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Gender and Religious Politics at Shani Shingnapur

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In terms of devotees, Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world. In terms of scriptures, Hinduism is the largest religion of the world. That in some way should convince those people whose conscience is woken up at selective times for reforming the religion. The latest debate of reformation has fallen upon the Shani Shingnapur temple and the Sabarimala temple. The victims are now women; I would rather say a section of women, who have become thekedaars of women equaliy in the country.

Culture is what binds millions together. The traditions and cultures of these temples are now threatened. Their own sovereignty is purely under threat. There are various issues regarding gender inequality in the country such as, amending muslim personal laws for betterment of muslim women from grave religious patriarchy, a fair right to education, girl child sex ratio and else, but they have taken back seat.

Shani Shingnapur is a village in Maharashtra, nearly 60 Kms away from Shirdi. The village is famous for its people, apart from the allegedly misogynist temple, the doors are never locked, either of homes or shops or even banks. Well there is a UCO and a SBI branch whose doors aren’t locked either, reportedly. Sabarimala is a town in Kerala famous for the legendary God Ayyappan, who killed the demon Mahishi and went into meditation at the same place. Religions have their existence through traditions. If there are traditional stories which ban entry of women, in a temple and then for women equality the traditions are challenged, then what is the purpose of even asking for equal right to pray? Well, rightly shani shingnapur doesn’t actually ban the entry. The challenges have their own good sides. It is obviously right to fight for women’s equality in this male dominated society but there are various methods of worships which if challenged will surely dismantle the whole purpose of worship.

The traditions of the temples basically are based upon the arguments that the gods of the temples mentioned above live lives of celibacy and they are male gods so it is in good health of devotees and chastity of gods that women rather not touch them. One may consider this as truth or myth; this is a matter of belief. One is free to challenge these stories but not the sovereignty of the institutions. Believers will rather accept the tradition but the ones who call these myth, are precisely moving away from beliefs or to say the scriptures of the faith. Even questioning the scriptures is fine, but then the fact is that the traditions are basically created over a period of time, with various beliefs and scriptures. These are not any sudden decisions taken then and cannot solve the problem now on a simple court decision. Moreover, when you are considering scriptures to lead to misogyny then it is scriptures to be challenged. Why challenge the sovereignty of temples?

Well, then challenging the temples will fulfill their criterions of misogyny by men in society, which can be supported by other women. But challenging the scriptures will not garner them much support from women and moreover will put them in pretty bad light in society and they can be tagged as hypocrites, as well. Noticeable point is that they haven’t questioned the tradition, in public, which the temples merely follow, but straight forward pointed the temples which are rather bound to follow the traditions.

With about 330 million gods, Hinduism is that one religion which diversifies itself in various manifestations of worships, in various regional languages and even more local traditions, for every other highly reputed god. It is that one religion which divides its gods in every gender, and based upon characteristics and designations, various methods of worship have born, in various traditions. Everything cannot be misogyny. There are various villages in northern India, which doesn’t allow male devotees to perform various rituals while worshipping goddesses, like they cannot assist in ritual of the bathing of goddesses. Moreover some festivals are meant only for female devotees. If these are all considered to be misogynism in some way or the other, it is going to do very much harm to our cultures and traditions.

It though becomes pointless to consider that grand old hinduism is the only followed religion today which numerates various female goddesses, with various powers. But in faiths of genderless God, we basically imagine that genderless God in male form with long white beard! Is there any misogynism? Well it is imaginative only!

Let alone imagination, it is totally useless to notice that they actually end up mentioning that God as him or he in scriptures which is not even allowed to be interpreted, forget about deleting or adding verses. Well, outdated Hinduism needs reformation, but modern Semitic, does not, you know. It is totally fine to keep women under a black cloak, which looks something like umbrella! or not even allowing them to visit mosques and women right activists don’t find misogyny here ofcourse!

Simply, Hinduism with both male and female gods has various methods of worship putting certain restrictions upon both female and male devotees. Since Hinduism is less about genderless god it can allow some sexist restrictions in the owned temples of respective gods, which is basically the house of concerned god, in this case Shanidev and Ayyappan, but how the semitic religions which proudly calls for a genderless god, whose method of being worshipped is same everywhere, at every place with no second way of worship, can be sexist towards women? Moreover the mosque is only a place of worship, not even god’s house.

Whereas if the activists who are concerned with women equality so very much in Shingnapur, why just they don’t call for donations from across the nation and build a new shani temple? Why kill the sovereignty of other?

Villages around the nation have certain traditions followed for decades or centuries and they become an another way of life for them, their faith & belief of existence. One has to understand that it is actually the faith of the villagers, which is really now under threat. The tradition which has been carried for over 400 years is now under threat. And they have full right to their sovereignty.

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This village has become victim of being known for this temple and the Congress’ losing ground in politics.

The timing of the challenge is suspicious. The temple trust has banned entry of both men and women around 4 years back. The time when congress was in power both in centre and state. Now all of a sudden this issue has been given fire by the Bhoomata brigade. The leader of the brigade, Trupti Desai has apparently even been a candidate for the Congress in a municipal poll in 2012 & then for State Assembly elections. It is very much in mind that how much really these activists worship Shanidev.

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In the name of religious politics and to say even gender politics or mechanically correct gender equality, they can destroy the beauty of the diversity of Hinduism by narrowing everything to the size of semitic religions’ mentality of no diversity, which will leave our religion with no colors.

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