Ahmednagar: Breaking the centuries-old tradition, the Shani Shingnapur temple trust on the auspicious occasion of Hindu New Year Gudi Padwa, announced on Friday that women will be allowed to enter the inner sanctum and offer prayers.
Yielding to a high voltage campaign by activists, the trust announced the historic decision after the temple authorities today held a meeting on the contentious issue.
The practice of barring women from entering the inner sanctum had been a 400-year-old tradition. Women have been barred from stepping onto the high platform on which stands a black stone - symbolising Shanidev or Lord Saturn here.
The step was immediately welcomed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The CM said, "The state government took same stand from the beginning and we had filed affidavit in Bombay HC that there should no discrimination."
Reacting to the development, activist Trupti Desai said it's a great victory for the women.
Desai welcomed the decision of Shani Shingnapur temple trustees to open gates of the sacred "Chauthara" for men and women devotees, and said it was a "wise" step on their part.
Earlier today, male devotees stormed into the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple, despite trust's order that nobody would be allowed to offer prayers there.
The men were earlier allowed to offer prayers inside the inner sanctum. However, after the controversy over women's entry unfolded, the temple trust had banned the entry of all.
In a landmark verdict, the Bombay High Court had declared that no law prevents women from entering places of worship. The court, in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta, said there should be no gender discrimination as far as entering a place of worship is concerned.
The temple drew attention in November 2015 after a woman offered prayers in `breach` of the age-old practice of prohibiting entry of women. Following the incident, the temple committee had suspended seven security men and the villagers performed purification rituals.