After a long crusade by women activists demanding entry to the inner sanctum of the Shani temple in Shingnapur, the temple trust finally granted women devotees passage into the temple on Friday.
This will be the first time in 60 years that women will be allowed to enter the garbhagriha after a decades-long tradition barred women from entering it, and conditionally restricted men too.
“We have decided to allow the women devotees on the platform,” said Sayaram Bankar, a temple trustee. The decision was taken after 11 members of the trust met to discuss the issue on Friday morning, Bankar said.
Women activists, led by Trupti Desai, welcomed the decision which follows a Bombay high court order from last week that ruled it was a woman’s fundamental right to enter a temple.
The Shani shrine has been at the centre of the raging debate for gender equality after dozens of women activists attempted to storm the temple for the first time on Republic Day this year.
“This is a big day for women today. We have managed to break a century old regressive tradition which had prevented the women from entering the temple,” said Desai who will be going to the temple along with other activists to enter the shrine.
Last week the Bombay high court ruled that entering temple is a fundamental right of women and that the government is duty bound to protect this right. The temple trust however extended its ban to men and refused to allow women from entering the temple to ensure tradition was not broken.
On Friday afternoon, around 100 men forced their way onto the inner sanctum of the temple to perform abhishek to mark Gudi Padwa.
While the trust attempted to block the men, devotees climbed the barricade and jumped onto the platform. Police, who were deployed in large numbers to maintain law and order, allegedly didn’t stop the men as they clambered on to the barricades.
Following the court order, Desai and other activists had attempted to enter the inner sanctum, but were stopped by locals, including women villagers. Police detained the activists to avoid a clash between the groups.