The five-day event ended at the birthplace of River Cauvery where priests gave a host of instructions to preserve the sanctity of the holy place. The ritual also led to controversies where women criticised the priests for their suggestion to ban women between 10 and 50 years of age from climbing the Brahmagiri Hill.
Women question move on banning entry to Hill
Madikeri: The Ashtamangala Prashne ritual (octagonal questioning ritual) that began on May 21 at Talacauvery under the guidance of Neeleshwara Padmanabha Tantri and team of Payyanur in Kerala concluded on Friday. The ritual was held to find out solutions to problems, if any, in Talacauvery.
The outcome of the Ashtamangala Prashne has, however, triggered an intense debate over the issue of banning the entry of women of certain age to the Brahmagiri Hill.
During the ‘Ashtamangala Prashne,’ Neeleshwara Padmanabha Tantri had said, “Only men, girls below 10 years and women above 50 years must be allowed to climb the Brahmagiri Hill from the start of ‘Tula Sankramana’ (October 17) to ‘Vrushabha Sankramana’ (May 15)” adding, “Women, dressed in shorts and inappropriate clothes, are ruining the sanctity of the place.”
He opined that the pilgrim centre has been turned into a tourist destination, which has weakened the spiritual vibe of the place. He feared that this will result in the disappearance of source of River Cauvery. “The tourists are visiting the pilgrim centre without any devotion to the Goddess. Women are polluting the source of the river, which has decreased the divinity of the place,” he said.
Women Associations, have, however, criticised Padmanabha Tantri for enforcing the ban. They have said that women have equal rights as men in worshipping River Cauvery, who herself is a female.
Many Women Organisations have said that women are unnecessarily being blamed for something that is nowhere connected to them. “Most of the tourists, majority of the men, come to the temple in an inebriated state. How is it that only women are ruining the sanctity?” questioned Prabha, a resident of Madikeri.
Ananya, a feminist, said, “Women are easy targets. What we wear, even to pilgrimage sites, shouldn’t be a problem since it’s a personal choice. And this should not be used as an excuse to ban us from the site.”
“Water shortage is not caused because of a particular gender. May be if we utilised our resources better and were more environmentally conscious we wouldn’t be in this state where we are reduced to having some astrologer make uneducated remarks. This is another example of how deep-rooted patriarchal notions are in our society and how little we do to try and stop them,” Ananya added.
Another resident of Talacauvery said that people of Kodagu from ages have always believed that men and women are equal. The status of women in education, in society is very high in Kodagu. Unfortunately, some astrologers, with their blind beliefs, are attempting to create a discord and women cannot be banned from performing their religious right, he added.
Meanwhile, the temple authorities have not yet decided on the steps to be taken after the ‘Ashtamangala Prashne.’ They said that once the ritual concludes, the Committee will hold a series of meetings and also consult elders of the district before taking any decision on banning women between 10 and 50 years of age from climbing the Brahmagiri Hill.