punish Pakistan for any provocation from across the LOC.
India has maintained close friendship with Russia which has -- apart from defence deals with India -- been on the same page on the vital issues of Afghanistan and radicalization. It is the policy of mutuality of security interests in Afghanistan that has made India work in collaboration with Iran, notwithstanding the conflicts that this country had with the US and Israel. Indian diplomacy has worked hard to keep the Western powers convinced of the legitimacy of India's policy towards all these other countries.
Finally, there is an added challenge on the internal security front because of the intent of the China-Pak combine to instigate acts of terror, insurgency and sectarian discord in India in an attempt to destabilize this country. A new dimension of the domestic scene of India is the rise of civil society forums which in collusion with anti-India lobbies abroad and elements hostile to the Modi government at home, play politics by proxy on issues ranging from Kashmir to Northeast and from safety of Dalits and minorities to poverty alleviation. Fortunately, we are getting adequate Intelligence to draw a line between genuine protests and sponsored agitations.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau; the views expressed are personal)
(Keywords : president, prime minister, Biden, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, China, America, India, Pakistan, military, alliance, defence, challenge, concern, security, dominant, power, history. )
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