Defending the practice of not allowing women to perform ‘puja’ at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra Rural Development minister Pankaja Munde Thursday opined that traditional rituals cannot be “linked with insult of the female fraternity.”
The temple, which attracts thousands of pilgrims daily, is devoted to Lord Shani and women are traditionally barred from offering prayers at the shrine, located about 250km from Mumbai.
Munde said, “Not allowing women to enter inside the shrine to perform puja has been age-old tradition. What’s wrong in that? There are several Hanuman temples where women are not allowed to enter. Each temple has its own rules. It is not something that has been recently enforced.”
Munde’s statement, which comes days after a woman walked inside the shrine and made offerings by climbing the podium (chautara) \by breaching security, drew sharp criticism from Opposition NCP.
Chitra Wagh, women’s wing president of the state NCP, criticised Munde’s statement. “In a progressive state like ours, instead of appreciating the move to break the traditions that are against women, the BJP Minister, by making such a statement, has taken state back to an era where women were not treated on par with men,” she said.