Women and Sabarimala Pilgrimage (54)

12/01/2012 History of Lord Ayyappa

The sages of yore have prescribed several modes of worship and spiritual disciplines that help human mind to evolve to Unconditioned Consciousness or attain God-Realisation. As individuals differ from one another, physically and psychologically, the practices of Self-realisation are also prescribed differently, suited to the people of different temperaments. If one selects a particular mode of practice, he will have to follow certain disciplines which are integral parts of it. According to one’s basic leanings one can select a method which is suitable and convenient and stick to it.

One may believe that his method is the best suited to him. But if he holds the view that it is the best for all others also, he is getting fanatical and cannot be spiritual. In Hinduism one is free to follow any special discipline to spiritually reinforce oneself. The sages have prescribed several such disciplines, and one who undertakes them should follow their rules sincerely and strictly for achieving the best results. The Sabarimala pilgrimage is one such unique practice for attaining wellbeing in daily life through spiritual reinforcement.

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala involves a few well-programmed spiritual disciplines which help thousands to reinforce themselves spiritually, achieve peace of mind and gain a greater vision of life. This pilgrimage is preceded by forty one days of austerities and men of all age-groups are allowed to participate in the pilgrimage. As far as women are concerned, it is stipulated that only those who have not attained the age of puberty, and the menstrual cycle, and those who are past menopause alone should undertake the pilgrimage. Age-wise, it is prescribed as below ten years and above fifty years. We should specially note that only in the Shastha temple of Sabarimala this restriction prevails and it is part of a special spiritual discipline connected with this pilgrimage only. There are innumerable temples elsewhere including all other Shasta temples where women of all age-groups can freely go and worship. Since females below ten years and above fifty can participate in the pilgrimage, there is not much logic in the narrow view of some that there is discrimination against women in Sabarimala.

There is a view that in the olden days women were prevented from participating in the Sabarimala pilgrimage because a long journey through the forests of those days was arduous and risky. But it is not so today. So it is argued that women belonging to all age-groups should be allowed to take part in the pilgrimage. Of course, today the journey has become easier. It no longer requires many days to reach Sabarimala. As of yore, today a few mountains covered with thick forests need not be climbed over to reach the holy spot. Vehicles go up to Pamba. Thereafter it involves the climbing of only one mountain, the Neelimala, to reach Sabarimala and the temple. Under the changed circumstances, the temple has become easily accessible.

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