The controversy over who can or who cannot worship at the famous mandir of Lord Ayyapan is unfortunate. That the Supreme Court judges could not agree gave the impression that the differences are unlikely to be resolved. There is a degree of fear attached to it because this deity is the offspring of both Shankar and Vishnu, the latter in the version of the most ravishing beauty Mohini. Mythology can be fascinating but also punishing when taken seriously.
With the progress of time, certainly knotty corners should be unwound with acceptable common sense. A way has to be found, without upsetting the sentiments of believing men, the faithful priests, upsetting worshipful women folk as well as not allowing a principle of justice to be violated. Say throw open the temple to all men and women of all ages and leave it to the integrity and conscience of women to avoid the mandir during their periods. Similarly, could think of ways and means of amicably settling the Ramjanambhoomi issue at Ayodhya.
There were several fundaments involved in the controversy and these were ignored. Most Hindus solemnly believed that Lord Rama was born on the spot where the Babari edifice existed. The universally popular epic Ramayana confirms that. If that was not sufficient, Poet Allama Iqbal called Rama Imam-e-Hind. The Sunni Personal Law Board however would not give in; it wanted an apex court judgment to satisfy the Muslim awaam that it did not take the law into its own hands, i.e. in case it gracefully gave up its rights.
It did not use its discretion lest its members be alleged to have compromised for any reason. Otherwise, the members displayed a lack of a sense of proportion. Where was the comparison between Hindu reverence for Lord Rama and Mir Baqi’s edifice, possibly a maqbara. A masjid has at least one minara for the muezzin to call followers to prayer especially in times when there were no microphones.
There was no woozu for the followers to wash their hands and feet before offering namaz. Yet another hesitation to giving up the spot to say the Hindu side could be the remaining mandirs, say 3,000 in number, which were converted or recycled into masjids and which are backed by evidence of records or epigraphs. Supposing the Hindus follow up Ayodhya with demands of more masjids and the land upon which they stand.
If so, was this not childlike? How would Ayodhya and how the Rama birthplace changed hands influence the other places? If at all, what could help the Muslims is goodwill and friendship which Ayodhya had considerable scope in generating if only generosity was shown on the birthplace. In this regard, the Hindus did not help through the last many centuries. Their posture across the subcontinent has been so docile and defensive that Hindu goodwill was necessary or at least useful.
The writer’s Urdu teacher, Agha Iqbal Mirza, confirmed several times that quite a few Muslims believe, that in the event of a tussle, one Muslim was equal to ten Hindus. Going back to Sabarimala, the issue is one of the relationships of a woman with the divine. As a Hindu, the writer believes that no human would deceive the divine or even attempt such an unscrupulous adventure. The Hindu has faith in karma and its resulting bhagya or fate. In the nature of this concept, each karma of each Hindu is self-recording.
Even the most modern computer needs someone to make an entry by pressing a key. For the Hindu and his God there is nothing in between and hence there is no way to escape a mischief. The writer therefore cannot see a Hindu trying to deliberately deceive or even mislead the divine. A member of an Abrahamic religion like Judaism, Christianity and Islam may also sin but not try to deceive his/her God. What his/her God decrees or desires, the Christian follower can know by referring to the Bible which is the Christian scripture.
What is outside the Bible is not his overriding concern. Then there is the infidel who distinctly is deserving of a lower status. Coming to the Jew, the outer horizon of his morality extends to the Torah or whatever Prophet Moses said or wrote. The gentile is the Jew’s version of an infidel. For the Muslim, the Kafir is the infidel, with the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunnah being the ultimate guides. In contrast, the Hindu has no books that we can compare with, nor has he on par with an infidel or kafir. As a result, his/her conscience is the ultimate guide to moral action. There is meant to be considerable, if not indefinite time lag, between his death and the doomsday and only one Almighty to sit in judgment on the performance of all his followers.
The clergy may prescribe one or more means of atonement for a possible sin but, in the heart of hearts, the follower is afraid that he has sinned and may or may not be forgiven by God. For the Hindu woman at Sabarimala, what is the incentive to break the trust that she has been granted by the court and the temple, as suggested above? Why should a woman during her period venture into the temple? Do the judges understand the nature and character of Indians? Until the demonetisation of 2016, it was estimated that 40 per cent of the Indian economy was black which deprived the government of tax.
Many a transaction was conducted either partly white and partly black or all black. Property dealings especially saw the give-and-take of cash as widely reported. But seldom has one heard of any one being short-changed on the cash; promised Rs one lakh and paid Rs 75,000. Is that not integrity and faith? At the same time, there are numerous reports of banks suffering from NPAs and failure of repayment by borrowers. Does this mean that Indians are honest in privacy and opportunistic publicly? We must remember that this sought -after temple has its roots in the epic of the Ramayana.
Lord Rama was in frantic search of his wife Sita who had been abducted by the Lankan ruler Ravana in the garb of a hermit. In the course of his search Rama came across Sabari, who had been waiting to have his darshan for a long time. Her guru rishi, before taking samadhi, told her that she must wait as sooner or later, an avatar of Bhagwan Vishnu would be passing that way, and bestow her with His darshan.
Her bhakti for Rama was unfailing as proved by her collecting berries and testing them before presenting them to Rama. Rama instantaneously reciprocated her faith. Similarly, the priests of the Sabarimala temple can display blind faith in the male worshippers who come. They do so after 40 days of abstinence from love, alcohol and shaving their beards. The first two of these continences for 40 days are readily accepted on faith. If the men can be trusted, why not the women, is the question?
(The writer is an author, thinker and a former Member of Parliament)