Carnet Hebdo – Women in temples: Discretion, not discrimination

Following the controversy over why women are not allowed into Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharastra, a thorough explanation is given by Sadhguru, which should enlighten the public on the science behind the temples.

Shani or Saturn. First, the guru explains, all temples are not places of prayer. The planets in the solar system have an impact on our physiology and psychological structures, and the content of our lives. So temples have been created for different planets.

Shani takes thirty years to complete one revolution around the sun. The revolutions of Saturn and those of the Earth and our birth details are substantial elements to calculate what impact Saturn has on us at different times of our life.

Shani is one of the sons of Surya, the sun; the other one being Yama. Shani is the lord of dominance, distress, depression, disease and disaster. Yama is the lord of death. They work in tandem. Their mother, Surya’s wife, is Chaya meaning ‘shadow’. Only because there is sunlight, there is shadow. It is science expressed in a dialectical way.

In the Indian astrological system Saturn is the seventh planet whereas in modern astronomy it is the sixth planet. The seventh day, Saat, Saturday is the day of Saturn. In its thirty-year cycle, we become susceptible to the influence of Saturn, a phase known as Saadi Saati, or in Tamil, Yeralai Shani, and it lasts for seven and a half years, during which time we are more vulnerable to external influences.

Why women are not allowed. In order to bridge the pits that may occur during a Saadi Saati, various processes and rituals are associated within Shani temples for Shani Deva where Saturn is personified as a god. Very powerful processes are conducted at the temples mainly used for occult purposes and exorcism. People go there to ward off occult influences or because they feel they are possessed.

Because of the occult processes, the energies are not conducive for women. As a woman is entrusted with significant responsibility of producing the next generation, her body is far more receptive and vulnerable to certain types of energies especially during pregnancy and menstruation cycles.

Should women not enter the sanctum at all? They could if they were properly trained for it but it would be much more difficult to train women than men for this purpose, simply because of a few biological disadvantages. In the very nature of female biology, occult forces can have a deeper impact upon their system.

To remove occult influences and perform exorcisms, certain energies are used that are not nice for women at all. Shani is not nice but he is part of our life and we have to deal with him. The process is not good for the well-being of women. When certain things go wrong with life, we have to deal with them in a certain way which may not be pleasant. These temples were created for this purpose.

Discretion. If one day, men protest in front of Linga Bhairavi and want to enter, the Guru says, I will lock it. Because it is not designed for men unless they are appropriately trained for it. He adds in jest that men do not protest because they are married and domesticated, and trained not to protest against anything….. For one half of the lunar cycle, the space of Dyanalinga is managed by men, and the other half by women. That is the nature of an inclusive consecration, which Dyanalinga is.

Maybe the way the rule forbidding women is enforced is crude and seems discriminatory, but it is based on necessary discretion. It is perceived as discrimination for lack of relevant information.

At Velliangiri hill temple, women are prevented from going up the mountain, as the path goes through the forest that was rich with wildlife in the past, and it was considered unsafe for women to take a journey there. But today, such rules can be relaxed. At the Ayappa temple, legend has it that the prince never married and remained a bachelor all his life. That is why women are not allowed. Otherwise, human species is considered as one species with two genders.

If the judiciary changes the rule and allows women, then the legend has to be changed. The question that arises is: Should politics and the judiciary meddle with religion?

In view of the demand to allow women entry to the Shani temple, the Guru says, we need to educate people on the science behind these temples, what they were associated with and why they were built. In certain contexts, this would avoid a misplaced idea of equality promoted in today’s democratic fervor.

* Published in print edition on 22 April 2016

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