All the opinions expressed in this blog come from my own perspective of being a Woman who is both a devotee of Ayyappan, and a woman who stands tall in the biology of Her own Body’s wisdom. I love this land and its indigenous culture deeply, and at the same time I also, stand tall in my lived American cultural heritage. I am very much aware of the light and shadows of both these cultures – having received from both in terms of knowledge, and perspective.
My journey over the last decade has been to decolonize narratives, reclaim indigenous mind, be aware of my own projection of inter-generational trauma onto situations and people, and to hold space and surrender to a truth that recognizes the inter-connected-ness of nature and spirit in everything, and works towards acknowledging and moving through and from deep presence.
As I even prepare to write this blog, I have to bow down to Nature and Her infinite invisible unseen energetic supporters and wisdom keepers that hold the fabric of life on Earth flowing. I bow to its will and pray to be guided to move in that will without my own personal agenda.
To Remember – just because I do not believe it, have not experienced it, and because science cannot prove it yet, it doesn’t cease to be.
Holding Space for Sabarimala
As I witness the unfolding at the Sabarimala temple on my television daily – over the last few days, I am deeply pained to see the Emotional and Mental Drama that is getting enacted there. It is a like a war zone – a patriarchal war zone.
Be the so-called Ayyappa devotees blocking the way or the activist who are going there irreverently to prove a point – I am unable to see much difference in the expressions enacted. They equally seem unaware and ignorant of what they are really doing, and what they really want. Police and Fighting in a sacred premise like that – I feel energetically Ayyappan has already gone underground.
Approach of The Patriarchal Mind
Whenever we use patriarchal and colonizers approach of navigating any situation it ends up in violence and war. Patriarchy in its very nature expresses itself by taking away spirit and sacredness from people/situations/things, and reducing it to an object, in other words objectifying everything.
On one side the devotees with their political supporters are doing that to the women activists in the way the language is being used to shame/shun them, and in the same way the women activists with their political supporters are doing that to the temple by being so irreverent and mean in their actions. It is like no one seems to be wanting any solution. There is just blind rage. Of course, I am sure there are mindful folks on either sides but media is least interested in these parties.
I feel our own internalized western and colonized mindsets fueled further by so-called liberal media, western organizations, so-called feminists, and institutions that do not in anyway understand the deep indigenous significance of our sacred land and sacred spaces have blown this situation out of proportion.
Today gender and women are the biggest TRP generator, everyone wants a piece of it, and women’s rage has become the pawn on it. Triggering and fueling a woman’s emotional trauma in the name of empowerment, equality, and feminism has become like a strategy . And when it is used for political, personal, and selfish reasons, the real issues of gender and women that need attention get deeply affected, and derailed..
In this blog I want to shed light on certain aspects of the conflict which are not spoken loud enough.
TEMPLE IN INDIA IS NOT MERELY A PLACE OF WORSHIP OF SOME GOD OR GODDESS
First we need to understand ancient temples in India.
Ancient Temples in India (Like Sabarimala) are completely situated within mandalas, energetic vortexes, energetic intentions, and exist in contract with nature’s keepers or devas of that land honoring the Deity’s energeitc purpose. In fact, the temple is built on it to make that energy available for humanity to benefit from in a safe, sacred way. No two temples in India even if they house the same deity will not be the same. Also, Indian deities – gods and/or goddesses- established in temples are not archetypes. They are symbolic representations of an aspect of nature. Even today, Science is not able to comprehend some of the energetic transformations witnessed in ancient temples, but it can be felt and sensed and is very much part of our lives..
Indian temples were not just places of worship like a church. Of course, in modern times, temple building has become a business and we have temples sprouting everywhere diluting its very purpose. Thousand years of colonization and oppression has caused many of the ancient temple wisdom to be shifted from its original meaning, some lost and some even forgotten or releaSED back to nature. Sometimes, when we meditate or go into transcendental states of awareness at sacred sites, this wisdom can be felt and in many sacred occasions – nature even makes it known by lifting the veil momentarily..
In most ancient temples of India, the energetic guidelines and contracts with the wisdom keepers or devas of that land is established first. Only then the architectural structure of the temple is designed and build and then that energy is established using yantras and many other powerful methods. It is actually a deeply thorough and complicated process. Every temple has a unique energetic signature and honors a particular contract which when broken brings upon many energetic shifts on that land and the people involved across time and space.
What we need to understand is that ancient temples of India do not operate at the level of man or woman or gender . In fact, every temple structure itself is build like the body of a woman where the deity sits in the innermost sanctom called the womb or literally the uterus home (Garba Gruham). So to project gender inequality narratives to Ancient Indian temples makes literally no sense.
The Energetic Contract on which The Sabarimala Ayyappan temple is Established
Now coming to the Sabarimala Ayyapan temple:
The energetic contract of the Sabaramala Ayyapan temple is built to hold space for the energy of Naistika Brahmacharya – a severe yogic vow of strict celibacy and abstinence through extreme yogic practices including physical endurance and sense control. The deity established is in honor of this practice.
Sharing the image of the deity in the sanctum!
Swamiye Sharannam Ayyappa!!
Can you imagine even sitting in this yogic stance which is one of the most difficult one to achieve! This is unique to the Sabaraimala Temple. There is a whole ritual and ceremonial aspect to this form of Celibacy and abstinence. Everyone visiting the temple also, needs to practice these austerities for 41 days.
So one of the contracts on which the Naisthika Brahmacharya energetic agreement exists in the temple is:
Any woman in the physical experience of the menstrual cycle does not visit the temple to support the Deity and the Men in the practice of Naisthika Brahmacharya. Young girls (pre-menstruation) and women in menopause can visit the temple undertaking the 41-day vow.
So you would ask why cant a woman go when she is in her menstruation years ie usually 10 – 50 years. Of course, if you are going to use a modern day patriarchal lens to understand this, you will fail because patriarchy is all about competition. within the indigenous mindset, it is this:
- Women when they are on the 24 – 30 day menstrual cycle, do not take on any severe vow or austerities that go beyond the 21-day cycle as it would not honor her bleeding time which requires a completely different energetic and intentional approach.
- Women embodying and living in the inner navigation system of her biology waning and waxing through bleeding and ovulation embodies an energy which is completely in conflict with the Naistika Brahmacharya. In the ancient times, women understood these energetic contracts of their own biology very well, and owned the power that came living within it. The existence of such contracts never reduced their identity or made them feel less in anyway as a woman. They were deeply comfortable in who they were. It was never a matter of competition or feeliing threatened.
So during every Mandala season, the Sabarimala temple is flooded with Men, Menopausal women and girls going there following a 41-day severe austerity – some of the vows they take include:
- staying celibate,
- staying off alcohol and drugs,
- eating only vegetarian food,
- staying clear of Kama (Sexual desire), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha ( any desire like even taste),
- Required to visit a lot of temples especially Devi or Goddess temples everyday int he 41 days.
- Have to wear black,
- have to Walk barefoot for all the 41-days and thru the pilgrimage,
- Carry only bare minimum items,
- And every devotee observing this 41-day austerity also, carries a sacred pilgrimage kit on their head called Irumudi. Iru means two, mudi means pouch or kit, and kettu means knot or bundle. The Irumudi is a specially designed bag made of usually hand woven cotton cloth with two compartments. The front portion or mun mudi is to keep the sacred offerings to the deities and the back portion (pin mudi) is to keep the personal belongings of the devotee. , and contains the following sacred items. There is a deep ritual significance to this sacred kit. You can read more here: http://www.spiderkerala.net/resources/8867-Why-Irumudi-kettu-Sabarimala-pilgrimage.aspx
- During these days they are seen as Gurus and everyone will seek their blessings or give way for them. It is a deep honor to take onthis vow.
Everyone in Kerala acknowledges Sabarimala Ayyappan journey as a primarily Men’s pilgrimage space, and there has never been a conflict for as long as I can remember. In fact, this 41-day vow and going to sabarimala pilgrimage for a man is one the most powerful experiences. I have seen it bring a deep physical, emotional, and even, sexual shifts in men. Men come out of alcoholism and rage in a deeply powerful way.There is also, a powerful sensitivity and vulnerability that men experience collectively.
In patriarchal cultures, men are either sensually, sexually overstimulated or repressed. Such practices and spaces like Sabarimala allow men to step out of the over-conditional suffocation that patriarchy presents men with. I have seen and heard from men about this on several occasions. In fact, I feel that such spaces have a purpose and play a huge role. On these pilgrimages the only women men bond with are children and grandmothers. I feel psychologically there is something very powerful there. I honor that and I understand the power of such spaces for men.
SUPREME COURT VERDICT FOR SABARIMALA TEMPLE
In quite an historic move on Sep 28 of 2018, after few years the Supreme Court struck down a rule that now makes it possible for women in their physical menstruating years to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
Now that you understand the context of the temple, you would wonder why after so many years has this verdict being issued. In the complexities of a colonized India trying to find its new wings amidst several misdirecting external and internal forces, there are couple of important reasons for this verdict as I see it.
Women’s Rage – Today Women in India are trying to find their place in the society by reclaiming their right to work, to travel, to own their body, to own their reproduction and birthing, to reclaim back their menstruation, to step out of inter-generational shame and trauma around women’s blood mysteries, to own who they wish to be or not be , to own motherhood in their own way, to be a single mother, to be single, to know and experience sexual relationships on her own term, to have access to public spaces and to night, to be acknowledged for who she chooses to be, to be able to live by herself, to be seen and held as an independent entity, and so much more. And it has not been easy for her.
One of the most dominant rages that women and girls navigate through is the menstrual rage of the Maiden, and I feel it is the foundational rage in women across the globe. That rage in Druapadi destroyed dynasties. For ages, women’s bleeding has been condemned beyond reason and she has got labeled as impure because of it. It has restricted her access to education, travel, and so many things. It has reduced her in status with men.
I have discovered in my own research that this is an acquired narrative in India in the last 1000- 2000 years. In the old scriptures and even in Ayurveda, a woman is seen in the highest seat – her Yoni Shakti – power that she carries within her womb and its ability to wax and wan with the moon and seasons is seen as the most Powerful gift a woman has. One of my work has been to re-store and re-awaken this wisdom that colonization and oppression ahs sidelined.
Now coming to menstrual rage – I feel if menstruation is going to get challenged anymore in India and she gets labeled as impure because she bleeds, this rage is going to cause major havoc – it will burn down institutions, systems, cultures, and everything with it. Of course, it is a self-destructive rage – blind in its application, and we will also, be part of the destruction. So it is really a Death rage.
I acknowledge and bow down to this rage for it needs to be held space for. As long as the fight is around this, there will be no victory. No Male God will be able to stand up to it, and emerge victorious. Period.
However, I also want to acknowledge that this rage is getting manipulated and misdirected by media, politics, religion, activists for their own TRP and Gains. Women in their own blindness many times do not see how they are getting manipulated by those around them in the name of woman empowerment, and equality wars.
Condemnation of Woman and Her Blood
So now comes the question – who filed this petition? Looks like a Muslim man filed this petition in court for Menstruating Women to enter the Sabarimala temple. Makes no sense to me. And then the court honors that petition by taking it further. Why? Because everyone today is afraid of Women’s rage and want to appease her.
Then unfolded quite a drama.
When the temple authorities and the men started to defend why women were restricted from entering the Sabarimala temple – all hell broke loose because out-poured all the prejudice, ignorance, shaming, small-mindedness around women’s blood, her body, her sexuality, her need for empowerment, her activism, and so on. Some of the most ridiculous arguments were given and that kept fueling women’s rage. And I am sure, many misused this rage by misquoting people’s statements, manipulating facts, misinterpreting truth, and more. In all it was a mess. So from where I see, this verdict of letting women enter into the temple was the best thing the supreme court could have done under the circumstances.
But does it honor the contract and purpose of the Sabarimala temple. Ask yourself.
NO. It doesn’t.
WHATS HAPPENING NOW?
In my humble opinion, this verdict has challenged the very existence and execution of the Sabarimala temple in its original form. I sympathize with the devotees and the temple keepers because they cannot agree to this verdict, and let women in because it is in complete disregard and dishonoring of the Deity and the Devotee of the temple practicing Naisthika Brahamacharya, and the energetic consequences that can get catapulted could be big in time to come.
Even more, the women who are raging to claim equal rights with this verdict have no honor for the temple or the deity. They are actually going there to challenge the temple and the Naisthika Brahamacharya of the Deity. There is open proclamation of the disregard for spiritual belief. One of the woman claimed to carry sanitary napkins in her Irumudi kit and make a point.
The Kerala government which is communist and rejects spirituality and sacred beliefs of any kind is taking all of this to the next level by encouraging and supporting all kinds of Drama enactment by the women. Their only need is that atleast one woman has to be let into the temple.
All this has caused the temple priests to close down the temple giving access to no one. I feel the entire existence of the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple in the Naisthika Brahmachara form is threatened, and it might even go underground. It is deeply sad and paining.
On one side is the emergence of #metoo movement in India by women speaking out about the sexual perverseness, sexual repression, and prevalence of male abuse in our society, and on the other hand, women are also becoming responsible for closing down those very spaces that allow men to step out of the over-conditioned zealous masculine patriarchal narratives..
Seeing through the Indigenous Mind
I feel that it is time to reawaken and resort to our ancient indigenous mind. Make room for it.
Western Patriarchal mindset that we have all inherited through our education makes us see things linearly, black and white, right or wrong, but in an indigenous system everything is about synergy, about exchange of energy, and most importantly about Balance.
Everything is sacred, interconnected, and everything unfolds within that narrative.
Indigenous Elders everywhere in the world will understand this situation of Sabarimala and the need to follow the rules of that sacred site. Why? Because all indigenous cultures have Sacred Sites and areas marked for specific purposes, people, and possibilities. They abide and upkeep the rules and agreements strictly.
Colonization and Western-mindsets have impacted indigenous cultures everywhere. It has seized and even erased, the meanings of most of their sacred lands and spaces against their own will. It has turned its own people against these sacred practices and rituals. Indigenous people are still battling to get their sacred lands back and to be re-established in countries like United States, and Australia. In these indigenoues cultures, the fight of the people is usually with the white administration or government on their land.
In India, the story is quite different. We have experienced oppression and colonization for well over thousand years. That we still exist in our indigenous makeup itself is Nature’s miracle. I feel the British established education system of independent India was left behind as a weapon of slavery. It has paved way for more of our own people to internalize the colonizer mindset, and get severely disconnected from sacred narratives of ritual, culture, energies, and all of that. And the government that ruled independent India for majority of years has furthered that disconnect by dividing people through several political and social narratives.
Even more so, our own ancestral inter-generational trauma is intertwined in these narratives. Indians are sitting on years of trauma, pain, and forgetfulness. This ancestral trauma that we all carry across thousands of years has created a veil – it makes us blind to see beyond what is immediately present. It brings blind rage, blind devotion, blind activism, blind faith, blind love. So much blindness in the emotional drama that gets enacted. Bollywood movies, media, politicians, religious leaders, and business houses have taken advantage of this over the years. It is so easy to con an average Indian in India by appealing to his or her emotions.
Even though, we are all on the same side – we are fighting opposing battles.
I also, feel there is a lot of trauma that is getting triggered and re-enacted even in the Sabarimala situation. Its like We do not really know who the enemy is here or who we are really angry at. Many times the rage is just wanting to make someone responsible for “my pain, my suffering, my wound”
IS THERE A SOLUTION?
I am deeply pained to see the unfoldings on the television. I donot know where this war will take us, and if when this war subsides – the temple in its original form will even exist? And if it does not, then we are all responsible for it. What a loss that would be.
Only time will tell if it was a natural course of action. Either ways Nature will surely make its ruling for she overrides even the Supreme court. When she does, we better watch out. It wont be easy. It wont be discriminating. She will do justice equally to all of us for we are all responsible for this situation.
To Women, Men and Temple authorities, please change your narratives and mindsets about women and her blood. It is in no way comparable to shit. It is the most sacred blood which was on its way to bring life. It has the egg in its full unattained potential. Yes. Menstrual Blood symbolizes death. Do not mess with it. Acknowledging its sacredness and apologizing to the women might be one way to move towards something peaceful that we can co-create together.
To the Women activists who have made this an issue of equality – Let me tell you – winning this by dishonoring men and Swamy Ayyapan will not appease your rage. In fact, no acknowledgements and recognition from the outer world is going to appease or transform your rage. You are just going to create more opportunities for the outer world to manipulate you. Going inwards and Inner is the only way. Seek Acknowledgement there. Seek support. Step out of trauma, pain and create opportunities for you to connect with the deep power you are gifted as a woman – in her biology. It is not something to be taken lightly. Know that – You – are not just capable of giving life, You can also bestow and summon Death with the same proficiency. Know what you are doing.
Men are our boys, our brother, our fathers, our lovers – our sons – destroying them is not going to take us closer to empowerment or freedom of any kind. We will loose in the process.
May we all remember who we are.
May we seek our own awakening.
May Nature support us, walk with us, guide us, and lead us.
May The Mother knock some sense into us.