The All-Kerala Brahmins Association, also known as Kerala Brahmana Sabha, has moved the Supreme Court seeking a review of the Sabarimala judgment while insisting that the restriction on entry of women in the age group of 10-50 years cannot be seen as gender discrimination issue and that the court had erred in looking at the matter from the prism of individual dignity without considering similar restrictions placed on men in many other temples in the country.
In the review petition filed through advocate Sanand Ramakrishnan, the Kerala Brahmana Sabha (KBS) also stressed that the majority judgment failed to appreciate the distinction between “pilgrims” and “devotees’ while also highlighting how different temples across India follow different practices such as different time of opening and closing, donation of hair etc., and cannot, therefore, be questioned.
“The Judgment has unnecessarily widened the scope by going into the question of whether the practice in question is an essential aspect of Hindu Religion instead of confining the scope to the question as to whether the said practice is an essential aspect of the Sabarimala Temple…the Court has completely ignored the diverse practices, traditions and schools which exist within the Hindu faith. In arriving at the aforesaid conclusion, the Hon’ble Court has completely disregarded the examples of the Hindu Temples dedicated to Female deities where restrictions are placed on the entry and participation of men in the Temple and its practices,” it said without naming any particular temple, some of which are located in Kerala itself.
On the difference between a devotee and a pilgrim, who is bound by practices of a particular temple to which a pilgrimage is being made, the review petitioner said, “Pilgrim is a person who travels to holy place for religious reasons; Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca, Christian pilgrims visiting Lourdes. Whereas a “devotee” is a person who admires a God and is very enthusiastic. He can be even a devotee of a particular God.  It is not necessary that he should visit any temple. It is his state of affairs. Whereas a ‘pilgrim’ is a person who believes in a temple located in a particular place…The ambiance required for tourists who visit a temple and worshipers are different.”
“A devotee may go as a tourist to any temple where permitted but not to certain places where only those who come on pilgrimage are allowed. Pilgrimage are sacred journey. They require a different environment. A pilgrimage to temple enables the devotee to live within the context of a sacred narrative. Devotees will become pilgrims if they got to a particular temple. In that circumstances they have to follow different custom and usage followed in such temples,” it said stressing on how pilgrims coming to Sabarimala are bound to follow its practices, including a restriction on women in a certain age group.
The review petition said the man writ petition filed by five women was premised on two articles which lacked any historical basis and displayed a poor understanding of the temple practices in so far as it sought to link the restriction on entry of women belonging to a certain age group with the issue of gender discrimination.
Outside the judgment, the review petitioners said that the court should take note of the fact that post-judgment, an overwhelmingly large section of women worshipers came out in support of the custom of prohibiting the entry of women between the age group of 10 and 50 years at Sabarimala Temple and that the judgment was rendered behind the back of the review petitioners and millions of devotees of Lord Ayyappa.
It also said that the court erred in holding that the devotees of Lord Ayyappa do not constitute a separate religious denomination and went on to frame the issue of whether restriction on entry of women is an essential practice of Hindu religion.
It pointed out that the majority judgment was in error in holding that exclusion of women with reproductive capabilities has nothing to do with the celibate nature of the deity at the Sabarimala Temple and is therefore not an essential religious practice.
The KBS relied on scriptural evidence to show that the practice in question has been going on from time immemorial due to the tantric nature of the temple and the celibate form of the deity.