A forest temple that has thousands of years of mythological and tribal history, customs and belief is in the centre of a storm.
The storm unleashed by the believers and devotees of Swami Ayyappan on one side, and the freedom fighters for gender equality on the other.
Now is this truly and exclusively a gender issue? And even if it is so can gender supersede an institutional practise which is based on beliefs and rituals and customs based on those beliefs which have been passed on down the historic times.
The larger question here is “Is freedom a context free phenomenon?”
If it is so the environment, interest, participation, and most importantly “responsibility” is not a criteria or factor to nuance the experience of freedom. It is just freedom to do what one wishes to wherever, whenever. Can the human society and what we have evolved to from a primitive life, afford such a color less and detached view of things and order?
Isn’t this a larger problem where the human society and existence is at the fringes of a free fall – a fall to the unknown space defined by faceless automatons of AI, culture-free expressions and emoticons of social media, self-centered competition ruled by apathy, and a one-sided view of what is to be an individual defined by the human species, while the central feature of what is special about the human species in the evolutionary history is its multiculturalism and plurality expressed through varied beliefs and expressions.
Can freedom supersede the foundations of belief and devotion that are founded on certain customs? Why the hurry to declare “freedom” by demolishing certain so called customs? And, finally even if you demolish those culturally and mythologically bound beliefs and get on to the holy shrine, will such a forcefully gained freedom make an impact in your life transforming you to the heights of religious and spiritual experience codified by the customs that you have just defied?
Well, the gain of such forced freedom can only be from one’s own sense of created boundedness and not a freedom that can be contextualised within certain cultural and religious practises.
A simple sense to be sensitive about is – if a particular non-public space codified by its beliefs, customs and practises do not wish to invite those who defy – why force oneself onto that space and then declare freedom? Now, whose freedom is being attacked?
Freedom that is not contextualised, is bound to lead to anarchy, non-committal choice-making, and an identity that is virtual.
The most important idea is we cannot afford a context-free freedom, which is a mirage and self-gratifying solipsistic entity.