'When I entered the sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple'

Manjusha was overwhelmed as she and her mother hurriedly drove up to the Shani Shingnapur temple yesterday.

The 30-year-old physically-challenged resident of Bangalore was in Shirdi when she heard that women could enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. “I was asked to worship Lord Shani, but I never got a chance to visit the Shani temple. We were planning on visiting it on Saturday. But after we heard of the change in practice, we couldn’t wait. It’s like a dream come true.”


Devotees gather at The Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar. File pic/AFP

M Jyoti, too, couldn’t believe her luck. The 36-year-old pilgrim from Hyderabad was staying put in her car outside the premises — as has been the norm in her family — while her male relatives were getting ready for a darshan when the huge rush at the temple and the police bandobust piqued her interest. “When we enquired, we found out about the change in tradition. We’re finally being treated equally,” she said.

mid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagarmid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh (dressed in green on the extreme left) enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar

The end of the discriminatory practice, however, did not sit well with many local devotees. Shakuntala Shah (75) was furious at the change. “This is wrong. We need to follow our customs and rituals,” she rued.

mid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar
mid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar

Many regulars did not turn up for the evening prayers in protest. Some grumbled — and even raged — over what they perceived to be an ill omen and harbinger of bad luck.

mid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar
mid-day reporter Chaitraly Deshmukh enters the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar

Over 200 police personnel were deployed on its premises.

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