Shani temple row: PIL challenges ban on women’s entry

New Delhi: A public interest litigation has been filed in the Bombay High Court challenging the century-old tradition of prohibiting entry of women inside the core shrine area of Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

The PIL, filed by two women activists Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta, seeks directions to the state government and temple authorities to ensure that the prohibition is set aside and women are given entry not just inside the temple but also in the sanctum sanctorum.

The petition claims that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen. Besides, such a prohibition also encourages gender disparity, the petition said.

Women, as per an over century-old tradition, were not allowed to enter the Shani temple till 2011. However, after rationalists carried out mass awareness campaigns, women were allowed to enter the temple but are prohibited from the core shrine area. Today, women are not permitted to climb up the ‘chauthara’ (platform) where the rock idol of Lord Shani is installed.

On January 26, around 400 women activists, who tried to head for Shani Shinganapur temple in Ahmednagar district defying prohibitory orders to worship the deity, were detained at Supa village, about 70 kms from the temple and later released.

This came after a woman apparently in ignorance -stepped onto to the unlocked platform last year and a purification process was performed by villagers, angering women activists and several sections of the society. The petition will come up for hearing in due course before a bench of Justices N H Patil and A A Sayed.