Much has been spoken about Bhumata Brigade and its supposedly anti-misogynistic stand about letting female devotees 'touch' the deity at Shani Shingnapur. A court ruling allowed them to go ahead and under police protection the order was carried out where women touched the deity for the first time.
The same demand is being made for Sabrimala temple and the Supreme court has made it mandatory for the temple board to ensure women devotees are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum.
We need to understand what we are dealing with. Hinduism is a polytheist faith with the ultimate goal being 'moksha' i.e. freedom from cycle of birth and death, closest word in English being salvation. The basic premise of achieving this is based upon one's 'Karma'. Karma literally means action and action decides one's freedom, hence thoughts which lead to your actions are supposed to be your tool to attain moksha. This is one way of getting people to focus upon the mind for controlling their thoughts, which ultimately leads to self-realization and Polytheism gives options to choose from a pantheon of paths to achieve this by focusing on deities that appeal best to the seeker for self-realization.
The deities are of all kinds birds, animals, trees, fishes, etc. In fact, Vishnu's 10 avatars represent the stages of evolution of life from aquatic to humans. Human gods are of both genders and Hinduism seems like one religion which focusses on the worshipping of goddesses in a large way. Primary focus of leading a life is based upon the control of mind, actions through thoughts and maintaining energies. Female Goddesses are termed as source of energies - hence the name Shakti. While disciplining the mind and actions is within one's control, maintaining energies is external and hence there are rituals or guidelines to lead a life wherein one can gather maximum positive energies. This aspect alone brings out the practices of Hindus outside their own self - in their houses and in temples.
There are also different purposes where a particular God is evoked, mostly with the purpose of balancing energies. Talking about Shani Dev whose worship has been a source of controversy, lets understand Shani Dev has got a particular purpose of solving problems of humans. Shani is Saturn and Saturn the planet, completes its revolution around the sun in 30 years. The effect of energy of Saturn on a person is called as 'Saade Saati' or a period of 7 and half years. Shani is prayed to support a person particularly in this period. Shani is never worshipped in houses separately. At the most, people would perform a pooja of Nav Graha - Nine Planets in a house, but never is worshipped alone as it would disturb the balance of energies. Worshiping Shani is not like bringing in Ganesh idol for Ganapati Utsav or a newlywed couple sitting for a SatyaNarayan Pooja, because evoking Shani is more kind of an occult or exorcism to help evade negative forms of energy rather than a worship for self-realization.
Discretion for women to worship Shani is suggested as the energy flows are different between men and women and hence women are not allowed to 'touch' the idol in Shani Shingnapur. Even men are allowed to touch the idol only after going through a cleansing ritual. Similarly, Linga Bhairavi is prayed to only by female priests and men are not allowed in certain areas of the temple around Linga Bhairavi. Nobody is barred from entering the temple, although there are procedures to 'touch' the idol. Shani Dev also had been a bachelor all his life, so there is a prohibition of women to touch the idol. The premise being that someone who didn't allow any woman to touch him ever during his life on earth should not be touched upon in his heavenly form.
When the courts gave a verdict to allow women 'touch' the idol, did it take into consideration all these aspects? Is the court which is supposedly atheist, non-believer and non-religious a competent authority to make a fair judgement in this case? Courts rely on modern science and modern science focuses only on the physical matter, then should the court be giving a judgement at all in matters of faith, that which is not its domain? This is like a physicist conducting a session on parallel universe based upon hypothesis - that which has not been proven scientifically yet - and courts forcing him to play by rules of known physics only which teaches universe as a singular form. The matter of women 'touching' the idol should have been best left to be decided by the temple authorities. Any dictation for rituals by the courts is an infringement of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution under Article 26 of Freedom of Right to managing Religious Affairs. Bhumata Brigade should have had a dialogue with the temple board and a decision should have been reached to, instead of the courts bullying their way to interfere in rituals forcefully through threat of guns by police.
Will the courts accept if Sadhus demand that there be a practice of meditation before start of every court session as most litigants lead a stressful life, will the system accept it? If not, then what happens inside temples, as long as physically harmless to anyone, is best left to be decided by the temple authorities.
When Trupti Desai and her cronies of Bhumata Brigade visited Mahalakshmi Temple, they wanted to enter the inner sanctum sanctorum, that which is considered as having sacred energies by believers and was hitherto forbidden for women to 'touch' the idol. They wanted to celebrate their victory for getting the court order to enter the inner sanctorum through a Vijayi rally - inspite of being prohibited by police as it could lead to chaos and riots. Shops were shut, market wore a deserted look as people feared for their lives and livelihood. Inspite of this, Trupti and her nuisance making friends gathered and were arrested. The intent was clear of creating nothing but trouble for the authorities.
Once being released in the evening from her detention, she went to the temple and insisted on 'touching the sacred idol'. The temple authorities and police asked her to change into a saree which is the prescribed dress code for the temple, but she refused. Here, the intent was not to cover her body fully, a burkha would have been suggested if that were the reason for the dress code. Respect for the prevailing culture is one of the basic manners for a visitor anywhere. The refusal to comply with norms was only to create more issues and she touched the idol in a salwar kameez, much to the agony of all the authorities. When the generated chaos was not enough to get a mention in media, she resorted to throwing expletives at the priests. After these many insinuations, if people lost their patience then the bullying courts, the irresponsible Bhumata Brigade and the Chief Minister- whose tacit approval allowed Bhumata Brigade to create this ruckus - are to be blamed.
The Hindu Right wing has shown pathetic understanding of the event. They think they are following some Indic Liberalism, but this is Leftists agenda that they are fulfilling by allowing and even pursuing this matter. Trupti herself is a politician and every step that she has taken has been with a political agenda to create trouble for the present government. The CM chickened out quite early, hoping that the issue dies down and his government doesn't have to take a tough stand, but he's grossly mistaken. The talk about fight against misogyny was all farcical. This is not a fight against misogyny. If next someone wants to 'touch' the sanctimonious deity wearing footwear or without washing hands after eating non-vegetarian food, should it be allowed? Stopping that would be misogyny?
Looking at everything from a patriarchal point of view opens a Pandora's box. There are temples, particularly the Shakti Peeths and Goddesses temples where young girls are worshipped as Kumarikas. The Kumarika Pooja is an elaborate ritual where girls are considered as a form of goddesses themselves and are showered with gifts. All this while young boys are left in the lurch, looking at their cousins and friends being showered with adulation, reverence, admiration and gifts. More boys are already dropping out of schools as compared to girls, such rituals can be connected to the boys developing lower self-esteem resulting in their poor show in schools. This is also a form of patriarchy. Thus, Hinduism would itself be reduced to mere form of worshipping in congregations where everything has to pass through the prism of perceived gender justice and modern principles of understanding.
The governments are quick to bag the donations that go to the temple, but are found working contrary to the interests of the very same temples rituals. Why wasn't the High Court order challenged in a higher court is something the right wing government has to answer, to people who voted them to power.