In a landmark decision by the Bombay High Court, women will now be allowed inside the inner sanctum of Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. The court order came after women activists filed a public interest litigation challenging the restriction imposed by the Dargah authorities in 2012 which forbade women from visiting the grave of the revered saint. The Haji Ali Dargah Trust has stated that it would be a grave sin in Islam if a women is allowed to be near tomb of a male saint.
However, the Bombay High Court on Friday ruled that Articles 14 (Equality before law), 15 (which prohibits discrimination based on religious lines), 19 (ensures certain freedoms) and 21 ( protection of personal life and liberty) allow any women to enter the dargah if she wants to.
Shani Shingnapur temple
Earlier in April, another place of worship in Maharashtra had to open its doors to women. The Shani Shingnapur temple, that had barred women from entering its core area for over 400 years, allowed women activists to pray inside the temple after much resistance. While religious leaders like Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati condemned the decision, the move came as a huge breakthrough in securing women’s rights to public and religious places.
Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple
Another case in point, is the Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik that decided to allow men and women to pray inside the inner sanctum of the temple. However, temple trustees said that women would only be allowed for an hour everyday if they wore ‘wet cotton or silk clothes while offering prayers in the core area.’ The move was widely criticised by members of civil society.
Eidgah Aishbagh, Lucknow
In July, Lucknow’s famous Eidgah Aishbagh allowed hundreds of women to offer their Eid-ul-Fitr prayer inside the Eidgah. Authorities had built a separate enclosure for the women to offer Eid prayers. Reports suggest that two entry-points were marked for the men and women so that “women are not required to struggle due to the rush.” While Muslim leaders claimed that the practice of women praying in the Eidgah was not entirely new, they admitted to extending the space allotted for their prayers. According to a Hindustan Times report, Shaista Ambar of All India Muslim Personal Law Board had a mosque built in the state capital to make women more comfortable and offer prayers freely.
While the country might be witnessing a wave of changes in this sphere, temples like Sabarimala are fighting head-on to uphold the atavistic traditions in the name of religion. The famous temple in Kerala has banned women of menstruating age to enter the temple premises and offer their prayers. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan believes that the ban “was an echo of an outdated class system which was keen to retain male dominance in the society and discriminate women from public space and places of worship.”