Shani temple set for January 26 showdown. The temple in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district landed in controversy after a woman climbed the platform on November 28 and was criticised.
Outfits led by Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and its women’s wing Ranragini Shakha have decided to mobilise nearly 2,000 women to form a “protective circle” outside Shani Shingnapur temple on January 26 and restrict entry of a group of women, who have vowed to break the tradition preventing women from climbing the platform on which the idol is installed.
The temple in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district landed in controversy after a woman climbed the platform on November 28 and was criticised. On December 19, four more women, including Trupti Desai of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, tried to climb the platform, angering local villagers. The Bhumata Brigade then announced that it would mobilise at least 400 women and enter the temple on Republic Day to break the tradition.
At a press meet Friday, representatives of Hindutva organisations said they had started Hindu Dharmik Parampara Rakshan Mohim (movement to protect religious traditions of Hindus) to protect the age-old tradition at Shani Shingnapur.
Monika Gawade of Ranragini Shakha said that about 2,000 women from different parts of the state would form a “protective circle” around the temple on January 26. “Women villagers at Shani Shingnapur would support us. We will follow democratic ways. If anyone tries to break the tradition, we would stop them with the help of police,” she said.
“As per Adhyatma Shastra (spiritual science), Lord Shani is considered as Ugra Devata. The vibrations emerging from Lord Shani have harmful effects on women… So the issue of women not being allowed to worship Lord Shani from close proximity should not be seen as gender inequality. We have a temple in Rajasthan where men are not allowed to worship. Instead of studying spiritual reasons behind Hindu traditions, organisations like Bhumata Brigade and atheist groups want to do a publicity stunt at Shani Shingnapur temple,” said Sunil Ghanwat, an office-bearer of HJS. Rashmi Naik of Sanatan Sanstha said, “Women have equal and important place in Hindu dharma, but Hindu traditions should be protected for the benefit of women.”
On the other hand, Trupti Desai of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade said they were not going to back off. “We aim for gender equality. Our Constitution gives equal rights to men and women. We have purposefully chosen the Republic Day. We are not committing any crime, but still the police have issued a notice to me. It says action will be taken if we create any law and order problem at Shani Shingnapur,” she said.
Local police has said that they won’t permit the formation of a “protective circle” outside the temple. The HJS had said that they submitted an application seeking permission in this regard. Ahmednagar SP Saurabh Tripathi said, “We cannot give permission for any such action. We are keeping a close watch and measures will be taken to maintain law and order.”
Meanwhile, Anita Shete, who recently became the first woman to be appointed as president of the Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust in 53 years, has said she would back the Hindutva groups and not allow the temple’s tradition to be violated.