By Nisheeth Brahm Chandel
Gender bias is a fairly common practice due to which women are denied equal status and not allowed to enter religious places, take part in ceremonies, offer prayers or touch the deities. Times are changing…. Today, though small in number many women priests are conducting religious ceremonies.
But have you heard of temples in India where men are not even allowed to enter? Likewise have you heard of a temple where even male priests are not allowed to enter for few days every month?
Here is a list of temples in India where men are not allowed to enter the temple for whatever reasons:
Jagatpita Brahma Temple, Pushkar, Rajasthan: Married men are strictly not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of this 14th century old temple dedicated to Lord Brahma the Creator of the Universe at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Though rated to be among ten most sacred religious places in the world and one of the rarest of the rare temples of Lord Bramha men married men only allowed till the outer hall of the shrine not beyond and an ascetic priest performs the puja on their behalf. The story goes that Lord Brahma was waiting for his wife Goddess Saraswati, to perform a yagna, but since she got delayed he married Goddess Gayatri and went ahead with the puja. This infuriated Goddess Saraswati so much that she cursed Brahma that there would be no temples to worship him. Since that day there are no temples in which Brahma is worshipped and no married man enters the inner sanctum of this temple lest troubles may arise in his marital life because of the curse. This is the reason why, men don’t go inside and handover whatever offering to a celibate or unmarried priest from outside.
Devi Kanyakumari / Kumari Amman Temple, Kanyakumari: Only women are allowed to enter this 3000 year old Kumari Amman temple devoted to the virgin form of Goddess Kanyakumari (Durga). Devi Kanyakumari is considered to be the goddess of virginity and penance. The Kumari Amman Temple is believed to be one of the Shakti Peethams. Only celibate men are allowed till the gate of the temple while the married ones are completely prohibited from setting their foot inside the temple premises. The entrance to the temple is through the northern gate, while the deity is faces the east.
Attukal Temple, Kerala: this is one of the only temples in the world where women are worshipped but men are not allowed to enter the premises of this temple aptly described as the Sabarimala Kumbh Mela of the South. Millions of women visit the Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Kerala during the 10 day Pongala festival in Feb of every year. Every year in the month of Kumbham, crowd of female devotees gather and prepare the ritualistic offering of Pongala in small pots in the open to appease the ruling deity Goddess Bhadrakali, also known as Kannaki.
Chakkulathukavu Temple, Kerala: This over 3,000 years old temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathi observes an annual ritual called ‘Naari Puja’ on the first Friday of December. On this day called Dhanu male priests wash the feet of female devotees fasting for 10 days. As per tradition spelt out in the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures male priests wash the feet of the fasting women devotees as a mark of respect for the divinity inherent in every woman. During this festival only women are allowed to enter the temple premises. All this is based on the belief that female devotees visiting on this particular day are the incarnation of Chakkulathu Amma (goddess). So as a mark of respect women devotees are showered with flowers and sprinkled with perfume, and later aarti is performed. This tradition of worshipping women has been going on over the ages.
Chengannur Bhagavathy Temple- this Goddess Parvathi temple in the Chegannur town of Kerala remains closed for three to five days when the Goddess is supposed to be menstruating and men are not allowed to enter. According to legend the Goddess bleeds once in two or three months. It is the duty of the head priest is to watch out for blood stains on her clothing every morning. Once a ‘blood stain’ is seen, “on those days” the idol of Goddess Parvathi idol is taken out and shifted to a small room outside the sanctum sanctorum and the temple remains closed for four days. On the fourth day that the idol is bathed by women in the Pamba river with pomp and grandeur in a ritual known as arrattu. Only after all these rituals are over the male priests are allowed to touch the Goddess and apply abhisheka.
Durga Mata Temple, Muzaffarpur, Bihar: The rules are so strict in this Mata Durga temple that men are strictly prohibited even male priests who regularly perform puja at the shrine are not allowed to enter the premises. Only women can enter the temple during the particular period. It is only after the 3-4 days that when the gates of the temple are thrown open to everyone. The rules are so strictly followed that even male priest is not allowed to enter the temple premises during this time when the temple turns ‘women only’.
Trimbakeshwar Temple, Nasik, Maharashtra: Till a few years back women were not allowed to enter the inner sanctum of this temple devoted to Lord Shiva hence the Bombay High Court passed an order saying that even men shouldn’t be allowed to enter the inner sanctum. Since then, men cannot enter the temple.
Kamrup Kamakhya Temple, Assam: The Kamrup-Kamakhya temple, or simply Kamakhya Temple is one of the oldest of the 51 Shakti Pithas dedicated to mother goddess Kamakhya. Situated on the Nilachal Hill in Guwahati, Assam this temple complex is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus, especially those who practice Tantra. The main door of the temple is shut down for five days during the period when the Goddess is supposed to be menstruating. It is only female priests or sanyasis that are allowed to serve the temple during those days and the auspicious considered bleeding cloth of the Goddess Kamkhya is distributed among devotees. Men are not allowed to enter the premises during that period.
Kamakhya temple, Visakhapatnam: men are barred from entering the Kamkhaya Temple dedicated to the goddess Sahasrakshi and her consort Kameshwara in Vishakhatpatnam when the Goddess is supposed to be having her periods.
Santoshi Mata Temples: Santoshi Mata – the Goddess Mother of satisfaction is particularly worshipped by women in North India who are required to keep a fast on 16 consecutive Fridays to appease the Santoshi Maa. This fast is observed strictly to be performed by women or unmarried girls who are prohibited to eat sour fruits or pickles during the fasting period. Males are strictly prohibited from entering the premises the temple premises on Fridays.
Linga Bhairavi Temple, Coimbatore: A unique temple devoted to Linga Bhairavi an high-spirited manifestation of Aadi Shakti is taken care by women priestesses. Men aren’t allowed men to enter inside the main sanctum; there are no priests – only priestesses.