Amid locals protesting women entering the inner sanctum (garba griha) of the Trimbakeshwar temple, a group of women activists broke the age-old tradition early on Thursday morning by entering the core area of the temple. Agitated locals called for a bandh for the day to show their discontent over the issue.
At around 6 am, women from the Swaraj Sanghatana, led by Vanita Gutte, reached the temple located in Maharashtra’s Nashik district in wet clothes. Having been allegedly assaulted the day before by locals who barred their entry, the activists were accompanied by police through the temple.
“Following yesterday’s violence, the women had requested us to provide protection while entering the temple. Accordingly, we provided them protection,” said a police official.
The police apparently booked around 150 people for the assault.
The Trimbakeshwar Devasthan Trust last week decided to allow women into the Lord Shiva temple’s sanctum sanctorum for an hour every day, but with a rider -- that women be clothed in wet cotton or silk garments while offering prayers in the core area.
The decision followed the agitation by Pune-based Swarajya Mahila Sanghatana, headed by Vanita Gutte. The women activists, however, had earlier refused to follow the conditions.
The issue of women entering the inner sanctum of certain temples came to national attention in January when hundreds of women activists attempted to storm into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra. After months of protests, and the Bombay high court observing that entering a temple was a fundamental right of every person, the temple trust finally decided to allow women on Arpil 8. The decision opens the doors for women to contest similar bans at other temples.
Gutte expressed her gratitude to media and the state administration, including the police, for changing the temple’s policy.
“When we returned to the temple after having a bath, we were told that the time to enter the inner sanctum is now over. When we resisted, the local residents assaulted us right in front of the god,” a woman activist said.
For locals, both in the towns of the Trimbakeshwar temple and Shani Shingnapur temple, breaking the decades-old tradition has been a sore issue, as many believe in keeping the practice intact.