Idol ‘purified’ in temple town after woman breaks tradition
Locals and trustees of the famous temple of Shani in Shingnapur livid following the incident, residents observe bandh
PUNE: The idol of the ruling deity, Shani, in the famous Shingnapur town was ‘purified’ on Sunday following protests from locals after a woman performed ‘abhishek’ at the temple.
The residents and temple trustees claimed the woman had breached the long-held tradition by performing ‘abhishek’ in a temple were women are barred from the sanctum sanctorum. According to custom, only men are allowed near the idol, and that too only in wet clothes after having bath.
Another ‘abhishek’ was performed to the idol following protests against Saturday’s incident, when locals observed a bandh for few hours. The temple trust suspended seven of its staff for ‘laxity’.
Located some 330 kms northeast of Mumbai, Shingnapur, also known as Shani Shingnapur, is a town of around 4,000 in the Ahmednagar district. Devotees believe their prayers are answered at the famous temple of Shani and this attracts a large number of pilgrims. The town also follows a tradition of homes not having doors, and boasts of ‘zero crime rate’.
The woman who reportedly came to Shingnapur from Pune for darshan, went to the platform, where the five-and-half feet black rock representing the deity of Saturn is installed.
“It is a long-held tradition in our town. Women are only allowed a few meters from the idol. We have never prevented women devotees from offering prayers, but they are not allowed on the platform,” said Sayram Bankar, a temple trustee.
Justifying the act of purification by bathing the idol in milk, Bankar said it was done to undergo penance and respect the sentiments of the residents, who were unhappy over the way woman touched the idol without realising she was breaking a tradition. “We have carried out the abhishek as part of penance,” he said.
Meanwhile, a gram sabha was held over the incident that saw a large number of women. The gram sabha, while terming the act as an ‘inadvertent mistake’, unanimously passed a resolution to ‘purify’ the idol by performing abhishek.
Shivaji Darandale, another temple trustee, said they have decided to review the security measures at temple to avoid reoccurrence of such incidents.
While Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said she will raise this issue about women being discriminated at places of worship in the winter session of the Assembly, women from the town told local television channels that this was a breach of an age-old tradition.
“Ours is a peaceful town where devotees throng in large numbers and traditions are followed. What the woman did yesterday was improper,” a woman in her sixties told a TV channel.