Nine small steps taken by a woman to enter and offer prayers at a famous Shani shrine at a village in Ahmednagar district in 'breach' of the age-old practice of prohibiting entry of women has prompted the temple committee to suspend seven security men and the villagers to form purification rituals.
The woman climbed the security barricade to the 'chauthara' (platform) where the idol is installed and offered prayers yesterday, before disappearing in the crowd.
Startled by this 'breach' of the age-old practice of prohibiting women from offering prayers to the Shani idol, the temple committee swung into action today and suspended seven security personnel.
Villagers also performed a 'dudh abhishek' (milk purification) of the idol today and observed a 'bandh' in the morning to protest the incident.
However, the woman's action has been lauded by various quarters, including women and social organisations.
"She should be felicitated for doing what she did," Congress MLA from Solapur Praniti Shinde said.
"I will raise the issue in the Winter session of Legislature, beginning in Nagpur next month," Praniti, daughter of former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, said.
"We welcome the daring shown by the woman in offering prayers. The incident is revolutionary. The 'chauthara' should be thrown open for women," said Ranjanan Gavande, Ahmednagar district unit president of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (committee for eradication of blind faith).
Social activist Mangal Khinvsara said, "Constitution Day was celebrated recently and the woman who breached the security wall to offer prayers has only embodied the spirit of Constitution which ensures gender equality."
The idol of 'Shani Devsthan', a black rock over five feet tall, installed on a platform without a roof, sits at the heart of the Shani Shingnapur village in Ahmednagar district.
It is this temple that strengthens the local tradition of not installing doors and locks to the village houses. Once a humble affair, the temple has now grown into a large trust with extensive property and donations that run into lakhs.
But it still does not have a door, much like most homes of the 4,000-odd residents of the village, where empty door frames mark the entrance to houses.