The majority of Indians knew that women are not supposed to enter the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala, India, where the deity worshipped is Lord Ayappa. There are many controversies, speculations, rages, supporting stances, perspectives on the restrictions of women (especially those who are in their reproductive age) into the temple. This was a significant issue that became rampant in most parts of the country in the year 2018. And, there came a verdict in lifting the ban, supporting various petitions for women to enter the temple. However, the ban still continues in support of the religious custom favoring the devotees.
Here, in this article, let us know that is there a science behind these restrictions, how temple architectures in India account for this issue, and why is it related to the health of women.
The answers to these questions can be known by putting Indian knowledge systems as upfront. The temples or houses in India are built according to vastu Sastra and the plan they follow is called ‘vastu purusha mandala’. The deity representing the vastu sastra is called ‘vastu purusha’. Different areas of a temple, right from the entrance to the main sanctum are represented according to the physical parts of the vastu purusha. To elaborate, imagine a human form lying along the temple area in horizontal position – the entrance of the temple represents the feet; flag post (dwaja stambam) represents the genital organs; open space (ranga mandapam) is signified by the naval region; half hall (artha mandapam) by the heart; vestibule (antarala) by the neck region; and the human head by the main sanctum (garba griham).
Now, what does it mean by this representation and how is it linked to human body?
Here comes the concept of chakras. All the Indian texts understand human body not only at the gross level but also at the subtle level. The gross physical body is termed as ‘sthula sarira’ and subtle body is called ‘sukshma sarira’. The chakras come under this idea of sukshma sarira. There are seven chakras in our body:
- Root chakra or Muladhara (base of spine)
- Sacral chakra or Swadistana chakra (2 inches below the lower abdomen)
- Solar plexus chakra or Manipura chakra (abdomen area)
- Heart chakra or Anahata chakra (Center of chest)
- Throat chakra or Visudhha chakra (Throat)
- Third eye chakra or Agna chakra (forehead, between the eyes)
- Crown chakra or Sahasrara (The top of the head)
These chakras embody certain worldly as well a few subtle aspects of human life. Such as connection to the divine; sense of purpose in life; self-expression; love, acceptance, and relationships; personal power; sexuality and pleasure; career, sense of belongingness from the top chakra to the bottom-most chakra accordingly.
The temples of India are constructed and consecrated in such a way that the chakras in the human body are activated when one enters the temple. For instance, when a person steps into the entrance of the temple, his muladhara chakra gets triggered. Now we can relate to why we feel peaceful and stimulated when we sit in a temple.
But how is this all related to Sabarimala?
The Lord Ayappa actually dates back to another God called Shasta, who is said to be the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini (Lord Vishnu himself) according to Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. And, Lord Ayappa is the incarnation of Shasta himself says Bramhanda Purana.
(# Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Brahmanda Purana are religious texts of Hindus in India)
There are many Shasta temples in Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu, the southern states of India. There is a tradition for the devotees of Lord Ayappa, who is known for his brahmacharya that whoever takes the Diksha has to start their journey with the first shatchakra temple in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, which activates the muladhara chakra and end with Sabarimala, the sixth temple which activates the agna chakra.
At the gross level, when one experiences a journey like Ayappa Diksha, undergoes physical changes as well as could attain/experience the divine (self).
Here, when agna chakra gets triggered, like in the place Sabarimala, the pituitary gland gets stimulated releasing luteinizing hormone and then into testosterone (in males). However, in females, although, the pituitary gets triggered the estradiol may not be activated. Because during this period of brahmacharya (celibacy + practice (sadhana)), the human seed (sperm for males and egg for females) has to be intact within the body and should not be used for it to get transformed into more subtler forms. But in women, the seed (egg) will be released only during menstruation. So, whether the women practice celibacy or not is not the point.
So, this is the reason why women during menstrual age are not supposed to enter Sabarimala, for their health. However, they can enter this mokshadham after the reproductive age (menopause). Another aspect to it is women during menstrual age is all about life (reproduction), whereas the Diksha (spiritual journey) is about moksha (free from life), which do not support each other.
Now that we have known the reason behind restrictions on women entering into Sabarimala, there could be many scientific aspects behind other Indian traditions too.
Please feel free to share if you know any or looking for answers to such questions.