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'Aren't women human beings before God?'

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July 05, 2006

Kannada actress and producer Jayamala has created a stir in Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa and one of the most revered Hindu shrines in southern India.

The actress, 47, recently revealed that she entered the room where the idol of Lord Ayyappa is located at the Sabarimala temple, 19 years ago.

Jayamala's revelation comes shortly after the recent deva prasnam, an astrological examination about the temple management. The examination, it is said, found several 'inauspicious' activities in the temple's daily management.

The temple authorities have rejected Jayamala's claim, and say no woman can enter that room. Temple rules bar women from entering the temple after attaining puberty and only allow them in after menopause. That is, women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed in the temple.

In an interview with Managing Editor George Iype, Jayamala confirms she had entered the temple's innermost room, touched Lord Ayyappa's idol, all with the knowledge of temple authorities.

Why the sudden revelation?

I entered the temple 19 years ago. Why should I lie regarding Lord Ayyappa in whom I believe?

I wrote a letter to astrologer Parapanangadi Unnikrishna Panicker about my entry recently. It was he who leaked the letter to the media and the public.

Didn't you know that women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed into the temple?

No. I did not know about those rules. I visited the shrine along with my husband (Kannada actor Prabhakar). Nobody then dissuaded me from entering the shrine. In fact, they all helped me enter the shrine.

But the temple authorities say you are lying.

It is sad that the temple administration is blaming me now. I entered the temple with the knowledge of the authorities. I did not touch Lord Ayyappa's feet knowingly but it happened as I was pushed and jostled. I accidentally touched the deity.

Do you think you committed a crime by entering a temple where women are not allowed?

Aren't women human beings before God?

Why is there discrimination against women for praying before God? I do not understand. I have not committed a mistake because I visited Lord Ayyappa. I have faith in my God.

Will you visit the Sabarimala temple again?

I will certainly visit Sabarimala again. I am a true devotee of the Lord, I am sure he will do justice to me as I have not committed any mistake. In fact, as I told the media earlier, I want to celebrate my 50th birthday by visiting the shrine again.

The temple authorities have launched a vigilance probe against your revelations.

I think the temple authorities are making an unnecessary controversy out of this. It pains me a lot that a small issue is made into a mountain. Allow me to live in peace.

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