Thiruvananthapuram: In Jammu's Sree Krishna temple, all rituals, including offering of daily prayers, are performed by women priests. The temple, also known as 'Baion ka Mandir,' is maintained by the distaff side which is proud to spread the message of women empowerment through religion.
Unfortunately, Malayinkeezhu is no Jammu. The Sree Krishna Temple here bars entry to women devotees! For centuries, women have not been allowed into the nalambalam, the core structure of the temple, which shares its antiquity with Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
It is believed that the ban was enforced during the reign of the erstwhile Travancore ruler Sree Moolam Thirunal. "The two Pushpanjali Swamiyars of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple had to spend six months at the Malayinkeezhu temple. The custom to bar women's entry probably began then as they were celibates," says Malayinkeezhu Venugopal, district panchayat member and former president of the temple committee.
"The Swamiyars do not reside here any more. So it is a folly to continue with the ban. It is unfortunate that women are not allowed in the temple even decades after the Temple Entry Proclamation was passed," he says.
The cause has found its supporters in poet-priest Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri and poet Sugathakumari. The duo, while attending an award function held as part of the temple festival, had demanded that women be allowed into the temple. Sugathakumari even refused to pray in front of the nalambalam and, instead, prayed in front of the flag mast.
"This is unjustified. We believe Lord Krishna will not have any opposition to women entering his temple," says author Radhika C Nair. But not all women back a change. "There is no need for a change. This is not an issue of women's rights, but of faith," Saraswathiyamma, 60, says.
"We will hold a meeting of devotees on the issue. If the majority supports women's entry, we will take a decision after consulting the temple thantri," TDB president Rajagopalan Nair says.
"Much has to be done even before thinking of changing a centuries-old custom. Changing the custom would result in the temple losing its identity.
"If there is a popular demand, a vidwatsadas comprising eminent devotees, TDB officials, priests and members of the Travancore royal family should discuss the issue," says temple thantri Thekkedath Kuzhikkattu Parameswaran Vasudevan Bhattathiripad.