NEW DELHI: The Kerala government, according to sources, has not got any intimation from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that the proposed Lord Ayyappa tableau for the Republic Day parade has been cancelled. “MoD normally does not convey to the respective states if their tableau proposal is rejected. The states normally come to know about it only when they are not invited for the final round,’’ said the source.
Curiously, what has worked against the Lord Ayyappa tableau, according to sources, is a recent controversial statement made by the chairman of Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which is in charge of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.
Traditionally, women between the age of 10 and 50 (in the menstrual age group) are not allowed inside the temple. The reason cited for this is that Lord Ayyappa, believed to be the son of Shiva and Vishnu, is a brahmachari. The fact that the traditional route to this hill shrine passes through a dense forest and is a dangerous track is another reason for barring women from the temple, which is open only for a month in a year.
This bar on women had always been a controversial subject and touching upon this, TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan had said women could be permitted to enter the temple only after a machine is invented to check whether it was the ‘right time’ for women to enter. “These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside,’’ he had said.
This led to outrage on the social media. A Facebook group Feminism in India began the #Happytobleed event and hashtag, in which women hold up sanitary napkins or signboards saying they are happy to bleed.
“All these unwanted controversies happened as the Expert Committee was having a series of meetings to select the final list of tableaus. And all these negative campaigns affected the prospects of Lord Ayyappa tableau,’’ said a source.
According to him, the Expert Committee got influenced by the “ultra feminist and leftist campaigns’’ only because they are not quite adept with the concept of Sabarimala which is thronged by more than five crore devotees in a single month every year.
“There is nothing anti-woman about Sabarimala or Lord Ayyappa. Women are allowed in all other Ayyappa temples but not in Sabarimala only because of the gruelling journey on foot through a dense forest to reach the shrine. It is unfortunate that these kind of silly and irresponsible social media campaigns influences the decisions of the Expert Committee,’’ said the source.
The Kerala government has got its act together and the matter has reached PMO seeking its intervention. Ayyappa Seva Samithi members also met the PM here on Wednesday and the latter has promised to look into the matter.