Protests against the ban on women’s entry into certain temples have recently grown – as has the mutual outrage and men’s comical and creepy reactions. To start with, in mid-November last year, the Devaswom Board President said he would only allow women into Sabarimala when a machine was invented to scan women for menstrual blood.
But that was just the beginning of the sci-fi fantasy temple trilogy. After that, over the New Year, the Madras High Court came up with a dress code for Tamil Nadu temples which was so elaborate that it required a spreadsheet plus infographic for me to understand it – and not even really sexist, since, among other things, it didn’t allow men to wear lungis (as opposed to dhotis).
So. Of course someone filed an appeal against this High Court ruling. But you’ll never guess who: it was the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department. You might well ask, “Parantu kyun? Well, just after the New Year, it was declared that:
The HR and CE Department’s stand is that the dress code prescribed by the judge was not in consonance with the Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947, which permits individual temples to frame rules relating to attire as per their customs and traditions.
But that’s not all. One website reported another impediment to the dress code:
There are some temples, such as the Veeraraghavar temple in Tiruvallur district neighbouring Chennai where the presiding deity Himself is clothed in lungi.
Can the High Court make the Veeraraghavar idol wear a dhoti instead of a lungi?
Yeah, didn’t think so.
Then, last week, a Parshuram temple in Uttarakhand opened its doors to Dalits and women for the first time in 400 years. Progress? Perhaps. After all, 400 years is not exactly a desirable speed for movement towards social equality. As Dalit leader Daulat Kunwar commented: “They have finally given an official confirmation that the ban has been lifted. We have been raising this issue for the past 13 years. We welcome the move but there are 339 other temples in the region which also need to give their approval for the entry of Dalits.” 339!
Far be it from us to talk back to women who operate in such style, but we must ask … why?
“The temple trust and most villagers have strongly opposed the plan, fearing the move might ‘anger’ the Shani Dev. To foil the attempt, villagers have announced that they would form a human chain around the temple toprotect’ the God from ‘being impure’,” Desai added. Also, plot twist: in a version of the usual deployment of women’s labour while denying fundamental rights, a woman was recently appointed chairperson of the self-same Shani temple.
Now, where can all this temple kranthi go from here? Maybe an actual machine that scans for menstrual blood. Or a machine that decides whether your dhoti is really a dhoti or an impostor lungi. As for the helicopter, it’s quite, quite impossible to imagine how much further that scenario could go. But it’s quite, quite possible to imagine that all things temple will only get more and more surreal from now on. Recent events have proved that.