The male bastion at Shani Shingnapur may have been stormed but in a pocket in Pune, in the heart of the city, efforts to uphold the archaic tradition continue. A cluster of ancient stone temples that stand in the middle of a co-operative housing society in Somwar Peth even today have a board at the entrance that asks women to not enter the Samadhi temples. The Siddhivinayak Keshav Society that came up some 15 years ago has never had any woman from their society enter the temples in its compound and, despite the HC ruling, little, it seems, is likely to change even now.
The three beautifully carved stone temples in the society’s complex date back to 1640.
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“I have been a resident here since the society started and since then we have these boards put up prohibiting women from entering the samadhi temples. The sadhus who took samadhi here were all brahmacharis, hence as a mark of respect for them the women have been prohibited from entering the sanctum,” explains Khemchand Gawli, secretary of the society that has some 75 apartments.
Gawli admits though that while earlier this was a diktat today it can at best be a request. “Now after Shingnapur, I cannot ask any woman who wants to go into the temple to not do so. Of late, we have had women coming to the temple from outside the society and going inside to do puja. I haven’t stopped any of them. I will not do so to the society women too now, but I do not think any of them are really keen on breaking the tradition,” he adds.
Echoing the sentiment is Sudha Rajendra Ladkat (48), who though happy with the turn of events at Shingnapur, said she would still not want to enter the temples in her society compound. “It’s an age-old tradition and I don’t want to create any ill will in the society by trying to break it. It doesn’t really matter to me if I go inside the temples or not,” she said.
Interestingly, the younger lot too are more inclined to toe the line rather than upset the prevailing system. Shradha Khandere, a law student at Fergusson College who also stays in the society, is of the view that customs are made to be followed.
“I am all for women being given equality but some restrictions are needed at times. In the case of Shingnapur there was even a scientific reason – that the rays from the stone were supposed to be harmful to women— I am not saying this is right or wrong because I haven’t checked this out, but I do not feel that if women were allowed to enter the temples it would translate into equal status for them. I feel no urge to break a custom and create unpleasantness because of it,”adds the 20-year-old.