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Shani Shingnapur temple: Who says women are not allowed inside, I had been there
While the entire India was busy in celebrating 67th Republic Day on 26th January 2016, a group of women from Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, a women organization, created law and order issue at Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district in the name of "equal status for women to do worship".
Of late the Shani Shingnapur Temple has been hitting headlines for all wrong reasons. It started with a CCTV footage going viral few months back showing a girl climbing to the sanctum of the Shrine and touching the Deity Shani Maharaj (which is in the form of a Black Rock). After that the Temple Trust did a "Shhudhhikaran (Purification)" of the God as it has been a tradition there that "Women are not allowed to touch the idol".

Well…I'm a strong believer - if not a Feminist - of Equality, no gender discrimination and equal status for women in all spheres of life. But what I couldn't really understand about the controversy surrounding the Shani Shingnapur Temple is the "timing of the protest".

Before coming to my opinion over the controversy let me share my personal experience at this temple. A decade ago (in 2005) I had been to this place for the first time. We had a "Shiridi trip" along with four friends of my husband. After the morning Aarti at Shiridi…we headed for Shani Shingnapur temple and reached there in the afternoon. There I was told that ladies were not allowed inside the temple premises. I stayed inside the vehicle while all men took bath wearing a typical saffron cloth available there and proceeded with wet cloths to temple for prayer. That's how I came to know about the tradition. After that also we had been there for many times and followed the same.

However 4 years back when we shifted to Mumbai from Delhi…we again had a trip to it (2011) and were surprised to see the change. There was no restriction for women to enter inside the temple premises and no "compulsory" wearing of that typical saffron colored wet cloth for men. We went inside the premises. I saw a unique open temple which had no walls or roof. A self-emerged five-foot high black stone stands on a platform and is worshiped as Lord Shani.

Everyone was in queue for their turn to handover the "sesame oil" which is used to pour on the deity as a part of the ritual" to the priests who were doing so on behalf of the people. Nobody (both men and women) were allowed to climb that platform.

So the "fact" is both men and women are allowed to enter the temple while "no one" is allowed to climb the platform for any reason by the temple trust. That's what I have seen personally.

That's why I was surprised to hear the controversy on "Women Entering the Temple" which was there ten years back and not now. One can check out the Congress veteran Shashi Tharoor performing rituals at Shani Temple with Sunanda Pushkar (when she was alive).

Also had women not allowed to enter in the temple, how could the CCTV girl climbed onto the platform?

Well…coming to the protests by the women brigade of Bhumata Organization, I feel it's just an attempt to get "Recognition" and not at all getting any "Reformation" in such tradition. Had it been an attempt for reformation, they would have been taken the path of debate and discussion and not the confrontation.

By creating a law and order issue which they called "protests" they only ruined the sanctity of that place and the peace of those people who were staying there. Also it appears to be an attempt to malign the image of temple itself.

Shani Shingnapur is also a village known for "not having doors in the houses" as the people believe that there would be no theft as the Lord Shani himself protects the houses. I know it may sound bizarre to many but it is a reality and a matter of faith of the people of that place. The politics has only ruined the peace of the local people here.

I am really amused at the hashtags "#RightToPuja or #RightToPray - which I believe the media and the activists in India have found a new muse these days.

Okay, Okay…they are putting across the Right to Equality - Article 14 of the Constitution that says "Equality before the law -The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India". But does it ensure "Equality before Religious Practices?" Because Article 25 of the Constitution says freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.

Every temple (in fact places of worship) has their own code of conducts and guiding rules which are ensured by the Constitution. Many temples (for example Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha) don't allow "Non-Hindus", given to the insecurity they have since ages, as in past various Non-Hindu forces attacked the temple. You can't force them to allow everyone as it doesn't come before any law for that matter.

I personally believe there should be no such rules that women can't be allowed inside the inner sanctum of a Place of Worship or any rule that differentiates between man and woman or Humans in general as I feel before God…everyone is equal. Change can be brought out with healthy debates and discussions and not at all "Confrontations" that to selectively. Remember even Gandhiji never approved "Force Entry of Harizans" in the temples though he was against the idea of not allowing them inside them.

I have been taught from my childhood that "Jadya Narjasthya Pujyanti, Ramyanti Tatra Devata". If I need to force myself inside a place, I don't believe it remains a "Place for worship" at all. I would respect the religious feelings of others. I hope good sense prevail on Trupti Desai and her tribe who wants gain recognition through such acts.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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