Shani Shingnapur temple row: Traditionalists divided over Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's mediation

Mumbai: Proponents of the tradition prohibiting women access to the sanctum of Shani temple in Shingnapur appear divided on proposed mediation of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to break the deadlock arising out of a protest by a women's outfit seeking end to the gender bias.

Opposing the mediation, 'Shaneshwar Devasthan Bachao Kruti Samiti' president Sambhajiraje Patil today said the Samiti and villagers of Shingnapur do not approve such offer as Ravishankar "is not aware of the religious practices and is a political ploy".

"Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar is not aware of the religious practices and customs. Attempts at mediation is an attempt to keep the local villagers in the dark," he said.

However, 'Shri Shaneshwar Devsthan Trust', which manages the affairs of the temple situated in Ahmednagar district, said a decision on the issue of the deadlock will be taken after holding meeting with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on February 7, which is opposed by the 'Samiti'.

The Trust stated that no decision has been taken so far to end the impasse. Both the Trust and the Samiti are based in Shingnapur. In a statement issued here, Patil instead requested seers in Ahmednagar district to take the lead and put an end to the controversy.

He claimed there was no discrimination between men and women at the shrine, which is the personification of Shani (planet saturn). The temple has no roof and a self-emerged ('svayambhu') five-foot-high black stone stands on a 'chauthra' or platform.

Referring to the recent protest by 'Ranragini Bhumata Brigade' led by its president Trupti Desai, Patil said the Samiti won't tolerate any attempts to "trample upon" age-old practices. "No house in the temple town (Shingnapur) has any doors and everyone is well aware of the legend that no theft is ever reported in the village," Patil said.

He said the women's body "needlessly" created the controversy on the issue. "Women have been allowed entry to the shrine and they have been making offerings at the Udasi Maharaj Math there. Entry of both men and women has been banned since ages and there is no discrimination in that respect," Patil added.

He referred to a resolution passed by the Shingnapur Gram Sabha condemning the women's outfit. Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai, had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform of the temple last month.

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