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Women barred from entering into Maharashtra Shani Temple

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Ahmednagar (Maharashtra): Women were, on Tuesday, barred by police from proceeding towards the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple here to offer prayers, as they sought to defy the centuries-old tradition at the temple against the entry of women.

Around 1,500 women activists led by  president Trupti Desai, and joined by a few men, who entered Ahmednagar district in a convoy of around 50 vehicles on Tuesday afternoon on their way to the temple, when were stopped by police near Supa.

After a brief argument and jostling with police, many women squatted or lay on the road shouting slogans condemning the police action and calling it a ‘Black Day’ on the occasion of India’s Republic Day when the constitution granting equal rights to men and women came into force.

Later, police detained a few of the activists, including Desai while the others vowed they would not leave the place without offering prayers at the open-to-sky temple’s sanctum sanctorum.

The manner in which police behaved with us is objectionable… We were going peacefully to exercise our right of offering prayers… They are stopping us from going to a temple which is a place of worship. The country is celebrating Republic Day… for us it’s a ‘black day,’ but we will go to the temple,

 

Anticipating trouble, the temple trust had deployed 250 volunteers, 60 women volunteers and another 250 police personnel, besides another 40-odd private security guards to secure the temple and prevent the women activists from entering.

A three-level steel barricade – like the rings of planet Saturn, of which Lord Shani is a manifestation – was erected by the temple, while police had set up barricades at strategic intervals on all the approach roads to the village.

The situation was tense in the village since Monday night as the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade had warned of hiring a helicopter and climbing down in ropes if they were stopped, but late Monday night, the Pune collector declined permission for the chopper.

The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged (svayambhu) five-foot-high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shanidev.

The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.

However, barring the temple priests, none is permitted to climb the nine steps up to the actual stone idol that represents the deity. Everybody must only offer prayers from below the platform, said a temple trustee Prafull N. Surpuriya.

Shani Shingnapur is globally known as the only village where houses do not have doors and locks, and the village remains theft-free.

Even the nationalised UCO Bank’s branch in the village does not have locks on its doors.

Belief has it that thieves cannot steal or burgle in the village which is protected by Lord Shani, and misfortune and divine punishment would befall anyone who attempts to steal.

Although the temple itself has a much older history, the present form of management of its activities is over five centuries old, Surpuriya said.

(Inputs from IANS)

(Picture Courtesy: www.shanidev.com)

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Religious discrimination against Women must end

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On Gudi Padwa, women enter Shani Shingnapur temple for the first time Image source: www.ibtimes.co.in

It’s a common trend that where social, political and religious systems fail, the judiciary steps in – as in the case of the entry of women to the Shani Shingnapur temple.

A centuries-old bastion of the patriarchal social construct was smashed to smithereens. The women activists from the Bhumata Brigade, led by Trupti Desai, were successful in entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani temple. Trupti hailed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open the gates of the sacred chabutra (platform) for men and women devotees, and said it was a prudent step on their part.

“Der aayad, durust aayad!” said a spirited Trupti and hoped the trustees at the Trimbakeshwar and Mahalaxmi temples in Nashik and Kolhapur too would follow suit to treat women devotees at par with men.

One would congratulate Trupti for her stoic resistance as it was after her activism that TV debates were generated and many storms raised in teacups besides the national print media highlighting the issue.

Priyanka Jagtap, another member of the Bhumata Brigade, celebrated the court’s observation at the temple premises by distributing sweets. “It’s a big victory for all the womenfolk of Maharashtra and the country. It is an occasion to celebrate,” she said.

The main question that needs to be asked is whether this outburst of activism against ritualistic practices in Hindu temples is a legitimate effort to break the almost 400-year-old tradition.

What’s unfortunate is that most religions talk about gender equality, but it is either totally defunct or reduced to lip-service as totem. The question is whether it is the followers of Hinduism or Islam or any other religion,who vie with one another to deprive their women of equal rights.

The aim of these lines is to convey a message to the custodians of women’s rights – the men – to remind them of the cultural traditions that are mired in gender discrimination. In this context, whether it is Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali Baba or Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, all these famed religious places have banned the entry of women.

Politically, the BJP has been accused of vitiating the atmosphere in Sabarimala. However, it would be preposterous to suggest that all villagers in this temple town are BJP or right-wing activists. According to social commentator Sreemoy Talukdar, the patriarchal mores lie so deep that even women (and probably more so) were the first ones to take umbrage of the ‘breach’ which they fear will bring calamity on their families.

Talukdar feels that Kerala’s Sabarimala temple authorities have stuck to their stand – in the face of legal scrutiny from the Supreme Court of banning all women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering temple precincts citing ritualistic practices and traditions.

They claim Lord Ayyappa, who attracts more than 50 million devotees each year, is a sworn celibate. They do not want the apex court to interfere in religious practices.

In Mumbai’s Dargah Haji Ali Baba, it is really something totally inexplicable that women are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum in spite of the fact that Islam has granted equal rights to woman. During the days of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Muslim women used to go to the mosque to pray. However, after him, some myopic and orthodox Muslims asked women to stay at home.

Nevertheless, the larger question is about the general exploitation of women by men from all religions.

They are not given their rights and, at the slightest provocation, are maltreated, beaten, divorced and even murdered.

Trupti’s campaign – that of challenging the patriarchal hegemony over religion, its practices and ending stigmas against women – would only materialize truly if the activism continues. (IANS)

 

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After Shani temple protest, Muslim women group now want entry in Haji Ali Dargah

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Mumbai: After women activists intensify their protests seeking entry into Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, Muslim women groups on Thursday staged a protest demanding entry into Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.

Professor of Islamic studies Zeenat Shaukat Ali, who was one of the protestors, said that it was ‘male patriarchy’, not religion, which was imposing restrictions on women.

I am an Islamic Scholar and nowhere in Islam is it said that women cannot go to graveyards. This is the dictum of the prophet. When Islam has not excluded women, then why should male patriarchy dominate. Male patriarchy is dominating the Hindus, Male patriarchy is dominating the Muslims,

She further said that discrimination against women was against the tenets of Islam.

This is against what Islam has taught. The Constitution has given you equal rights, Islam is supporting the Constitution,

 

A Muslim women’s rights group is locked in a bitter legal battle with trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah, which barred women’s entry into mosque’s mausoleum in 2011.

While defending its ban on women, the Haji Ali Dargah trust had reportedly said that it was a “grievous sin” as per Islam for women to be in close proximity of the grave of a male Muslim saint.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has petitioned the Bombay High Court seeking a ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.(Inputs from agencies)(Picture Courtesy: www.sify.com)

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Muslim women group backs Hindu women over Shani temple entry issue

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New Delhi: A Muslim women’s group on Tuesday came out in support of women’s entry into the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, charging “male-dominated bodies” which run shrines with bias.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan said it supports demands by Hindu women to be allowed to enter the chabutra or sanctum sanctorum at the well-known temple in Ahmednagar.

We salute the women activists for their democratic protest and assertion of their right to worship in the face of all odds placed by the patriarchal male temple administration,

Andolan co-founders Zakia Soman and Noorjehan Safia Niaz said they were shocked at the imposition of Section 144 by the district administration to bar the women from proceeding peacefully to the temple.

We condemn the discriminative arrangement at the temple and urge the temple trustees to correct their stand in line with the principles of gender justice enshrined in the constitution.

Condemning the police action, the group urged the Maharashtra government to “immediately take steps to correct this continued denial of justice to women devotees at the temple”.

The group said religious trusts presiding over temples, dargahs and churches must come clean and make amends to the patriarchal practices that have kept women out of places of worship.

God or deities or pirs are not private properties of any individuals or trusts.

Religions of the world – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism – do not discriminate between the genders.” the group added.

The temple and dargah trusts do not have the authority either from religious or legal sources to discriminate against anyone.

“We call upon the male-dominated trusts and bodies to correct their stance urgently, failing which more and more women are bound to protest and demand their right to worship,” the group said.

(Inputs from IANS)

(Picture Courtesy: www.siasat.com)