The 400-year-old tradition at Shani Shingnapur temple that bars women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the temple was on Friday broken by two women from Pune at 5.15 pm.
The two women, Priyanka Jagtap, 21, and Pushpak Kevadkar are members of the Bhumata Mahila Brigade which had parted ways with the Trupti Desai-led Bhumata Brigade.
“I was there at the sacred platform for 20 days. I offered worship …Unfortunately nobody opened the gates to the inner sanctum. We had to scale the gate…but nobody stopped us…it is the moment I will cherish all my life,” said Priyanka Jagtap, a student who is preparing for MPSC exam.
Earlier in the day, after the Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust announced that it will allow the entry of women, Trupti Desai and her Bhumata Brigade also headed for the temple town to break the 400-year-old tradition.
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Sanjay Bankar, manager of the temple trust, said, “We are simply following court’s order and are allowing women in the temple.” The Bombay High Court had ruled on last Wednesday that women cannot be barred from entering the temple. The temple has been in the news after the Bhumata Brigade started a campaign seeking entry into the temple.
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Welcoming the decision, Desai said, “It’s a victory of women power. We are very happy that finally our efforts have paid.”
However, village sarpanch Balasaheb Bankar said they would not allow Desai to break the tradition. He announced a Shingnapur bandh, saying the villagers would prevent Desai from entering the inner sanctum.
Around 50-odd men from the village also entered the inner sanctum of the Shani Shingnapur temple and conducted ritual bath of the rock idol of Shani. The men climbed the sacred platform defying the ban imposed by the Devasthan Trust. They conducted milk and oil baths of the Shani idol, a ritual performed thrice a year including on Gudi Padwa day, which is the Maharashtra New Year.
Rubbishing the reports that hundreds of men barged into the temple ‘forcefully’, sarpanch Bankar said, “We didn’t enter forcefully; we follow the same ritual every year and the temple trust is aware about it. It was a smooth entry wherein every man offered gangajal turn-by-turn.”
Every year, on the day of Gudi Padwa, several men from Shani Shingnapur offer ‘Gangajal’ (the sacred water of Ganga) at the core shrine area of the temple.
In November, Desai’s Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (BRB) started a movement that demanded an entry to the core shrine area of the temple, which has not been visited by women for 400 years.
The movement was triggered by the trust’s move to perform ‘purification’ of the temple after a woman entered the inner sanctum. The temple trust later denied the charge and, in January, for the first time in its history, appointed a woman – Anita Shete – as the temple trust chief.
In the past, the women’s group has been detained more than once when they forcefully tried entering the village. On January 26, when BRB announced that they will storm the Shani temple with nearly 1,000 women, the temple trust was promised strong support by right-wing outfits. Besides, the villagers, mainly women gathered to stop the BRB from entering the temple. The BRB plan never materialised as they were detained by the police at Supa village itself.
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