Why top-down Hindu reform is not a good idea


For Bengali Hindus, no visit to the sea resort of Puri is complete without a darshan of Lord Jagannath at the 12th century temple. The shrine is, along with the Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, among the favoured pilgrimage spots in eastern India.

The last occasion I visited the Jagannath temple, jostling my way through the crowds, assisted by a pushy panda (also called a temple servitor), I noticed six white men and women, sitting silently on the street, discreetly separated from the rows of beggars that are a part of Puri’s landscape. I was told they professed to be bhakts who were barred from entering the temple owing to the entry ban on non-Hindus. It was a sad sight and an unfamiliar one since most Hindu temples are open to all.

Among the more prominent ones that are still for the exclusive darshan of Hindus are the Vishwanath temple, the Lingaraja temple, Guruvayur, Padmanabhaswamy temple, Kamakshi Amman temple and Kapaleeshwarar temple.

Additionally, the Sabarimala shrine prohibits the entry of women from the ages of 12 to 50. Considering the lakhs of temples in India, these are the exceptions to the open-entry rule.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court suggested to the custodians of the Puri shrine that they open the Jagannath temple to all worshippers, regardless of their nominal religious status.

The court held that “Hinduism as a religion incorporates all forms of belief without mandating the selection or elimination of any one single belief. It is a religion that has no single founder; no single scripture and no single set of teachings. It has been described as Sanatana Dharma… as it is the collective wisdom and inspiration of the centuries that Hinduism seeks to preach and propagate.” The reaction of the temple community has so far been extremely hostile to the court’s suggestion.

Last week, the apex court also held hearings on a petition seeking the unrestricted right of women to worship Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala. Although the hearings are still on, devotees are concerned that the court may use Article 25(2) of the Constitution, sanctioning temple entry to all sections of Hindus, to overturn an entrenched local tradition.

Radical supporters of the petitioners have also argued that the court should not rely on a dissection of religious custom and beliefs but on secular Constitutional morality — gender justice.

The attempts to change Hindu practices and customs aren’t unique. From the time of Gautam Buddha to the 1950s, when Hindu personal laws were radically modified by Parliament, the Sanatana Dharma has been witnessing unending reformation....Read more

 

Source web page: Times of india


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