A committee in Bengal disallows women from entering the pandal during Kali puja (Representational)
The shadow of Kerala's Sabarimala temple row over the entry of women into the shrine has reached a Kali Puja in Kolkata, where the committee did not allow women to enter its pandal amid protests by scholars.
Ever since the worship of the idol began 34 years ago, priests of Tarapith, a Shakti pith in West Bengal's Birbhum district, didn't allow women to enter the pandal, members of the 'Chetla Pradip Sangha' puja committee told reporters.
"We wish to maintain such rules, which lay down that if any woman enters the pandal during the puja, there will be a tragedy in our locality. We cannot break this tradition that we have for the past 34 years," joint secretary of the puja committee Saibal Guha said.
Only male members of the puja committee and the locality prepare 'prasad and bhog' (food) for goddess Kali.
"Our puja committee has women members, but they don't enter the pandal as they know it might annoy goddess Kali. They help men in other tasks like bringing the idol to the pandal and then join men during the immersion procession," another puja committee member Saheb Das said.
Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri termed such rules as extreme manifestation of patriarchy and misogyny.
"Why are they worshiping a goddess then? What the organisers practise has nothing to do with scriptures. There is no rule to prevent women from being present during puja inside a temple," Mr Bhaduri said.
A senior priest and scholar Shambhunath Kritya Smrititirtho said "there is no rule to disallow women inside the premises where the idol is kept."
A local woman devotee Sabita Das, however, has no objection to the practice. "Ever since I came to the area as daughter-in-law of a family 20 years ago, I have seen the practice followed. We don't want to break the tradition. It is embedded in our faith," she said.