Kannur: A Kerala woman’s post declaring she would climb the eighteen steps to the sanctum sactorum of Lord Ayyappa’s temple in Sabarimala as it opens its doors to devotees on Tuesday has unleased mayhem in her life.
Soon after Reshma Nishanth revealed her intention, a mob comprising Hindu outfits surrounded her house, shouting slogans against her and threatening her that they would, by any means, not allow her to enter the shrine.
The Supreme Court had last month lifted the ban on women in the 10-50 age group from entering the temple, leading to widespread protests in Kerala. The protests have been building up to a crescendo till the temple’s opening for the season on Tuesday.
Some devotees have threatened to stop women at all costs, from lying down on the path leading to the temple to tearing the limbs of women apart.
But the 32-year-old from Kannur remains unperturbed. In her Facebook post, she had written that since the Supreme Court had ruled that everyone can visit the temple, she sincerely wishes she be allowed to go too.
“There is nothing revolutionary in it, this single move from a believer may spark the courage in many more believers to alight the holy shrine in the future,” she wrote.
A college lecturer by profession, she added that since she considers menstruation to be like any other bodily discharge like pee and poop, she believes she can observe the penance with all purity.
Some in the mob that threatened her with violence all through Sunday were known to her, she told News18.
“There were outsiders as well. They did not unleash any physical attack, but challenged me verbally that I would never be allowed to enter the shrine. My Facebook post was rather unintentional to evoke a mob attack or bring myself to the limelight,” she said.
She has been observing the 41-day penance during the ‘Mandala Kaalam’ for 12 years despite her entry into the temple being barred. ‘Mandala Kaalam’ is the time when men alight the holy steps to the Sabarimala shrine.
Revealing why she followed the practice, she said back in 2006, while doing her masters, she found it interesting that women in certain parts of the neighbouring district kept the vow during Mandala Kaalam even if the dream of meeting the deity went unfulfilled.
“I had friends from Kozhikode who shared with me how women from their place have been doing it without fail. During those days, they’d abstain from eating non-vegetarian food, worldly pleasures, and indulge in prayers. I found that interesting, and being a believer, I started doing the same,” she said.
But this time around, she has also started wearing the beaded chain that is worn by men leaving for the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
In the early years, the 41-day penance went to 55 days for her to include the days of menstruation.
“We would have had two menstruation cycles in between. In those days, I considered it impure. And I observed penance for more number of days to omit those days. Now my thoughts and world have expanded, and so are my beliefs. Therefore the menstrual days too are included in the 41 days,” Reshma said.
At home, Reshma is wholeheartedly supported by her family. Her husband, Nishanth, never stands against the beliefs of his wife. She is a regular at every nearby temple in her region, especially those of Lord Shiva and Devi.
“We have a good give and take. He’d accompany me on my way to the temple and stay guard in the periphery until I am back after offering prayers. I’d be with him during his party meets. Our five-year-old daughter is not constrained to any religion of beliefs. Let her decide what she wants,” Reshma said.