The Shani Shingnapur Temple is in the midst of a raging controversy following the failed attempt by a group of women to enter the sanctum sanctorum. The controversy started late last year when a young woman went against tradition and performed an abhishek. The idol was, as decided by the cabal of traditionalists, ‘purified’ through another abhishek.
Already, we have seen prominent voices speaking against the practice of banning women from entering temples. It was also gladdening to see Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis come out and say there should be no discrimination when it comes to praying to god. If the CM is as good as his word, the state should first facilitate a dialogue and interaction between women’s groups, rights activists, temple authorities and villagers.
Both sides need to sit across the table instead of resorting to anything that will disrupt law and order.
More interestingly, the incident comes at a time when women cutting across religious lines are challenging centuries-old taboos the world over. It is not just about women’s right to enter a temple. Muslim women are questioning discriminatory religious laws. Elsewhere, Christians are challenging the Church’s rules on abortion and contraception. Closer home, there is the petition demanding that women be allowed into the Haji Ali dargah.
In many places of worship, there are areas that women cannot access for different reasons, prime among them being ‘purity’. These are age-old practices and only now are women coming together to challenge it, through on-ground activism, social media campaigns and petitions. And it is not at all surprising that these issues have all come to the forefront almost simultaneously. The world has changed and religious institutions need to move with the times and ensure there is no discrimination.
Let all areas of every religious structure be open to everyone. There is nothing ‘impure’ about women offering prayers. Let us remember: the Lord (of all faiths) moves in gentle, compassionate and non-discriminatory ways, it is mortals who make rules that have no divine sanction.