Mumbai: On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court has backed women in entering all places of worship in Shani Shingnapur temple. D.H. Waghela – a Division Bench of Chief Justice and Justice M.S. Sonak said that there is no such law where men are allowed in the shrine and women are prohibited to pray before the deity.
The Bench also warned that, as per the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, a person can be sentenced to six months of imprisonment if they enforce restrictions on anyone to enter the place of worship.
The activist Vidya Bal and advocate Nilima Varta had filed a petition to the Bombay High Court, requesting to end the age-old custom which says to ban women from entering the Shani Shingnapur temple and also inside its sanctum sanctorum in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
The petition also claims that the prohibition of women is subjective, illegal and disregarding the privileges of citizens.
The Shani Shingnapur temple is unique as there is no walls and roof. It is an open temple with a self-emerged (svayambhu) five-foot-high black stone which stands on a platform. It is worshipped as Lord Shanidev.
Prafull N Surpuriya, a temple trustee said that the temple stage is in the centre of the village. It is called as Sonai. Since it is a unique temple, many visitors and devotees from all over the nation and abroad is attracted to worship. However, except the temple priest, nobody is allowed to climb the nine stages up to the original stone idol that represents the god. Everyone should just offer petitions to God from underneath the platform.
According to a 400-year-old convention, ladies were not permitted to enter the Shani temple. After mass awareness battles, their entrance was authorised in 2011, yet they were disallowed from climbing the place of worship stage.
On January 26, women activists who made plans to climb the stage and offer prayers to God were detained in Supa town, around 70 km from the temple, and later released.