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Temple row: After women allowed entry, age-old sanctity broken, says Shingnapur sarpanch

Men and women made a beeline to the sanctum sanctorum of the famous Shani temple at Shingnapur here since morning, to offer prayers on the first Saturday, a day traditionally devoted to the deity, after lifting of 400-year-old ban on entry of women into the shrine’s core area.The temple trust on Friday lifted the ban following Bhoomata Brigade’s agitation against gender bias and the Bombay High Court order upholding the equal rights to worship.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Soon after the temple trust announced the decision, some women devotees entered the sacred area and offered worship.
ALSO READ Gender bias at temples: After Shani Shingnapur success, Trupti Desai’s next stop is Mahalakshmi templeLater, Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who had led a sustained campaign over the issue, reached the temple located in western Maharashtra and offered prayers.A smooth access to the hitherto prohibited area of the temple brought cheer to women devotees as they poured oil on the ancient black stone idol and offered flowers to the deity on Saturday, traditionally marked by prayers to Lord Shani and Lord Hanuman whose images are jointly installed at many temples.
ALSO READ On New Year day, new beginning for women at Shani Shingnapur templeHowever, the sarpanch (headman) of Shingnapur Balsaheb Bankar said that although the decision to open all gates of the temple to all devotees was taken to honour the high court order, he personally felt that the sentiments of the villages had been “hurt” by the development.”An age-old religious tradition to protect sanctity of the temple has been broken,” Bankar told PTI.The chief trustee of the temple Anita Shete said the trustees had taken the decision to uphold the high court directive and accordingly all devotees — men and women — would now have free access to the inner sanctum.Desai, who waged the battle against gender bias at places of worship, yesterday declared the trustees’ decision as “victory for women” as she went to Shingnapur to have darshan of the deity along with her activists.She also appealed to boards of Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur respectively to follow suit and stop gender discrimination against women.Interestingly, Priyanka Jagtap and Pushpak Kewadkar, the two activists of breakaway faction of Bhoomata Brigade, happened to be the first two women to have darshan at the sacred “chauthara” (platform), after lifting of the centuries old ban on the entry of women there.The two who have formed “Swaraj” brigade had parted ways with Desai alleging that her agitation had become publicity oriented with full focus on herself, relegating the cause for which the Bhoomata Brigade stood.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s solution for Shani Shinganapur: Restrict entry of both men, women

Pune: Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Sunday claimed to have broken the impasse on the ‘gender bias’ at Shani Shingnapur temple by proposing the “Tirupati Balaji” darshan model that keeps both men and women away from inner sanctum, but women’s activist Trupti Desai said she is awaiting a “proper decision” from the chief minister on the issue.

The Art of Living Foundation founder mediated on the issue by holding separate meetings with the trustees of the temple and Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who had recently led an agitation against the traditional ban on women at the temple’s sacred ‘chabutara’ (platform) at the temple.

“There are two models for darshans by devotees namely Kashi Vishwanath and Tirupati Balaji. This solution is based on the Tirupati Balaji model where no one — men or women –are allowed in the inner sanctum,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told reporters here after the meeting.

Protests at the Shani temple. Solaris imagesProtests at the Shani temple. Solaris images

Protests at the Shani temple. Solaris images

“No one (both men and women) will step on the sacred chabutara and all will have darshan of the deity from a distance of three feet away from it. Thus there will be no gender discrimination,” he said.

“It is not that you do not get blessings of God if you have a darshan from some distance,” he added.

The spiritual leader said that because of constant pouring of oil, the slippery surface of the chabutara posed the risk of skidding for the devotees who throng for darshan.

“There seems to be a communication gap between the two sides,” he felt.

However, responding to Sri Sri’s suggestion, Desai said, “If both men and women are to be disallowed to have darshan by stepping on the chabutara in future, then activists of Bhoomata Brigade should have an opportunity to perform the last pooja at the sacred platform in the presence of Sri Sri and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.”

Asked what was her next move since she was not satisfied with the formula evolved by Sri Sri , Desai said, “We are scheduled to meet Maharashtra Chief Minister next week. We hope he will take a proper decision on the issue backing women’s rights to end gender bias at religious places.”

On 26 January, at least 400 women volunteers, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had made an unsuccessful attempt to storm the chabutara of the temple when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km from the shrine.

PTI

Shani temple row: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar claims to have found a solution

Mediating on the issue of gender bias at Maharashtra’s Shani Shingnapur temple, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Sunday claimed to have arrived at a solution that allows both men and women to have darshan of the deity some distance away from the sacred “Chabutara” (platform).Citing two models of facilitating darshan, practised at Kashi Vishwanath and Tirupati Balaji temples, Ravi Shankar said, “It is agreed that no one – man or woman – will step on the sacred Chabutara at the Shanti temple where oil is constantly poured as it can result in possible skidding.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This contentious issue has been settled. There will not be any discrimination based on gender and all will have equal right of worship,” he told a press conference at Balewadi near Pune.While the temple trustees present at the meeting agreed with Ravi Shankar’s formula based on the Tirupati Balaji darshan model, Trupti Desai, who led the recent agitation of the Bhoomata Brigade seeking women’s entry into the temple’s inner sanctum, said, “If nobody is to be allowed on the Chabutara, the priests who perform pooja of the deity at the sacred platform should include women.”Desai said if both men and women are going to be banned from stepping on the Chabutara, activists of Bhoomata Brigade should be given an opportunity to perform the “last pooja” on the sacred platform in the temple in Ahmednagar district, in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.She also said that it was wrong to disallow men to perpetuate ban on women.Ravi Shankar said, “It is not that you do not get blessings of god if you have a darshan from some distance.” According to the spiritual guru, all men and women could have darshan of the Shani deity from a distance of three feet without any gender discrimination. He also supported the Bhoomata Brigade’s demand for women priests.Desai claimed the trustees were still insisting on a “male mindset” in supporting the proposal to ban men from stepping on the Chabutara in order to perpetuate the tradition prohibiting women from doing so. She said she had told Ravi Shankar that it was wrong to say that the tradition banning women from stepping on the Chabutara was 400-year-old.A trustee of the temple said it would not be possible to allow women to perform “last pooja” before implementing uniform ban on both the sexes.Asked what was her future plan since she was not happy with the solution as proposed by the spiritual guru, Desai said she was looking forward to her meeting with the Chief Minister next week and hoped that Fadnavis would take a “proper decision” backing women’s rights.

Shani Shingnapur controversy: Activists’ group Bhoomata Brigade submits memorandum to CM Fadnavis

Pune: The women’s outfit spearheading the campaign against a centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform at Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra on Wednesday brought their fight to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for lifting of the restrictions.

A day after police foiled the attempt by 400 women activists to barge into the famous temple in Ahmednagar district as part of their high-voltage stir, Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai met Fadnavis in Pune and presented a memorandum of demands seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.

The meeting with Fadnavis took place on the sidelines of a function in Pune even as the Gram Sabha at the village where the shrine is located passed a resolution condemning Desai and her volunteers for attempts to storm the ‘Chauthara” (sacred platform). The plan was foiled when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km away from the shrine. The activists were released after being detained for a few hours.

Fadnavis, who on Tuesday favoured a dialogue on the issue in the wake of a tense showdown, did not make any comment on the set of demands before leaving the venue.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. PTIMaharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis in a file photo. PTI

Desai, however, told reporters that Fadnavis favourably responded to the demand as he accepted the memorandum with a positive assurance. She also suggested he visit the temple along with his wife to strengthen the women’s cause.

Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform (chauthara) of the temple where only men are permitted to make offerings to the deity (Shani).

Fadnavis on Tuesday favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.

“Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women have the right to pray. A change in yesterday’s traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue,” Fadnavis, who also holds Home portfolio, had said.

Congress backed the campaign, saying that it is the “pious duty” of whole society to support such a move.

“This is also the responsibility of the government so that reason prevails over those people who are creating hurdles and problems in this direction,” party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in New Delhi.

“I commend the move of one of the women’s organisations of Maharashtra asserting their right of worship at Shani Shingnapur.

“Women have got equal rights in the field of religion and philosophy in our country for centuries. Doors of knowledge and religion should be open to everyone without any discrimination,” he said.

MRCC president Sanjay Nirupam said he supports women’s agitation for equal rights at the Shani temple.

“I am of the belief that women should be allowed equal rights at all temples,” he said, adding, “Respecting women is our core value. They must be allowed in Shani Shingnapur temple.”

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan opposed the ban, saying his party has always been against any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion and sex.

“LJP opposes the ban on women worshipping at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district. LJP has from the very beginning of its existence been opposing any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion or sex,” Paswan said on Twitter.

Paswan heads Lok Janshakti Party, a key ally of NDA in Bihar.

The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief. Women devotees are not permitted on the ‘chauthara’ as per the tradition followed at the shrine.

The shrine has no walls or a roof. A five-foot black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.

A bid by the women’s organisation to enter the prohibited area of the temple was foiled on 20 December, 2015 by security guards of the Shani Shingnapur Trust.

The Charity Commissioner’s office had imposed restrictions on the proposed campaign fearing damage to property.

PTI