NEW DELHI: Breaking a 400-year-old tradition, women on Friday entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra and offered prayers.
For over four centuries, women had been barred from stepping onto the high platform on which stands a black stone – symbolizing Lord Shanidev, the personification of planet Saturn.
However, the temple trust on Friday took a decision to end the age-old discriminatory practice and allow women inside the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple trust’s decision came following a Bombay high court order on April 1 which said that it is women’s fundamental right to go into places of worship and the government is duty-bound to protect it.
The Maharashtra government had made its stand clear in the court and had said that it will not allow any discrimination between men and women devotees.
Sayaram Bankar, a trustee of Shani Shingnapur temple, said the trustees held a meeting on Friday and decided to facilitate unrestricted entry to all devotees including men and women, in keeping with the high court directive.
The debate over the issue escalated after a woman last year tried to enter and offer prayers at the temple, in ‘breach’ of the age-old practice.
The agitation for women’s entry gained momentum over the last few months with some activists of Bhoomata Brigade led by Trupti Desai making several bids to enter the temple’s sanctum sanctorum.
They were prevented by locals leading to confrontation.
“We will welcome (Bhoomata Brigade leader) Trupti Desai also if she comes for darshan,” Sayaram Bankar said, referring to the campaign spearheaded by the Bhoomata Brigade.