How row over Shani temple banning women could have been avoided | analysis | Hindustan Times
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How row over Shani temple banning women could have been avoided

The row over an age-old ban on women’s entry into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra could have been avoided had the BJP-led government looked at the example set by the famous Pandharpur temple by allowing female priests to perform rituals.

analysis Updated: Jan 27, 2016 23:58 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Trupti Desai (in pink) who headed the protest by women activists for entry to the Shani Shignapur temple complex participates in a dharna at the temple.
Trupti Desai (in pink) who headed the protest by women activists for entry to the Shani Shignapur temple complex participates in a dharna at the temple.(PTI Photo)

The row over an age-old ban on women’s entry into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra could have been avoided had the BJP-led government looked at the example set by the famous Pandharpur temple by allowing female priests to perform rituals.

On Tuesday, police and villagers stopped dozens of female activists attempting to break the centuries-old ban on women entering the inner sanctum of the unique temple in Ahmednagar district which has no walls or roof and is dedicated to Lord Shani, a deity associated with the planet Saturn.

Reacting to the developments, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that everyone irrespective of the gender have a right to pray and supported a dialogue between the activists and the temple authorities to end the confrontation.

However, Fadnavis could have avoided the unnecessary controversy by looking at the brief history of Pandharpur temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna and his consort Rukmini, and the radical changes the authorities had introduced.

Read: Women have right to pray, hold talks to end Shani temple row: Fadnavis

In August 2014, the authorities at the Vitthal-Rukmini temple employed non-Brahmin and female priests to perform deity rituals after the Supreme Court stripped Brahmin families of their decades-old right to appoint priests by claiming ancestral right over the temple.

A popular pilgrimage for the Warkari sect in Maharashtra, the temple attracts around two crore devotees every year.

Following the decision, the government reconstituted the Vitthal-Rukmini trust, which in turn decided to bring in progressive changes.

The trust issued advertisement and later interviewed 129 people from different castes and both genders for the post of temple priests. Despite the opposition to this change, the trust went ahead and appointed 10 priests. The trust also gave two women priests the responsibility of performing puja.

In the case of Shani Shingnapur, a petition is already pending in Bombay high court over the ban on entry of women. The Supreme Court is also hearing arguments from petitioners against Kerala’s Sabarimala temple’s no-women-allowed stricture.