The Trimbakeshwar temple authorities in Nashik on Sunday imposed a restriction on men’s entry too into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Shiva shrine with an aim to provide “equal treatment” to both the genders, a trustee said.
The decision, which takes effect from Monday, comes in the wake of the Bombay high court verdict giving women equal right to men with regard to entry into temples.
It was decided at a board meeting of the Trimbakeshwar Devasthan Trust under chairperson and district judge Urmila Phalke Joshi, Lalita Shinde, one of the trustees said.
“The decision was taken to ensure equal treatment to both men and women,” Shinde said.
The development comes a day after Bhumata Ranragini Brigade Trupti Desai and 25 other women activists were taken into preventive custody to stop them from entering into the inner sanctum of the famous Shani temple in Ahmednagar’s Shignapur village. They were later released.
The ancient temple, located 30km from Nashik, is a major Lord Shiva shrine of the country, which has one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’, drawing devotees from far and wide.
According to a member of the trust, the ban on entry of women into the ‘garbhagriha’ is an age-old tradition and not something enforced in recent times. The ban goes back to the Peshwa period. As per tradition, only men were allowed entry daily between 6-7am into the area where the main ‘linga’ is placed, that too by putting on a specific gear called the sovala (silk clothing).
Women, can, however have ‘darshan’ from outside the core area. Some priests in the temple town said most of the women devotees might not want to defy the tradition.
Seeking to give a scientific dimension to the practice, they said there are certain rays that concentrate in the core area which could probably be harmful to the health of women.
The Bombay HC had recently held it is the fundamental right of women to go into places of worship. It had also directed the Maharashtra government to take pro-active steps for ensuring compliance with the law which prevents discrimination against women vis-a-vis entry to places of worship.
At the Shani shrine in Ahmednagar too, the temple management has shunned the practice of special pooja for men from the last two months after agitation demanding women’s entry into the ‘garbgriha’ gained momentum.
Now both men and women are offering prayers from an equal distance from the idol. As of now, only priests are allowed on the sacred sanctum.
The debate over the issue of womens’ entry into the sanctum sanctorum of temples in Maharashtra escalated after a woman last year tried to enter and offer prayers at the Shani Shingnapur temple in ‘breach’ of the age-old practice prohibiting entry of women. This had prompted the temple committee to suspend seven security men and the villagers to perform “purification rituals”.
Earlier on March 7, around 150 women under the banner of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade headed to the Trimbakeshwar temple seeking to break the bar on female devotees at the inner sanctum. Their attempts were, however, foiled by the police.