Police detained a group of 40 women planning to break a centuries-old prohibition on the entry of female devotees into the sanctum sanctorum of the Trimbakeshwar temple in Mahrashtra’s Nashik district on Monday.
Marching under the Bhumata brigade banner, the women set off from Pune to enter the Shiva temple on Mahashivratri despite stiff resistance from the temple’s trustees and local villagers.
The outfit was led by Trupti Desai, who made an attempt to breach an identical ban at the Shani Shingnapur temple in Mahrashtra’s Ahamednagar district on Republic Day but was stopped by police.
“Where are achhe din promised by government. Why is chief minister not intervening?” asked Desai. “The police have insulted the women of the state.”
This is the latest in a series of similar attempts across the country that has sparked a debate on religious traditions that bar female devotees from entering the inner chambers of shrines, sometimes for reasons of pollution.
The temple is located some 30 kilometers from Nashik and is a major Lord Shiva shrine, containing one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ – devotional objects representing the deity.
The political establishment has been dragged into the debate, with Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar saying the issue could be resolved by dialogue.
“Our democratic set up allows everyone to put up their sides. When two sides disagree on certain things, the issue can be resolved by dialogue,” said Mungantiwar, during his visit to Trimbakeshwar temple.
Police had deployed 300 personnel at Nandur, around 130 kilometers from the temple, to stop the women.
“We have detained some women considering the law and order situation. These women will be released after due procedure,” said police official.
The temple trust has backed the ban and called the women’s attempt a ‘stunt’.
“At a time when the intelligence agencies have issued security alert to various religious places, the stunt by Bhumata brigade will only add burden on police here,” said woman trustee of the ancient temple.
But the state commission for women supported the initiative.
“In our culture, equal status has been given to both men and women… this is the same for worshipping gods also. The women can worship god as men do. We feel that society must work in accordance with this and provide equal opportunity to all,” said commission chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar.