Ready To Wait campaign
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The Ready To Wait campaign is a social movement initiated in September 2016 by a group of female devotees of Lord Ayyappa from India, as a response to a petition filed in the Supreme Court by women's groups to demand right to enter the Sabarimala temple, located in the South Indian state of Kerala. which traditionally restricts entry of women of reproductive age (10 to 50 yrs). The campaigners of "Ready To Wait" asserted their willingness to respect the traditions regarding entry to the Sabarimala temple. It started as a social media campaign with the hashtag #ReadyToWait and soon gained momentum as Hindu women from all over the country took to social media to show their support.
The women devotees eventually petitioned the Supreme Court to intervene in the pending litigation on Sabarimala temple entry for women of a certain age, through "People for Dharma", a Chennai-based organization.  The lawyer for "People for Dharma", J Sai Deepak argued for the rights of Lord Ayyappa, the residing deity of Sabarimala temple as a distinct legal personality for which he received praise by the Supreme Court of India. The hearing for the petition concluded on August 1, 2018 and the Supreme Court has reserved judgement on the case.
According to the legend, Lord Ayyappa, the main deity of the Sabarimala temple, has taken a vow to remain in the state of eternal celibacy (nitya-brahmachari) in his form at Sabarimala Temple. As such the shrine restricts entry to women of reproductive age (10 to 50 yrs). This restriction was previously challenged as well, however, the Kerala High Court had upheld the restriction in its 1991 judgement. An organization called "Indian Young Lawyers Association" filed a public interest litigation in 2006 but it didn't gain national prominence until January 2016 when the Supreme Court asked the Government of Kerala and Travancore Devaswom Board to submit their response with regards to temple entry issue. The case was finally referred to a five-member bench by Supreme Court of India in October 2017. This was around the same time when the Supreme Court of India had decided to uplift the restrictions barring entry of women to Haji Ali Dargah (a Muslim shrine which also restricts entry of women), where the petitioners had also argued that restricting entry amounts to discrimination against women.
This led to the creation of a social media campaign using the hashtag of #ReadyToWait, where women devotees of Lord Ayyappa posted their photographs holding a placard bearing the slogan #ReadyToWait.. The campaign went viral within a day and was covered by mainstream media. The campaigners, led by four women devotees from Kerala, Shilpa Nair, Anjali George, Aishwarya Krishnan, and Padma Pillai opposed this petition arguing that the restriction of entry is due to the celibate nature of the deity and therefore, not discriminatory against women. As such, respecting the traditions of the temple and the will of the deity, they are ready to wait until the appropriate age to visit Sabarimala. The campaigners also pointed out that the tradition at Sabarimala is based on the concept that Ayyappa of Sabarimala is in the form of a Kumāra (teenager) observing Brahmacharya. They contrast this form of Ayyappa from other Ayyappa temples like Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu, and Achankovil. In these other three temples, Ayyappa is in three different forms namely Bāla (child) in Kulathupuzha, Bhārya-sametha (lit. accompanying wife) in Achankovil and Tāpasa (ascetic) in Aryankavu. These four 'pratishtas' (installations) denote the four stages of human life according to Hindu scriptures. Except in Sabarimala, where Ayyappa is in his Brahmachari phase, there is no restriction on entry of women in the other three temples or in any other Ayyappa temple around the globe.
The overwhelming response to the social media campaign emboldened the organizers to file an application of intervention at the Supreme Court. People For Dharma was created as their legal entity. Their lawyer, J Sai Deepak, appeared in the Supreme Court of India on July 26, 2018 where he argued for the rights of Lord Ayyappan as a distinct legal personality. According to Press Trust of India's report in Business Standard:
"The lawyer, who was initially granted 10-15 minutes time in the forenoon to put forth his submissions, argued for more than one-and-half hours without being asked by any of the judges to stop and was quick to respond to queries from the bench.
Arguing for the "constitutional right" of Lord Ayappa, he said the deity's will to remain celibate needed to be respected under Articles 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and 25(1) (freedom of religion) of the Constitution."
During the hearing, lawyers for the defendants pointed out that there are Hindu temples which forbid entry of men on particular days and contend that such practices are part of the history and cultural diversity of Indic Civilization that ought to be respected. Misunderstandings regarding Sabarimala are the outcome of ascribing a human form to God, they argue, and explain that Santana Dharma treats God as a manifestation of universal energy. The campaigners stress that there is no blanket ban on the entry of women and refute reports which claim so as motivated.The campaigners alleged that the groups that campaigned and petitioned for right to entry in Sabarimala, may not have any belief in Hindu traditions or any interest in securing rights for Hindu women.
The hearing for the petition concluded on August 1, 2018 and the Supreme Court has reserved judgement on the case.
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