Maharashtra CM tasked to solve Shani Temple imbroglio

Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Feb 6 (IANS) The issue of whether or not to permit women to step onto the open sanctum sanctorum of the world-famous Shani Shingnapur Temple will now be decided by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, it was agreed on Saturday.

A meeting convened by Ahmednagar Collector Anil Kawade of various stakeholders, including the district police, the temple trust, the village committee and a women’s organisation failed to resolve the issue.

However, they unanimously decided to approach Fadnavis for his final verdict in the matter and agreed to abide by his ruling.

The meeting, held at the behest of the chief minister, was attended by district Police Superintendent Saurabh Tripathi, Shri Shanaishwar Devasthan Shani Shingnapur chairperson Anita Shetye, Save Shanishwar Devasthan Action Committee chief Shambajiraje Patil and Bhumata Ranragini Brigade president Trupti Desai.

Though both sides maintained that the meeting was cordial and were satisfied by the talks, they refused to budge from their respective stand on the issue of permitting women onto the temple’s sanctum sanctorum.

They also said it was unanimously decided to knock on Fadnavis’ doors for the final decision which they would all respect.

“Whatever the CM decides, we shall accept. He is a progressive man.. we are confident he will come out with a decision favouring the women of the state as they have been waiting for centuries for their right to worship at the temple,” Desai told media persons later.

Zilla Parishad member from the village Sambhaji Dahatonde said that all parties had conveyed their respective stand and feelings on the issue at the meeting.

“Our stand is already well known. We must go through discussions. Such major issues can’t be resolved in just one meeting,” Dahatonde said.

Patil said that now Kawade will prepare a detailed report on the deliberations held on Saturday on the sensitive issue and forward it to the CM for his final decision in the matter.

Saturday’s meeting was directed by Fadnavis after around 1,500 activists of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade threatened to storm the temple January 26 (Republic Day), but were prevented from going to the village, nearly 100 kms away.

The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged (svayambhu) five-foot-high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shanidev.

The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.

However, barring the temple priests, none is permitted to climb the nine steps up to the actual stone idol that represents the deity. Everybody must only offer prayers from below the platform, said a temple trustee Prafull N. Surpuriya.

Shani Shingnapur is globally known as the only village where houses do not have doors and locks, and the village remains theft-free.

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