The row over the entry of women in Shani Shingnapur temple to offer prayers finally ended on Friday after women were allowed to enter the inner sanctum by the temple trust. Women activists, including Trupti Desai, had been trying to enter the famous Lord Shani temple in Maharashtra for months but were unsuccessful in doing so. Temple officials said that women will "neither be encouraged nor stopped" from entering, thus lifting a centuries-old ban.
Earlier on Friday, 100 men defied the temple officials as they forcefully entered the inner sanctum. Reversing a centuries-old rule, the temple had earlier said neither men nor women would be allowed into the area having an idol placed on an outdoor platform. The new restrictions ignored a court ruling which had said that both men and women must have equal access to Hindu places of worship. In order to stop the women, the temple earlier on Friday barred the entry of male devotees into the inner sanctum, except the male priests.
Desai was not allowed to enter the temple on April 4. She was detained by the police on earlier occasion as she came near to the temple. Once she had even vowed that she would enter the temple with ropes from a helicopter, however, local officials denied flying rights to her. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis supported the court order saying there is no place for discrimination in Hindu culture.
"There is no place for discrimination in Hindu culture. We will implement the honourable high court's decision in true spirit," he had said.
Sayaram Bankar, a trustee of Shani Shingnapur temple, said the trustees held a meeting today and decided to facilitate unrestricted entry to all devotees including men and women, in keeping with the high court directive. “We will welcome (Bhoomata Brigade leader) Trupti Desai also if she comes for darshan,” he said, referring to the campaign spearheaded by the outfit for breaking the tradition followed by the Lord Saturn shrine.
Temple trust spokesman Haridas Gaywale also said, “The trust has at the meeting decided there will not be any discrimination and today all parts of Shani temple are open for all.” Desai welcomed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open gates of the sacred “Chauthara” for men and women devotees, and said it was a “wise” step on their part.
“Der se aye lekin durusta aye” (It was late but in the end correct decision),” she said reacting to the development that signalled a victory for her prolonged fight against gender discrimination at places of worship. “We are happy that the temple trustees have taken a wise decision eventually,” she told PTI. Desai said she and her group of activists would be soon leaving for Shani Singnapur to offer prayers at the temple.
She hoped that trustees at Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur respectively, too would take similar decision to end injustice against women devotees.
(With PTI inputs)