During our visit to Shirdi a few months ago, we decided impulsively to visit Shani Shinganapur which is about 76 kms from there. Having heard a lot about how Shani Maharaj had chosen to come to Shani Shinganapur and how because of his grace, the people of Shinganapur stay fearless and do not bother to have doors in their homes, we were really excited about our trip.
So we set off at about 5 am in the morning and after a brief stop at a roadside hotel, to have delicious Puri Baaji and Poha, we reached Sonai. There is a toll gate a few kilometres away from the temple. When our vehicle slowed down at the toll plaza, we were startled to find two men on a motorbike knocking on the raised window panes. We did not roll down the window fearing they would mean harm.
The vehicle started rolling out of the toll plaza, but the men would not stop following us. In fact, the pillion rider was urging the driver to overtake our vehicle and ask us to stop. We were four women in the car and it was Holi Day, so we started getting worried. Since I was the only one among us who spoke Hindi, my friend asked me to instruct the driver to stop the vehicle to see what these men were up to. When we did just that, the pillion rider asked his friend too to stop the bike, and walked over to our car. He pulled out a visiting card and came to the window. Gingerly I rolled down the window a few centimetres. He put the visiting card inside and said " Behenji, aap mere Dookan mein aake pooja ka saman khareediye, address card pe hai" (Please come and buy the materials required for worship from my shop, the address is on the card).
|One of the shops selling pooja materials|
Several people were going towards the temple with wet saffron clothered clothes after taking a dip at Panasnala. The entrance to the temple, just like any other house in the village has no doors and is open 24 hours of the day. The huge temple complex is extremely clean and there are several facilities for devotees like a reception center, book stall, drinking water facilities etc.
|The corridor that leads into the temple|
After checking in at the reception counter about the protocol for worship at the temple, we went inside and joined the queue. There were two seperate queues - one for those with wet clothes and the other for the others, which I thought made a lot of sense. Men with wet clothes were allowed to get on to the platform and pour the oil over the swayambu Shani Bhagavan themselves. As far as women are considered, we had to be satisfied with handing over the oil to the Panditji wearing black shirt and dhoti, who after pouring the oil we had brought on to the statue of Shani Maharaj, gave us a little oil from the shiny black stone which is considered as the Swayambu form of Shani Maharaj as prasad.
|The magnificient Shani Maharaj in open air|
" Om Nilanjana Samabhasam, Raviputram Yamagrajam
Chhaya Martand Sambhutam, Tam Namami Shanaishwaram"
The devotees chanted Jai Shani Deva as the harathi was performed and the air was electric with the fervour of devotion. How did Shani Maharaj come here in this form and what makes Shani Shingnapur so unique?
Arrival of Shani Maharaj at Shinganapur:
|Shani Maharaj (Photo Courtesy: Shanaishwar Devasthan)|
About 350 years ago, there was heavy rain in this area, and in the rain water this huge black slab (5 1/2 feet high and 1 1/2 feet wide) came floating. As the water flowed, the stone got stuck in the roots of a large berry tree. Once the water drained, some cattle grazers saw the stone, When they tried to dislodge it from the roots by prodding the stone, blood started oozing from it. The shocked cattle grazers ran away. That night Shanidev appeared in the dream of a villager and told him that he had decided to stay in that form in Shinganapur and that he could only be lifted out by those who were uncle and nephew in relation and carried in a bullock cart with black bullocks. When the villagers tried to get the stone idol out,they could not carry it any further and so decided to install it where it stood.
Unique Features of Shinganapur:
1. No shelter over Shani Maharaj - As per the instructions received from Shani Maharaj himself, there is no roof or temple built over his idol.
2. No doors or locks in houses - The most unique feature in Shingnapur that differentiated this village from any other place in the world is that there are no doors or locks to houses. The villagers firmly believe that Shani Maharaj protects them from thieves and wrong doers and they only have door frames and curtains in the place of doors and locks. There are several stories narrated by local villagers about how nobody in the village would dare to make an attempt to steal other's property and also about how when some outsiders have made an attempt to steal they have been punished by Shani Maharaj.
|Only curtains in place of doors in Shingnapur|
Photo Courtesy: Travel Sulekha
3. No branches grow over the Moolasthan - There was a neem tree that grew near the Moolasthan but everytime a branch grew near Shani Maharaj it would automatically break and fall down. Few years ago, this tree fell and another fig tree has grown there. This too does not extend its branches upto the idol.
4. Water poured over the idol is cure for snakebite - In case of any incident of snakebite in the village, all that the villagers do is to bring the person in white clothes to the temple. A male relative in wet clothes performes abhishekam to the idol and the water is given to the person to drink. In a couple of hours, the person regains consciousness and is not affected by the poison.
5. Shani Maharaj's palanquin- Devotees worship Shani Maharaj's palanquin placed closed to the Moolasthan which has a huge wooden slipper in it. Several shops sell miniatures of this wooden slipper that people buy and take home as talisman.
6. Lamp that burns 24*7 - There is a lamp that burns through day and night in front of the moolasthan.
The temple also has the Samadhi of Udasi Baba who stayed in Shingnapur for many years and worshipped Shani Maharaj.
|An idol of Shivaji Maharaj in the temple complex|
Maharashtra still shows a lot of love and respect for Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj that can well be seen from the statues and idols found in several places. The temple too has a large idol of Shivaji Maharaj outside it.
Contact Details :
Shri Shanaishwar Devasthan
Shani Shinganapur, Sonai Post,
Newasa Taluk, Ahmednagar Dist
Maharashtra - 414105
Adequate accomodation and boarding facilities are available around the temple. For further information on route to Shani Shinganapur, the history of the temple, festivals, donations, pooja information etc. do check out the Official Website of the Temple.
After a divine experience at the Shani Maharaj Temple, we started on our way back to Shirdi. It was around noon then and what better way to quench our thirst than have fresh fresh Ganne ka Ras (Sugarcane Juice) extracted in an absolutely unique fashion. Check it out!
|Bullocks being used to extract Sugarcane Juice in Shani Shingnapur|