For the first time, a housewife, Anita Shetye, has become the chairperson of the the world-famous Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust.
Shetye, who was elected unanimously, will have a five-year term. She will be working with other 11 trustees. “This is the first time in the temple’s over five centuries old history that this welcome development has taken place today. Another woman, Vaishali Lande, has also been appointed to the board of 11 trustees managing the temple,” Prafull N. Surpuriya, a trustee, told IANS.
Though the move appears to be demolishing gender barriers, it is more of a symbolic gesture.
The temple, which is in Shani Shingnapur village Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, was in the news last year for performing a purification puja after a woman offered worship to the Shani idol in the temple. It stirred up a controversy and uproar with many women in the state protesting against it.
As a part of the protest, it was reported that around 400 women activists will storm the temple on Republic Day this month.
However, Shetye, 40, had said that the tradition would be maintained. “I have deep faith in different traditions followed at the temple and will ensure that they remain intact during my tenure,” she said.
This was confirmed by Surpuriya. He said, “It is an ancient tradition that women are debarred from climbing up the temple steps to pour oil and offer prayers to Shanidev… There’s no reason for us to change traditions.”
A priest performing purification ritual on the temple premises
The temple is located in the village which is popular for its houses having no doors. Even the bank there doesn’t have any locks.