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Supreme Court deems Sabarimala Temple's entry denial to women as untouchability, permits everyone to visit the temple
The Supreme Court of India, on Wednesday, July 19, ruled that women had equal right to pray as men and everyone could visit the Sabarimala Temple.

After a long legal battle, it was in 2017 that a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had referred the matter to a constitutional bench which on July 19, 2018 observed that the 'right of a woman to pray was equal to that of a man'.

Earlier, the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala of Kerala had been prohibiting women of menstruating age (10-50 years) from entering the temple premises.

The prohibition was being enforced under Rule 3(b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965. The rule read thus: "Women who are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship shall not be entitled to enter or offer worship in any place of public worship."

It was in 1991 that the Kerala High Court had restricted entry of menstruating age group of women from offering worship at Sabarimala shrine. However, the Young Lawyers' Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging this rule in 2006 and after a long hiatus, now, a constitutional bench has permitted the entry of women to the place of worship.

It was argued that the denial of women's entry to the temple amounted to untouchbility and graded inequality between men and women in the caste order, thereby, a violation of the India Constitution.

It is well known that under the Constitution, women have a right to equality before law and using the ideology of 'purity and pollution' is a violation of the constitutional right against untouchability, i.e. Article 17.

Sabarimala is the largest Hindu pilgrimage place in the world that attracts an estimated 45-50 million devotees visiting every year. Ayyappan's temple is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. The bearded men pilgrims can be identified with black or blue dress. They shave after completion of the pilgrimage. They also smear vibhuti or sandal paste on their forehead during the pilgrimage.

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