The trust of the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district may have broken with tradition to appoint a female chief last week but the move appears symbolic as women are still barred entry into the popular shrine.
The appointment of Anita Shete is being seen as a damage-control exercise to thwart an attempt by women’s groups to stage a massive protest on January 26 and touch the deity, breaching a decades-old tradition.
Shete too has said she would not take any step to challenge the tradition at the village, located 330 kilometers north-east of Mumbai.
“I have a deep faith in different traditions at Shani Shingnapur village. I will not do anything that will break those traditions,” said Shete, who comes from a family that had held key positions in the temple committee.
The move comes in the backdrop of a popular movement to push for women’s entry into the holy shrine. A group of young women entered the sanctum sanctorum last year and one person climbed the platform and touched the presiding deity, Shani.
This sparked outrage among the local residents, who purified the idol with a cleansing ceremony on November 28, triggering widespread criticism across the state.