Have you heard of a place where there are no doors and bolts? Even the toilets cover themselves with walls created in a maze like structure. But no doors. Yes, the place I am talking about is Shani Shingnapur, the divine math of Lord Shani.
Even in today’s world that is driven by science, here is a place that fills its devotees with bewilderment. Out of all the places revered by Shani’s devotees, Shingnapur holds a special place. I have visited Shani Shingnapur two time so far and each time the place makes me simple amazed.
As a woman, my experience in Shingnapur has been astounding. The first time I visited the place in 2007, women were allowed to stand near Shani idol but not perform puja. There is a belief that women should not go near the idol as it emanates harmful vibrations. So, I just saw my father and brother perform puja after climbing up to the platform where the idol is placed. Later in 2013, when we visited the place, all devotees, men or women were stopped at a distance and could offer their prayers from a distance.
However, with the efforts of some women activists and after the order of Bombay High Court last year, the trust of the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra finally had to allow women to enter the temple and pray in the sanctum sanctorum. This landmark decision ended the 400-year-old tradition.
The temple of miracles
Located on the Pune-Aurangabad Highway, about 70 km away from Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur is a unique place. It is a comfortable ride from Shirdi, either you choose to hire a cab or take a private bus.
The architecture of the temple is impressive and the Trust keeps on doing the improvisations there. The swayambhu (natural-formed) idol of Lord Shani is of natural black colour and is it is 5′-9″ high and 1′-6″ broad. It stands in the open on an altar since about 150 years. There is a legend that the Trust in earlier days tried to keep the idol in shade but Lord Shani does not accept any chhatra (shelter). Whether it is scorching heat of sun, rain, or cold, the deity stands there in all climates without a shelter. The story that is popular among locals is that Lord Shani has appeared in the dreams of his devotees telling them that he does not need any shelter and prefers to stay in the open and protect his devotees.
You will be surprised by not finding any ubiquitous pandas and pujaris here and the devotees can perform puja themselves. It is mandatory to take a bath before offering puja to Shani idol. You can then perform the religious rites to the deity as per your faith and satisfaction. For all devotees, they can pour the oil they have brought for the deity is a large vessel which drips over the Lord always and forever.
Homes without doors
Shingnapur, which once used to be a sleepy village is now a bustling one, due to the growing popularity of the temple. The houses are mainly single storey and are built with modern technique of bricks and mortar. As there are no doors and no glass panes on the windows, the villagers use either wood planks or thick curtains on the doors to protect their privacy and to keep off stray animals.
I really got curious and asked an old person, why of all the reasons there are no doors and bolts and how do they ensure their safety (After all with all kinds of doors and locking mechanisms, we still fear for ourselves and our belongings)? And, I indeed got a remarkable answer. He said, for us it is not a strange practice. We do this at the wish and command of our Lord. Our money and valuables are never stolen. There are no thieves here. If anyone steals, the Lord will make him pay the price.”
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.