Leaning into India's Temples ; 'Dashing' Activist Leads the Campaign for Gender Equality in Religion

By Anand, Geeta | International New York Times, May 2, 2016 | Go to article overview

Leaning into India's Temples ; 'Dashing' Activist Leads the Campaign for Gender Equality in Religion


Anand, Geeta, International New York Times


Trupti Desai has emerged at the forefront of a growing campaign for gender equality in religion, leading women into the holy sanctums of temples.

When the priests learned to their horror that a woman had somehow slipped into the holy shrine of Shani Shingnapur Temple to pray late last year, they immediately began an elaborate purification ceremony, dousing the deity in yogurt and honey.

They then suspended a temple security guard for the laxity that allowed a woman to enter the shrine for the first time anyone could remember in its 350-year history.

The story might have ended there, had it not caught the eye of a 31-year-old activist, Trupti Desai, who to that point had limited her activities primarily to demanding rights for slum dwellers. That the priests would be upset came as no surprise to Ms. Desai, a practicing Hindu who fasts every Saturday. She was well aware that the Shani temple and many others forbid women to enter the innermost sanctums, believing that they are unclean because they menstruate or that they might disturb the celibate deity and priests.

But something about the frenzied cleansing spurred her outrage. "That was intolerable to me," she said. "God doesn't discriminate between men and women. Why should religion?"

Since that episode in November, Ms. Desai has emerged at the forefront of a growing campaign for gender equality in religion, leading bands of women into the holy sanctums of temples, often in the face of violent assaults by priests and others that have been recorded on cameras and broadcast on national television.

The public attention has forced the government in her home state of Maharashtra to enforce a court judgment allowing women into any part of a temple a man can enter. Last week, she crossed religious lines to join a peaceful protest with Muslim groups against the exclusion of women from the tomb of the Haji Ali mosque in Mumbai.

Her efforts have also shined an unaccustomedly bright light on two cases before the Supreme Court. One challenges the exclusion of women ages 10 to 50 from entering a sacred temple in south India, which Ms. Desai said she planned to visit this month and demand to enter.

"Religion is the final frontier in gender discrimination," said Indira Jaising, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court who is arguing both cases. "Now, the challenge is coming from the heart of these communities."

The Indian Constitution forbids discrimination, so women have generally received support in the courts. But they have faced tough resistance from traditional male hierarchies in translating those victories into actual rights.

That is where Ms. Desai comes in. She is hard to pigeonhole. Her traditional Hindu background confuses some longtime feminists who support her campaign but cannot figure out her motivations.

Vidya Bal, 80, a feminist and atheist who for decades has run a group fighting violence against women, said she had met Ms. Desai and found her to be a "dashing and bold lady." But she said she also found that they did not share the same "intellectual understanding" of women's issues.

Ms. Desai was raised in Pune, a bustling city a three-hour drive from Mumbai. She said her father left home for an ashram when she was a toddler, and her mother had to raise her and two siblings by herself. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Leaning into India's Temples ; 'Dashing' Activist Leads the Campaign for Gender Equality in Religion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.