When you wake up in the morning, probably you would brush your teeth first, and then you would take your shower, then your breakfast, after that you would be heading towards your workplace. Even at your workplace, you follow a standard protocol for every piece of work. In your school, you would not have had your sports period before your morning prayer. Almost every day would have started with Morning Prayer. I.e. our life is regulated by a bunch of rules right from our very own home to public places. And these guidelines are prepared by an authority who understands totally the culture of the concerned place, like At your home either your father or your mother( if you belong to a pro feminism family) or the head of your family would have set the rules.
Till this point, whatever I mentioned is quite logical.
Of course, I am not here to examine and argue on the rules and regulations of anyone’s personal life.
I started my write up with an entirely different issue just to illustrate that we follow a set pattern of rules in our day to day life, be it school or college or office or our home. But, we follow only those rules which are tested by us on the touchstone of our reasoning. And again, we follow those rules which are made by the deserving and competent authority. As we are gifted with innate ability to reason, we never follow any path blindly.
Then, since when we have become so ignorant and tolerant towards the regressive and orthodox practices of our Indian Culture?
Our culture is highly adored globally. I am not sure one would revere it with same devotion if he scrutinizes our culture to the very bottom.
Let us try to delve into the reality.
Our society does not permit women of a particular age group to visit a particular temple just because they menstruate. And this menstruation puts a large question mark on their chastity. And this contaminated class of women will threaten the celibacy of the god in the temple.
In many temples, women are not permitted at all to enter the sanctum sanctorum (innermost shrine of the temple). And if she enters the restricted area, it is considered as an unforgivable sin. And then a ‘male’ priest who himself is born out of a so called impure lady, performs a mammoth ritual to purify the area. This is not prevalent only in one particular religion. In every religion, this custom is quite common; only the extent of its establishment varies.
Women are not allowed to become priest in a temple. The reason cited for this act is that accepting the offerings from male worshippers would be a case of adultery on her part.
Now, the most obvious question is: Who has set these rules and regulations for women? Has any women organization taken this decision after profound analysis?
No. These decisions are taken by either the religious clerics/priests or the courts who have to hear the case on the basis of PIL(Public Interest Litigation) filed by some of the conservative religious groups citing the reason of preserving the age old tradition of our Indian culture.
I do not understand how one can relate menstrual cycle with the chastity or purity of a woman. Menstruation is just another outcome of hormonal changes in a female just like a male sees some changes in himself at puberty due to alteration in hormones. Is a guy considered impure if he does or does not shave? Or is it shameful for him to shave? No. Then, why a girl or woman is discriminated on the ground of secretion of few hormones by her endocrine glands?
I am not saying that a girl should disseminate when she is menstruating but it is not a matter of hiding as well. It is her personal concern. The society should not have any bearings with her privacy. It is just that when an individual attains puberty, a girl and a boy observes different changes in themselves. It is just this simple.
If a woman does not menstruate she is blamed for her infertility and she has to face humiliation from her family and society to large extent as if the very purpose of her life has been defeated.
Is it correct to attach stigma to this natural process? I don’t really think so.
Let us move on to another contentious matter. In some temples, there is certain dress code to worship the god. If you do not follow that particular dress code, you will be sent back from the entry gate by the security personnel. No matter how many kilometers you have travelled to get just a glimpse of the famous god. No matter how devoted you are. No matter what the extent of your grief is and that you have come to pray as you think the deity is your last hope and your only savior. In the name of dress code, the worshippers are looted by the agents who sell the religious outfit at the entry gate at high price. I can’t say how many worshippers are benefited by these laws. But certainly, these agents and dishonest sellers are successful in filling their coffers with money.
There are different queues and dress codes according to the price you pay for the ticket. The length of the queue varies inversely with the amount you pay for the ticket. The more you pay the sooner you can enter the temple. Really, I am aggrieved by the level of commercialization in the name of god and religion. A major sect of our society cannot even think of visiting these temples as they will not be able to afford the visiting fees of god.
Yes, I agree that decency should be maintained at places of worship. But, is there any guarantee that decency will be maintained by the enforcement of these dress codes? No, certainly not. Let me not mention the specific dress which I have seen in the temple. All I would say is many people would look sober if they were allowed to wear their usual formal clothes. There is no relation between the strict dress code, decency and worshipping. It is just that the person should not distract other people by his/her vulgarity and disgusting dressing sense. He/she should be comfortable in her attire.
In our male dominated society, decision-making is considered as the prerogative of male sect. Who has given them the authority to mete out so called justice to women? Who has given him right to impose regulation on the lives of women? Is our education system not able to change our mindset? Are we not able to rebuff the injustice being done in our society?
Man and woman are born equal. It is the society which creates the discrimination right from the birth to his/her death. In this particular sphere, few tribes deserve to be lauded. They do not discriminate between a boy and a girl. A girl is given right to choose her life partner. Their sex ratio is much better than our educated society’s skewed sex ratio. Still few tribal people are not even allowed to enter many public places including temple. I do not know what constitutes the definition of a civilized class.
We boast about our tradition at international stage. But do we ever disseminate how rigid we are towards our caste system and gender inequality? E.g. South India is well known for its education. Mostly people of this region are highly qualified which I myself have observed in past 1.5 year. But still, people are not allowed to marry partner of their choice. We all are aware of the incidents of honor killings in the state of Tamil Nadu in past few months. Many cases go unreported as well.
This is not how our society was supposed to be. We dream of an egalitarian society. We talk about development. We feel blessed and privileged to be the citizens of a democratic country. But are we not defiling the true essence of democracy by not defending the basic right of equality of a major part of population?
India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world. Will India ever transform into a developed nation if we remain caught in these deplorable acts. We will have to rise above these issues.
Only we are responsible for the present status of our society. Only we have the power to extirpate the vice of gender discrimination and caste system from the society. The onus is on each one of us to thwart these evil practices. The least we can do is not to be a part of this sect of extremist people who support these customs. If each one of us takes the pledge to change our mindset then definitely things will change. You cannot force anyone to change his thinking by delivering lectures. But you can definitely bring a noticeable change in society by setting an example by your demeanor. I would like to clarify here that I am not an atheist. Nor am I a staunch follower of any religion. I am an individual who has the vision to see a society where the basic human rights of every one are protected and not a single person’s rights are transgressed. A country can flourish in real sense only if all the citizens feel safe and happy about their existence.
Live and let live.
Stay happy. Stay blessed.