President Murmu becomes highest-ranking woman dignitary to pray at Shanishingnapur Temple after gender-bias ended in 2016

Ahmednagar (Maharashtra):  It was a red-letter day for the famed 450-year-old Shanishingnapur Temple when a highest-ranking woman, President Droupadi Murmu, visited the open-to-sky shrine for the first time after the place of worship was thrown open to women devotees in April 2016, here on Thursday.

President Murmu, currently on a visit to Maharashtra, flew down in a helicopter along with her daughter Itishree, Governor Ramesh Bais, and other officials from Pune to Ahmednagar’s Sonai for a ‘darshan’ at the Shri Shanaishwar Devasthan Shanishingnapur’s (SSDS) Lord Shanidev temple.

Upon landing, the President and her daughter refreshed themselves at the public relations office and then proceeded to the nearby Udasi Maharaj Math and performed an ‘abhishek’ for about 10 minutes, said the SSDS media relations officer Anil Darandale.

Thereafter, the President went to the platform of the black stone, self-manifested (swayambhu) image of Lord Shanidev, dreaded by many, and poured around a litre of his favourite ‘rye tel’ (mustard oil) from a brass utensil.

“This is truly a historic day… President Murmu has become the highest-ranking woman dignitary to pray at the temple after our successful agitation which opened the doors for women in April 2016,” Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (BRB) chief Trupti Desai told IANS about her much-maligned but successful ‘temples for women’ campaign.

After the oil ‘abhishek’, President Murmu returned to the adjacent temple premises for a special pooja organised for her where she sat in full devotion, flanked by her daughter and the Governor on either side.

A short distance away stood Maharashtra ministers Radhakrisnhe Vikhe-Patil, Dadaji Bhuse, MPs Sadashiv Lokhande and Sujay Vikhe-Patil and his wife Dhanashree S. Vikhe-Patil, watching the ‘pooja’.

After the prayer ceremony was over, President Murmu, Itishree, Bais and other officials went to the SSDS office where they were accorded a warm welcome by the trustees – President Bhagwat Bankar, Vice-President Vikas Bankar, CEO Goraknath Darandale, Anil Darandale and other officials.

Thereafter, the President was formally felicitated by all the trustees, honoured with the traditional shawl, coconut, flowers, and a replica of Lord Shanidev, while Vikhe-Patil presented her with a statuette of Sant Dnyaneshwar, near the Udasi Maharaj Math.

Then, it was time for a ‘prasad’ meal in the SSDS office where the President, her daughter, Governor, the ministers and a select few were treated to ‘bhojan’ prepared by the temple ‘prasadalaya’.

The simple fare comprised madki vegetable, rice-dal, thesa, salad and sweet sheera, which were savoured by the dignitaries – and it was almost the same meal that was served on Thursday to the thousands of devotees thronging the temple, informed Anil Darandale.

An official later said that a staffer from the Presidential delegation quietly paid up around Rs 1000 for the mustard oil used by all the VVIPs at the ‘tel abhishek’.

“This was unexpected and rare, as VIPs usually don’t pay attention to such details,” said a trustee, adding that the temple has never been graced by any President before, or even any woman Governor or Chief Minister.

It may be recalled that after the Trupti Desai-led campaign, the Lord Shanidev Temple allowed women to go up the platform and offer prayers to the God of Justice, who is the son of Suryadev.

The other prominent persons present were Additional DGP Sanjay Saxena, Nashik Divisional Commissioner Radhakrishna Game, District Collector Siddharam Salimath, Superintendent of Police Rakesh Ola, and Zilla Parishad CEO Ashish Yerekar.

Anil Darandale said such is the benevolence of Lord Shanidev over the Shanishingnapur village that it is the only one in the world where homes don’t have any locks, including the sole lender, the UCO Bank, and the local police station.

“Yet, there are no thefts in any home or the bank or any persons fleeing from the police station lock-up,” he told IANS.

Now, Desai has urged President Murmu to pay a visit to the famed Sabarimala Temple in Kerala where women devotees are still barred from entry.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])


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