This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Varun Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Curious Case of Gender Based Discrimination In The Hindu Temple Tradition

This is a case for citizens who believe that the SC judgement to allow access to women of all age groups in the Sabarimala Temple is an injustice to the Hindu temple tradition and hence, Hindus.

I will not quote any Shastra, Purana or Veda while arguing my case, nor will I refer to Guru Parampara, not because I do not respect these great writings/traditions, or I am ignorant about them, but rather because like any writing/tradition they are also product of their times, progressive in many ways and regressive in many others.

Sections Of People In Favour/Support

There are two visible sections of citizens and one silent/invisible section in this context of the SC Judgement:

1. A section which is against the decision and hence it’s outcome, referring to Hindu temple traditions and associated religious scriptures.

2. A section which is in favour of the decision, and rubbishes the Hindu religious scriptures/traditions.

3. A section which is in support of the decision, it’s outcome, and selectively and carefully rejects/accepts the Hindu socio-religious scriptures/practices.

I think much has been said and written by the people representing the first two sections; I will humbly try to represent the third. As a male member of the society, I will also try not to mansplain what my female friends and most women in general, undergo in this context.

The traditions are falling in the ambit of what is called the ‘Hindu’ religion today, is rooted somewhere deep down in the history (I am carefully choosing this over calling it a million-year-old civilisation – something that keeps getting stated generously), except its present name, which is a modern-day phenomenon.

Everyone I debate with/speak from the first section, argues that the roots of our religion are pure. Hence, we must go back to them. Sounds nice, but, the problem is everyone has their definitions and understanding of ‘what is pure’ and ‘what are those roots/fundamentals’. So, no matter how much we try to romanticise our religion for social, political or personal reasons, there is no way we are going to find one with agreed upon and identifiable root/s  from where – both the great and ‘bigoted’ traditions have emerged.

The Case Of Temple Tradition

I did not grow up in Kerala and haven’t been to Sabarimala. As a practising Hindu however, I can authoritatively say that it is incorrect to state that a temple is at the helm of Hindu religious practices. Over a period there are various forms of belief systems that have evolved within the fold of the modern Hindu religion. For example, the idea of the ‘Amurta’ (अमूर्त) Brahm and the ‘Murta’ (मूर्त) Brahm. The temple is part of the latter belief system pertaining to the existence of the supreme being having a shape and size as envisioned by the devotee in the form of a deity in the temple sanctum. Similarly, there are the ‘Dwait’ (द्वैत) and the ‘Adwait’ traditions. These belief systems are not under question; they are part of the proof of the free thought that has existed in the culture.

At the same time, it is noteworthy that the same temples have been the centre of discrimination and are dominated by powerful social groups, that have maintained discriminatory practices against both women and lower castes, within the tradition. We know that one part of it (the control of entry by higher castes) has been partly busted by the many anti-caste movements led by Ambedkar, Gandhi, Periyar and several other great leaders. People at that time had fought against these movements with similar arguments of how the practice must not be tampered with – as it has existed for thousands of years.

It was unholy to change them then, but, we did it, and we did it for good.

The Case Of Menstruating Women And Temple

There are various temples where men are allowed a selective entry, which means, on certain days the entry becomes ‘women only’ (the deity’s menstruating days at Kamakhya Temple for example). There is none, where men do not have the entry at all. Men should choose to fight this – because the fundamental idea behind why men are not allowed in Kamakhya Temple for example, when the Deity is menstruating (not saying deliberately that it is just a belief), and why a woman is not allowed to enter a household/public kitchen, household temple or a temple which exists in a public sphere is the same: menstruation is considered impure.

Women have faced a lot of oppression because of this one taboo. It is not a mere coincidence that the #metoo movement and the SC judgement has come almost at the same time; there are undercurrents for a desirable social change – towards forming a more inclusive society.

During Durga Puja, the irony becomes more apparent when on the one hand a menstruating girl is not allowed to enter the same temple where the most potent manifestation of woman is being worshipped, and on the other hand little girls are fed, their feet washed, the water that has touched their feet is considered pure and is used for further purification and blessings.

As a Hindu, I choose not to follow these traditions even if they are written in the Shastras, Puranas and Vedas, and I do it with all the politeness and firmness at my disposal.

About time these traditions change towards inclusiveness and equity in our society.

You must be to comment.

More from Varun Sharma

Similar Posts

By Satyam Giri

By Snayini Das

By Karun Lama

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below