NEW DELHI -- Three days after the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra was forced to revoke a centuries-old ban against the entry of women into its inner sanctum, a leading religious figure in the country has warned that this development will lead to more rapes.
In a video clip, which was played by the Times Now news channel on Monday afternoon, Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati Maharaj said that instead of destroying the drugs which caused men to perpetrate sexual crimes, women had incurred the wrath of God by entering the temple.
The religious leader said that incidents of rape would increase because women are now praying to Lord Shani.
Following months of activism and litigation, women started offering prayers at the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar on Friday afternoon. But this stand against gender discrimination and the patriarchal monopoly over worship came with its fair share of detractors, who offered some really bizarre reasons to maintain the status quo.
This latest piece of wisdom from the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth is by far the most irrational and offensive explanations against the entry of women into the Shani temple.
There are still quite a few temples which restrict the entry of women such as the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The Shani temple victory has reinforced the movement for these temples to break with the past.
In an earful to the Sabarimala temple officials today, the Supreme Court questioned why women who are going their menstrual cycles are barred from entering. "What right does temple have to forbid women from entering any part of temple, please argue on bedrock of Constitution," the court said.
With the exception of exhorting tradition, temple officials in Maharashtra failed to give a straight answer to why women should not pray to Lord Shani. The Shankaracharya has previously said, "Shani is a kroor (cruel) graha, hence women should beware of worshiping the deity."
Last week, the Bombay High Court said that if men can enter the temple so can women, and it was the state's duty to protect the rights of women. "There is no law that prevents entry of women in any place," said Chief Justice D.H. Waghela.
In fact, the Shani temple was so desperate to keep women out that they decided to bar men from its inner sanctum as well. It was only when a mob of men stormed the temple that its officials relented, begging the question whether this was really a victory for women.
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