The Battle for Sabarimala


Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs




The dispute over women’s access to the Hindu temple at Sabarimala, Kerala, has figured prominently in Indian and international news for nearly four years now. Nevertheless, the core issue—whether women aged 10–50 may enter the temple precincts—has remained the subject of contentious legal and political battles long after the Supreme Court of India issued its opinion in 2018. This project draws on a long-term ethnographic and legal study of Sabarimala to situate the dispute within Indian politics and constitutional law, as well as within gendered disputes over sacred spaces more broadly. Sabarimala has generated high-profile developments far outside the courtroom: street protests, Twitter campaigns, human protest ‘chains, and national election campaigns. As such, the problem of women’s entry offers a timely case study through which to explore problems of religion-state relations in secular democracies worldwide, and to connect this scholarship with popular audiences beyond the academy.