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Women Decide To Worship In Shani Shingnapur Temple:An Effort For Religious Equality

By Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava

26 January, 2016

Today on republic day, about 1500 women decided to worship in Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra where women are barred from worship. A bold step, a collaborated effort, an effort for justice and equality, the chosen day is day of equality, hence their efforts are genuine, arduous and symbol of strengthened civil society and women’s power. The recent news is that ‘Women activists headed to Shani temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra were stopped at Supa village, 70 km from the shrine. Police later confirmed that Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai has been detained and taken to Supa Police Station. Pune-based women’s outfit, Ranragini Bhumata Brigade on Tuesday went ahead with its plan to offer worship at the Shani Shingnapur temple, defying strong local opposition and administrative diktat.’ (The Hindu, 26th Januarry 2016, http://www.thehindu.com)

The fact at the ground level is that there is not only gender discrimination but there is also caste discrimination because dalits are not allocated same status as the upper castes Hindus are allocated in the temple worshipping.

The truth is that women and dalits are not allocated similar status in several of the temples although constitution clearly states equality. As read: under article 25 (1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. (2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
Why is it so then? Answer lies in the fact that constitutional values have not been adopted by most of the people of different religions. Moreover intellectual bases of Hindu religion have also been misused; the religious bases of Hinduism in deep ancient times originated with the efforts of Rishis who in Vedic age had no gender discrimination as Ananya, Ghosha, Apala like Rishi Girls maintained equal status with males but things started to decline in Later Vedic period when establishment of structured caste system occurred, a transition from functional caste system, helped upper caste people to capture the power. They now decided to formulate rules and regulations for the Hindu community. They formulated these for their own benefits and segregated the lower castes from religious affairs, women were also put at lower status. Thus Hindu religion in fact became the Brahminical religion which had the base of inequality among the human beings as the equal treatment to all would have diluted their power system, hence Hindu religion gradually became the religion of only few. This system has still continued. Dalits and women got such treatment as these were weak and unoraginsed.

Even in the recent time the influence of this class was so strong that they opposed the abolition of Sati System for which Raja Ram Mohan Roy had to go Britain to tell the legislators what the truth was. In fact upper caste Hindu Brahmins had placed their argument to British authorities that such abolition will be intervention in their religion, thus monopolizing the Hindu religion, finally Raja Ram Mohan Roy prevailed; but the reality is that this segment of Hindu society has made rules for all including the Hindu widows and several thousands of widow women, having been persecuted in every manner, are living horrible life due to perverted rules of in Mathura-Vrindavan area.

Dalits have realized that they will not get equal status in the Brahmin dominated Hindu religion, hence they are shifting from Hindu religion to more equalized religion of Buddhism. The major problem of Hindu religion is that its rules, regulations are made by upper castes. Its institutions are controlled by upper castes. Several top religious authorities of the religion are also not in mood to reform the religion. They on the other hand treat Hindu religion as their personal fiefdom.

Supreme Court has clearly spelt out that only basic and integral tenets of any religion are important. In this background to make rules for the temple, to decide the dress code for temple entry, to decide the living ways for the widows and to create lower castes and segregate lower castes on the basis of castes are not true tenets of Hinduism. As Supreme Court has clearly defined that Hinduism is a way of life. It is therefore not based on any conservative thoughts and everyone has equal share in it.

With these arguments it is necessary that Hinduism should be reformed by the liberal forces within the religion. The discriminatory rules should be challenged by all, finally Hinduism is not a religion of any single caste or gender and none has authority to lower women and dalits.

The truth of ages is that no religion can ever be based on discrimination. There is great need to emphasise that India as a country cannot progress as long as the Hinduism is not properly reformed in which equality of every sort is granted to all. It is so because as long its major religion is unequal till then its people will remain unequal. There is clash between constitutional values and religious values but constitution overpowers all.

Hence there is need to understand the long term impact of women’s efforts for temple entry. The base of human civilization cannot be singular that male will only possess authority but the civilisation can progress only when all the people without any gender discrimination or castes discrimination are allocated equal value. This needs to be understood by those who run the business for the religion.

Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Assistant Professor, CSJM Kanpur University (affiliated College) and Vice Chairman CSSP, e [email protected]



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