Aligarh Muslim University is at the top of the list of places that bar women from entering its premises. It has recently denied its girl students’ request to be provided access to its Maulana Azad Library. Its VC (Vice Chancellor) has said that if girls are permitted to access the library, then it would draw in a lot of boys as well and that would give rise to disciplinary problems. He has also implied that if girls were allowed in the library there would be four times more boys who would be there to just cause trouble.
Haji Ali Dargah Shrine, Mumbai
The inner sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah shrine at Mumbai is out of bounds for women. As per the authorities of the shrine, Sharia Law forbids women from visiting the sanctum, actually a grave, considered to be its most sacred part. In Islamic law, women are not allowed to visit graves and since the sanctum is a grave such a rule has come into being. They have also said that the previous permissions provided to women to enter the same were mistakes and they were in the process of correcting them.
However, in a recent order, Bombay High Court has asked this order of Haji Ali Dargah Trust to be overturned. In its order, the judicial body has said that the said decision is a contravention of Indian Constitution, and as such the women should also be allowed to enter the sanctum just as is the case with the nation’s men.
Lord Ayappa Temple, Sabarimala
Located in Sabarimala, Lord Ayappa Temple does not allow women to enter in the age group of 10-50 years. The logic given in this case is that the women and girls that belong to this particular age group are most likely to menstruate. Supreme Court has recently taken this issue up and stated that it would like to find out if belief and faith are capable of differentiating between people of the same denomination. The temple has been following this practice for centuries. The apex judicial body of India has clearly acknowledged that such practices disturb the very concept of gender equality in a democratic country.
Jama Masjid, Delhi
The Jama Masjid in Delhi, which also happens to be the biggest of its kind in the country, does not allow the entry of women after sunset prayers – also known as Maghrib.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala
At the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Kerala women cannot enter the temple vaults. Although women devotees can worship the deity, but they are not allowed to venture inside the temple chambers. Women officials, too, aren’t allowed into the treasure vaults, as reported by various news websites. Recently, when a lady from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) attempted to enter the restricted area to create an inventory of the treasures kept over there, she was stopped from getting in. The temple’s official website, however, has in their ‘Customs, Dos and Don’ts’ listed a special dress code for men and women, which indicates negation of the aforementioned rule.
Lord Kartikeya Temple, Pushkar
It is said that women who dare to visit the Lord Kartikeya Temple of Pushkar will be cursed and not blessed. This is the reason why this ban is in place until now.
Patbausi Satra, Assam
At the Patbausi Satra temple in Assam women are barred from entering in an order to make sure that the temple does not become impure. The authorities who run the temple are of the idea that women who are menstruating are unclean. During 2010, JB Patnaik – the-then Governor of Assam – entered the temple with some women in an attempt to break the said rule. The ban, however, came back later on.
Jain Temples, Guna, Madhya Pradesh
At the Jain temples of Guna, in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh, women in western attire such as tops and jeans are barred from entering the temple by the community leaders.
Nizamuddin Dargah, New Delhi
At the Nizamuddin Dargah of New Delhi women are barred from entering the sanctum. They are only permitted till the periphery. The authorities at this dargah have stated quite clearly that even though the Haji Ali Dargah of Mumbai may have now been forced to open the doors of its sanctum to women, it is no mood to comply. The authorities here have reasoned that Haji Ali used to allow women a few years back, but in all their years of existence they have never permitted that. They say that the rule applies to all women – even ones who are close to the authority figures and officials.
Bhavani Deeksha Mandapam, Vijayawada
Recently, at the Bhavani Deeksha Mandapam in Vijayawada, Jayanthi Vimala was honoured with the post of head priest after her father – who had been serving in that capacity – passed away. Since her father did not have any sons, she was appointed as the vamsa paramparya archaka or hereditary priest by Andhra Pradesh Government in 1990. In spite of her position, she is not allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the temple as is the case with every other lady.
At the very basic level all this shows a country that is still steeped in age-old customs and beliefs that were more suitable for Dark Ages. The very thoughts of considering women to be impure and unclean and detrimental to so-called institutional purity are disturbing, especially when viewed from the point of humanity.
At a secondary level, certain institutions among the ones mentioned here have chosen to ignore governmental orders. That is also worrisome, considering the fact that it poses a law and order issue. Religion is meant to unite people and not create barriers and divisions. God is for all and everyone in a democratic and secular country should have the right to pray where he or she wants to.
Unfortunately, with the aforementioned entities that is not the case.