Women's Entry in Shani Shingnapur Temple Will Lead to Rapes Says Shankaracharya Swaroopanand

Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati has stirred a controversy by saying that entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple will lead to rise in crimes against them like rape. “Women should not feel triumphant about visiting the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra. They should stop all the drum beating about what they have done. Worshipping Shani will bring ill luck to them and give rise to crimes against them like rape,” he told reporters in Haridwar.

Breaking its 400-year-old tradition, Shani Shingnapur temple trust in Maharashtra, India has made a decision allowing women inside the sanctum of the temple to offer prayers. This decision came minutes after a group of male devotees stormed the temple to hold ‘Jal Pooja’ on the occasion of Gudi Padwa, a major festival in Maharashtra. Shortly thereafter, the temple authorities announced the decision of allowing women into the inner sanctum. “We have decided to allow women inside the temple. We will not make any differences between men and women. Our decision has nothing to do with men storming in to the temple today,” Deepak Daramale, trustee of the temple was quoted as saying. 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 Shani Shingnapur temple had barred women for centuries from the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Shani, or Saturn. It is one of a handful of Hindu temples in the country that does not allow women entry. The debate over this issue escalated after a woman tried to enter and offer prayers at the Shani Shingnapur temple last year, in ‘breach’ of the age-old practice of prohibiting entry of women. The agitation for women’s entry gained momentum over the last few months, even as the temple authorities had later barred men also from entering the sanctum sanctorum.

The Bombay High Court had observed that women should have equal access to places of worship. The court had said, “There is no law, which prevents women for having equal access from entering a temple. If men are allowed then women should also be allowed.” Trupti Desai, leader of Bhoomata Brigade, an activist group that has led the protest for entry, told CNN-IBN, “We welcome the decision taken by the trust. It’s a victory for women. This is a great achievement against gender inequality. It was our will power that we will enter the core area…you all must have been seen women activists were manhandled. Despite the odds women came forward with all preparations and might. This is victory of Bhumata Brigade, of our movement. It is also victory of gender equality.” For the last couple of months she has been demanding an end to a centuries-old ban on women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, where the idol of Lord Shani is placed on an open-air platform.

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