Shani Shingnapur temple gender row: Ravi Shankar claims to have found solution

Pune: Mediating on the issue of gender bias at Maharashtra's Shani Shingnapur temple, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar today claimed to have arrived at a solution that allows both men and women to have darshan of the deity some distance away from the sacred "Chabutara" (platform).

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Citing two models of facilitating darshan, practised at Kashi Vishwanath and Tirupati Balaji temples, Ravi Shankar said, "It is agreed that no one - man or woman - will step on the sacred Chabutara at the Shanti temple where oil is constantly poured as it can result in possible skidding."

"This contentious issue has been settled. There will not be any discrimination based on gender and all will have equal right of worship," he told a press conference at Balewadi near here.

While the temple trustees present at the meeting agreed with Ravi Shankar's formula based on the Tirupati Balaji darshan model, Trupti Desai, who led the recent agitation of the Bhoomata Brigade seeking women's entry into the temple's inner sanctum, said, "If nobody is to be allowed on the Chabutara, the priests who perform pooja of the deity at the sacred platform should include women."

Desai said if both men and women are going to be banned from stepping on the Chabutara, activists of Bhoomata Brigade should be given an opportunity to perform the "last pooja" on the sacred platform in the temple in Ahmednagar district, in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

She also said that it was wrong to disallow men to perpetuate ban on women.

Ravi Shankar said, "It is not that you do not get blessings of god if you have a darshan from some distance." According to the spiritual guru, all men and women could have darshan of the Shani deity from a distance of three feet without any gender discrimination. He also supported the Bhoomata Brigade's demand for women priests.

Desai claimed the trustees were still insisting on a "male mindset" in supporting the proposal to ban men from stepping on the Chabutara in order to perpetuate the tradition prohibiting women from doing so. She said she had told Ravi Shankar that it was wrong to say that the tradition banning women from stepping on the Chabutara was 400-year-old.

A trustee of the temple said it would not be possible to allow women to perform "last pooja" before implementing uniform ban on both the sexes.

Asked what was her future plan since she was not happy with the solution as proposed by the spiritual guru, Desai said she was looking forward to her meeting with the Chief Minister next week and hoped that Fadnavis would take a "proper decision" backing women's rights.

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