Building on protests at the Shani Shingnapur temple, a mother and daughter-in-law duo are questioning the wisdom of a ban that refuses entry to women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik.
For "hundreds of years", women have been refused entry into the inner chamber of the Nashik temple, which houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. One trustee has even gone so far as to say "certain rays" that fall in the inner enclosure might harm women.
"There is no clarity as to who set these traditions," 55-year-old Sujata Patil told DNA. "They are being followed blindly generation after generation. We need to change with times."
Patil added that other traditions in Nashik have changed and anything that differentiates men from women should be removed. Right now, only men wearing "sovala" can enter the temple's sanctum sanctorum, where the linga is kept.
Patil and his 32-year-old daughter-in-law Poonam have written to the chairman of the temple trust, Urmila Joshi Phalke, asking for the ban on women's entry to be lifted. Phalke told DNA that she hasn't seen the letter yet, and any decision would be made after studying "the matter, customs, opinions, demands", and it was "inappropriate" for her to comment before that.
Meanwhile temple trustee Kailash Ghule told DNA that the tradition of refusing women entry was not set by the trust, but had been followed for "ages".
"This issue needs to be inspected scientifically," he said, adding that though he wasn't an "expert on the subject", some research showed that the area was harmful to women anyway.
"If it turns out that there is no harm, particularly to the physical or mental health of the women, it can be considered. Women are revered as mother goddess and the source of strength. But matters of tradition have to be taken into consideration."
'Not An Insult To Women'
Meanwhile, Maharashtra rural development minister Pankaja Munde yesterday raked up controversy by defending the ban on women's entry to the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district.
"These are traditions and cannot be linked with insult of woman fraternity," Munde said, defending the age-old 'ban' after the woman devotee's action last week created a furore. "The outrage over the woman entering the Shani temple is a non-issue," the BJP leader said.
Munde's statement, which came in the wake of a woman offering 'puja' at the temple by breaching security, drew sharp reaction from Opposition NCP, which criticised her.
Chitra Wagh, women's wing President of the State NCP, criticised Munde's statement.
"In a progressive state like Maharashtra, instead of appreciating the move to break the traditions that are against women, the BJP Minister, by making such a statement, has taken State back to an era where women were not treated at par with men," Wagh maintained.
The temple, which attracts thousands of pilgrims daily, is devoted to Lord Shani and women are traditionally barred from offering prayers at the shrine, located about 250km from Mumbai.
(with PTI inputs)
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