Activists threaten to take chopper to temple where women are barred
A women’s group has threatened to storm the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar -- if need be, from the sky route via helicopter -- on Tuesday, said an activist.
Security has been strengthened at the temple where women are barred from paying obeisance. However, the activists remain undeterred in their avowed objective -- to offer prayers at the Shani temple.
“We have already booked a helicopter and if we are not permitted to enter from the open ground, we shall drop ladders from the chopper and descend. We are not scared of any security since women’s rights are concerned,” Trupti Desai, president of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (BRB) told IANS on Monday.
She said around 1,500 women from all over Maharashtra shall troop down to the temple on Tuesday morning and perform prayers at the temple, dedicated to Lord Shani -- the personification of planet Saturn.
Desai said women must be permitted access inside the temple as the country’s Constitution treats men and women equally.
“After tomorrow’s (Tuesday) attempt succeeds, we shall launch similar agitations in other places of worship all over India where women are denied entry on various grounds,” Desai said.
Meanwhile, police and the temple authorities have put up three levels of barricades, deployed a considerable force of women constables and village volunteers to guard the temple from Tuesday’s likely onslaught by BRB activists.
The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged (svayambhu) five-foot-high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shanidev.
The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai, and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.
However, barring the temple priests, none is permitted to climb the nine steps up to the actual stone idol that represents the deity. Everybody must only offer prayers from below the platform, said a temple trustee Prafull N Surpuriya.
Shani Shingnapur is globally known as the only village where houses do not have doors and locks, and the village remains theft-free.
Even the nationalised UCO Bank’s branch in the village does not have locks on its doors.
Belief has it that thieves cannot steal or burgle in the village which is protected by Lord Shani, and misfortune and divine punishment would befall anyone who attempts to steal.
Although the temple itself has a much older history, the present form of management of its activities is over five centuries old, Surpuriya said.