On October 28, news portal The Print published an article written by Bangladeshi-Swedish writer Taslima Nasreen, who is living in exile in India. The article titled ‘Gods are male, they hate women: Why fighting for entry to temples is futile’ is written in the context of the protests that Kerala is seeing after the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala.
The article is full of lies and baseless allegations. Taslima Nasreen says that all Gods are male, that may be true for some other religions, but certainly not true in the case of Hinduism. Just last week, India celebrated Durga Puja and Navaratri, one of the longest religious festivals in the country, which is dedicated to goddess Durga. And after few days, India will celebrate Laxmi puja during Diwali. At the same time, another form of Devi, Goddess Kali will be worshipped in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and other eastern states. Taslima lives in Kolkata, virtually the epicentre of Devi puja, she should know.
Just like there are numerous Gods in Hinduism, there are also numerous Goddesses worshipped by devotees. There are countless temples and elaborate rituals around these Goddesses. Therefore, it is absolutely dishonest to say that all Gods are male, at least in the context of Hinduism.
In the article, Tasleema seems to have lied blatantly about the temples where women are barred. She says that women are not allowed in Mawali Mata Mandir in Chhattisgarh, Kartikeya Mandir at the Haryana-Punjab border, Kamakhya temple in Assam, Mangal Chandi Mandir in Jharkhand, Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan, and Shri Padmanavaswami Temple, Shri Krishna Temple and Sabarimala in Kerala. She also writes that “women cannot enter some of these religious precincts because the Gods there are believed to be celibates.”
It is ironical that she should mention Kamakhya temple in the context of Sabarimala. While in Sabarimala women of menstruating age are barred by tradition, Kamakhya is the unique temple where the deity actually undergoes menstruation every year. When the Devi goes through menstruation cycle, the temple remains shut, and the Ambuwachi Mela festival takes place at this time, attracting thousands of devotees from all over India, both men and women.
It is to be noted that the deity of the temple Kamakhya Devi is a Goddess, and more importantly, there is absolutely no bar on women entering this shakti peeth in Guwahati, Assam. Just like almost all temples in India, men and women both can pray in the temple equally. Kamakhya temple and Ambuwachi Mela are quite well known in India, and it is surprising why Taslima chose to lie about it.
There is also no bar of entry of women in Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala and Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan, this is totally false information given by Nasreen, which was published by The Print without checking the facts.
She also mentions Shri Krishna Temple in Kerala where women are not allowed but does not mention which Krishna temple, as there are hundreds of Krishna Temples in the state. We assume she is talking about Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple, the most famous Krishna temple in the state. Here also, there is absolutely no ban on women devotees. In fact, the temple hosts weddings, where thousands of marriages are held every year.
There is a ban on the entry of women in very few temples, and there are specific back stories or customs behind it. Other than those few, women can freely pray at tens of thousands of temples that dot the country. Just because a tiny number of temples bar women, Taslima claims that Gods hate women, which can be construed as an offensive statement for devotees.
It is an absolute shame that a media organisation headed by Shekhar Gupta, who is also the president of Editors Guild of India, publishes such offensive lies about some of the most famous temples in the country.
The Print has been a habitual offender as far as publishing lies is concerned. However, Shekhar Gupta had covered Assam extensively during the Assam agitation and he knows politics of Assam very well unlike other national media journalists who suffer from the tyranny of distance for such places, and he should personally know about the Kamakhya temple. Padmanabhaswamy temple also remains in news and it is impossible that Gupta does not about the temple and hence, that the article laden with lies was published in the first place, points towards deliberate mischief by not only Taslima, but also Shekhar Gupta.
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator