General Studies Essay Paper: Place of worship

Place of worship

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)


Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: Social Issues


Place of worship can be open only to all castes and not to all genders. Is it a social reform?

In the last days of Ambedkar’s wife, she requested Ambedkar to allow her to spend more time in the temple for peaceful departure. He refused her request and said there is nothing special in the temple, please don’t expect miracles in the temple. Then his wife questioned, why did you fight for temple entry in Nasik?? You did a large movement for Dalits temple entry and now you are not fulfilling your wife’s last wish??

Here Ambedkar’s wife could not understand his interpretation about religion. For him temple entry is ensuring human rights, equality among upper castes and lower castes. Ambedkar knew reforms in religion are fundamental to any change in the lives of Dalits. He gave utmost importance to break religious myths because caste inequalities get sanction from the religion, burning Manusmriti and dharmasastras, converting into Buddhism also his attempts to expose the dogmatism in religion.

Religion is different in India from western societies, here day to day life can’t complete without invoking god’s name or visiting religious institutions. Our dialogues blend with religion, our curses with religion, in fact our sexual life also based on religion. In India temples are not merely places for worship but centres of sociology economic activities, sources of education…Nalanda, place of innovative ideas, point for community meetings, settle disputes in surrounding areas, and so on. When temples occupy such an important place not allowing women and transgenders is a great mistake and concept of social reforms is a myth.

At present we are trying to achieve many social reforms like equal rights to transgenders, abolition of caste system, inequalities exist about different classes and genders, wiping out untouchability, child labour. But when women and transgenders not allowed into temples or mosques due to their gender, it is difficult to believe about success of other reforms, because right to faith and worship is fundamental to any human being, and article 25 of constitution speaks the same, without it, it is not worth living. Here issue not about everybody should practice religion or visit temple for divinity but about the choice of vising temple or not. Earlier in shini dargah women were not allowed, in Sabarimala, certain age group women are not allowed as it would disturb brahamcharya of Lord ayyappa, then why same logic is not applicable in the case of Lord hanuman??

The reason for refusing women entry are strange, parochial and illogical. But we must analyse them how other sociology economic factors effecting religion.

Historically women position kept subordinate and Hindu laws like dharmasastra and Manusmriti also put them in vulnerable position. In inheritance of property women hierarchy is worse than slaves, so patriarchy prevailed at that time and still continuing. Even all caste people entry was not a regular norm, but was achieved with great movements…vaikom, kalaram….. during independence struggle and later on constitution adopted right to equality and abolished untouchability.

This concept of women purdah system inspired from western society where women position is subordinate, later on they changed their laws and customs after enlightenment , but not much progress or complete gender equality still eluding in India.

Pure and pollution concept ….when people don’t understand much about menstruation cycle, they consider it is something wrong or touching them is dangerous , god would be polluted if women comes to temple, same kind of stigma still there after many years , and improvements in science and technology. This is irony if presence of women goddess in temple would not pollute perhaps worship her with great divinity and respect, how a presence of same women pollute temple??

Temples are places of divine worship, if women come to temple, they distract the minds of people with their appealing sexual parts, so whole purpose of visiting temple would go vain. A temple management in Tamil nadu imposed dress code for women, to avoid this diversion of mind. In temple people take dip in lakes, wet women even in full dress also arouses sexuality, likewise many other reasons for not allowing women entry. In this process forgetting so many facts, men even in public places move with half naked, temple walls are filled with arousing postures like in Khajuraho, how they would not create any aberration, what if a person thinking about heroine or any naked image he has seen last night?? Does it mean pollution only to body not to mind??

There is another argument that management of temples according to religious personal laws is fundamental right according to article 25, here women are not allowed not based on gender but to maintain the sanctity of institution, even if men try to pollute it, they were also not allowed to enter, so no need to see it from gender aspect. Religious managements selecting using constitution to justify their acts, same constitution under article 14, 15 forbids discrimination, article 25 provides, right to practice religion to all genders, moreover temples can’t be seen only religious institutions, but as public places like parks, recreation places, because temple perform so many other functionalities, it provides shelter, food distribution, drinking water, place for education, as most of temples have libraries. On Sunday irrespective of caste or religion or gender people visit Sikh gurdwara in Delhi, there worship or devotion would be secondary, but it is a tourist spot, good pond to relish. Even supreme court took same position while allowing women into shini dargah. Here one must also think of what are core essentials of religion, what are just practices which are not fundamental to religion. Allah as god, prophet Mohammad, visiting Mecca, fasting during Ramadan are fundamental to Islam, can we say right to have more marriages, right to not allow women, practicing triple talaq, nikah halala are fundamental ?? Supreme court while declaring triple talaq unconstitutional took this aspect into consideration and said triple talaq is not essential part of Islam, in earlier case also supreme court distinguished right to faith and right to practice when a person approached for declining to marry multiple girls. Alimony is also not part of religion, but supreme court allowed it on human rights aspect.


How to handle this dilemma of religion vs gender rights ?

In the history, social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy used the Vedas and other religious documented for women empowerment and to abolish social evils like sati, widowhood, child marriages. At that time they were working under British framework which was not ready to intervene unless sanctioned in Indian laws, and poverty illiteracy at peaks, so they used ancient documents to bring social reforms, can we use same even after independence and great strides in literacy level, done still need to hear arguments like it’s there is Vedas or Quran, can’t we assess things based on rationality, human rights, equality aspects, thus kind of approach is needed.

Some religious conservatives like Syed Ahmed Khan said if religion is not support modernity that religion can be ignored, Gandhiji said if dharmasastras support untouchability I would disown them. Meaning religion is for welfare of people, to achieve spiritual liberation , not to create inequalities or hierarchy , so we all need to study religion on rational and humanitarian grounds to stop this gender discrimination.

Courts are doing great job while passing judgments on this kind of injustices but how long we depend on courts to stop gender discrimination? Even in courts also some judges taking conservative stands. A judge used codification of Sharia to declare triple talaq unconstitutional as it is not sanctioned under Quran, if suppose some sastra or Quran sanction some injustices acts, do we need to continue it ?? Any law or code exists based on some circumstances, like sati, child marriages, they might hold ground at that time , can they be justifiable now?? Our laws should be in sync with changing circumstances, now gst is a great revolution, after 100 years it may look absurd, can we still follow??

Role of NGOs and civil society is crucial for changing attitude of people, in shini case also Mumbai NGO done a great job to mobilize women and make it as issue to reckon. Absence of civil societies in minorities is a major reason for Muslim women backwardness when compared with counter parts. Govt should encourage more NGOs and civil societies by initial funding and other incentives.

All major religions should stop mutual blame game, Hindus questioning triple talaq and wanting uniform civil code, Muslims questioning Hindu dogmatic practices like sati, instead both can work on their own domain, progress in any domain automatically have collateral effect in other religion.

To conclude, India enjoys great soft power for its diversity and origin for many religions. Many foreigners come to witness spiritual enquiry and liberation, however some religious institutions are not allowing women to witness spiritual liberty, asking them to pray at homes. Many secular reasons are given to justify this illogical and patriarchal act. This is not limited to one religion, almost major religions discriminate women . This discrimination us due to seeing women from objects and sexuality and insensitive to their body biological cycle.

Temple entry to women not just pertained to only religion, but other socio economic reforms also linked with it, that is why in history our reformers targeted women issues as British many times degraded Indians that how Indians can rule themselves, if they are treating their own women as subordinates. Now also this kind of discrimination downgrading our civilizational values, so women must be given choice like all castes, to visit temple or not, but not based on any religious grounds or according to any cannon but based on humanity. If women are emancipated religiously other social reforms would take quick pace in the pipeline to unveil. This would not happen others like men or NGO as a guardians fight, but the women who were deprived their right, who were suppressed through ages, they must come open and start movement and make this discrimination is no more acceptable, then automatically all other players like court, NGOs and civil societies would help achieve objective. Women knowing their rights started, very soon boards displaying women of this age not allowed disappear from the scene.


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