The prime reason for Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism, in English!) to be the most misunderstood creed in the world has as much to do with politics as a lack of understanding of its core philosophy. More people drop ‘Manu Smriti’ than they drop hats without being able to quote one line from it.
Amidst all the cacophony about temple entry and gender rights, the core philosophy behind a pilgrimage to Sabarimala is lost.
The rishis of yore did penance to realise (darsana or visualisation through the mind) godhead. In order to focus the mind solely on the paramatma (Supreme Being), body and mind control were thought to be necessary. Control of bodily senses was thought to be necessary for controlling the mind. Modern science recognises there is a physiological basis to personality.
A barefoot, forty mile hike across forest tracks strewn with pebbles and stones in bone-chilling winters and a seven-mile trek across a forty-five-degree mountain is not easy. (It was originally a forty mile hike across a forest, now limited to about seven miles.) It requires rigorous conditioning of the body. The devotee practises sleeping on cold floors and walking barefoot for forty days. If this is physical conditioning, what about mind control? Brahmacharya (celibacy) requires equally rigorous mind control. In order to aid this, the devotee has cold baths twice a day, eschews spices, meat and intoxicants. A pilgrimage to Sabarimala to visit Bhagawan Ayyappa is all about brahmacharya. Wearing saffron or black clothes is a constant reminder of the need for brahmacharya.
The exclusion of women between the ages of menarche and menopause has another reason. It is not gender discrimination but gender sensitivity, intended to spare them the rigours involved in a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. In the philosophy behind a pilgrimage to Sabarimala as in every other religious practice in Sanatana Dharma, there may be other cryptic reasons not fully understood by the laity.
The ageless scriptures of the Sanatana Dharma are beyond the ken of the Indian Constitution, amended a hundred and thirty times in sixty-six years. The Constitution entrusted Your Lordships with the duty of interpreting it. There are thousands of mundane matters that need and deserve your attention better!