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At this Durga temple in Bihar’s Nalanda, women are denied entry during Navaratra  

The shrine making this exclusion is Maa Aashapuri temple at Ghosrawan village in Nalanda district of south central Bihar, located about 80 km south east of state capital, Patna.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2017 18:57 IST
Reena Sopam
Reena Sopam
Hindustan Times, Patna
Maa Aashapuri temple,Ghosrawan village,Nalanda district
Maa Aashapuri temple at Ghosrawan village in Bihar’s Nalanda district. (File photo)

Ironical as it may sound, at a time when Goddess Durga is worshipped with full fervour , the annual event coming to symbolise women’s power in popular perception, there is a temple in Bihar dedicated to the deity to which women are not allowed entry during the Navaratras.

The shrine making this exclusion is Maa Aashapuri temple at Ghosrawan village, about five kilometers from the Jal Mandir, the world famous Jain shrine at Pawapuri (Giriyak block) in Nalanda district in south central Bihar and about 80 km south east of state capital, Patna.

Believed to be belonging to the Pala age, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Ashtabhuji Siddhidaatri, one among the nine images of the Durga.

The deity is known widely as Aashapuri, meaning the one who fulfils all the wishes of devotees, and is visited by thousands of devotees throughout the year. But such is its tradition that women are not allowed on the temple premises, leave alone its sanctum sanctorum, during the nine day period of Durga worship.

“We follow a purely Taantrik style of puja during Navaratra, of which women cannot be a part,” said Purendra Upadhyay, one of the priests of the temple.“It’s an old tradition and people do not want to defy it as it is believed that the violation of this rule may put a divine curse over the village and its people,” he added.

Rajeev Ranjan, a local from Ghosrawan village, said he had been witnessing this norm since his child hood days. “Women get barred from entering the temple during the festival. But I can’t say how or when this practice originated”, he said.

Only after the evening aarti of the deity on Bijoya Dashami, is the entry of women to the temple resumed for worshipping the deity and performing rituals.

It is believed that in the 9th century CE Buddhists, who followed the Vajrayana tradition, used to perform Taantrik Saadhna at this site.

“It seems this place was a full fledged study centre of Vajrayana Buddhism. Many Buddhist images have also been discovered in the village during chance findings. Some of these are even preserved at the temple and are worshipped also,” Ranjan said.

Though the temple now appears like any other modern temple and has been developed by the villagers, the Garbh Griha is quite ancient and it is believed the Goddess is being worshipped here since the 9th Century CE.

“It’s one among the 84 Siddhi Peeths of the Hindus. Even King Jayapal, one among the Pala rulers, used to visit the temple to perform puja here,” he said.

Denial of entry to women in temples has becoming a contentious issue in recent years.

In April 2016, trustees of Shani Shingnapur temple trust in Maharashtra agreed to facilitate unrestricted entry for women, including enter the sanctum sanctorum, breaking the tradition followed for several decades, following a High Court directive. The direction came after an agitation led by activist Trupti Desai.

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 18:57 IST