Friday, October 21, 2011

Shani Shinganapur - A village with no doors or locks!


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
Goodness, Gracious! He almost had us screaming. We rolled the window up and went into the parking lot a few metres across to the temple. The parking lot also has several rows of shops all selling gingelly oil in all quantities and packaging, and various other pooja materials like flowers, betel leaves and so on. We started walking towards the temple. Again, there were several vendors inviting us to buy pooja materials from their shop. We stopped at one, and bought gingelly oil for pouring over the swayambu Shani Maharaj.

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


One of the major features in this temple is that instructions and guidance for devotees is available in English, apart from Hindi and Marathi, which is not a common feature in other parts of Maharashtra. In fact in Nasik and Panchavati, when I tried to find literature on the history of the temples I could not find anything in English.

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

I stood in awe watching the magnificient Shani Maharaj as he stood in open air. Buckets of oil were being poured on to him by hundreds of devotees who queue up throughout the day and he accepts all the offerings gracefully. At that exact moment, when I was in complete concentration, the harathi started. With the drums and bells going off, an old panditji sang
" 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



33 comments:

  1. wonderful narration
    is photography allowed at the temple?

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  2. There are no doors in the village houses, no main temple door, water that cures snake bite.....all these appear to be unique and supernatural to some extent, But, it's all happening around us and we have got to believe it....informative post and keep spreading the aroma of divinity in your blog. ALL THE VERY BEST.

    From: sriramnivas.wordpress.com

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  3. @magiceye, thanks so much. Actually they do not mind taking pictures as long as it is not close to the moolasthan.

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  4. @sriramnivas, thanks so much. Agree absolutely that there are so many things that are beyond our comprehension but exist in reality due to the Grace of the Almighty.

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  5. Glad to see Shani honoured. I've always felt sorry for deities that are not liked [only feared]

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  6. Nice description of your visit to Shani Singnapur, the ritual of lighting the lamp after bathing is still afresh in my memory.

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  7. hey we have been to Shani Shingnapur once on our way back from Shirdi...i did not know about the branch not growing thing.. but the doors without locks was really surprising to me :) :)...very nicely narrated Priya :) :)

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  8. @Sunita, that is the whole purpose of AK....to try and give as much interesting information as possible on a particular temple so that the traveller is able to appreciate all the uniqueness and divinity about it! :) Thanks for your feedback!
    Cheers Priya

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  9. Very well narrated travel experience. Hopefully will get a chance to visit the village sometime. Really piques my interest that we still have some place that has managed to stay away from padlocks.

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  10. @Ramakant, Thanks for your feedback. Shingnapur is a proof of unquestioning devotion and trust that people have on Shanidev and how he has been protecting them from all evil!

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  11. I had been to this place some 10 years back. A serene village. The absence of doors was a shock...

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  12. Well that is the grace of Shani Maharaj!

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  13. I went few days back to shani shingnapur, things have changed a lot, the custom of men going in only a dhoti has been done away with. They have stopped people going near the shila and performing abhishekam to it. The oil is poured by all in a common place, from where it is pumped and poured over the shila.

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  14. Thanks so much for this update
    Regards
    Priya

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    Replies
    1. One more place worth mentioning around shirdi is Sakori, a small village 5kms away from shirdi. There is an ashram of Upasani Maharaja, a direct disciple of Shirdi Sai Baba, who started a very unique Kanya Ashram here. All worship here is done by kanyas like pooja, yagna etc.. A very serene and must visit place. Upasani Maharaja's samadhi is also situated here.

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  15. can we bring the prasad and all the artifacts like small black dolls and ghode ki naal etc back to our home from the shani shingnanapur ? the prasad sellers sell all these items in a basket and tell all to be taken back to home after pooja but some people informed that don't bring anything from there.

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  16. I have not heard anything about not bringing back prasad..several people do carry back the prasad and I did too!

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  17. i just wish to visit this place (shani shignapur)

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  18. thank you......it is going to help lot people willing to worship Shani Dev Maharaj........

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  19. They have a rich culture. You can it from their surroundings.

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  20. Really very interesting story.. Jai Shanidev!!!!!!!

    Shani Shingnapur

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  21. Shani Shingnapur, situated in Shingnapur distict of Maharashtra is among the prime abode of lord Shani. The stone statue of lord Shani present here’s believed to have appeared by itself.

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  22. Thanks for your valuable information. I think we can bring back the prasad and other stuff like black idol. Because Shani dev is not just punishes for our bad deeds but also protects us. After all Lord Shanidev is so great that he cannot live under anybody’s shelter

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  23. nice information thank you so much

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  24. thanq madam excellent article put in website i wandered i wish to visit shanisinganapur

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  25. I M SO EXCITED WITH THIS VALUABLE INF0RMATION THAT I VE INSTANTLY CHOKED OUT THE PLAN TO VISIT THIS HOLY PLACE.JAI SHANIDEV

    M P JAIN

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  26. WE HAD SHARSHAN AT SHIRIDI AND THEN WENT SHANI SIGNAPUR ON 25TH OF AUGUST (SUNDAY). BY A TEMPO TRAVELLER. THOUGH I HAD DHARSHAN AT THE TEMPLE THE EXPERIENCE WAS REALLY HORRIBLE. FIRST THE TERROR STARTS RIGHT AT THE TOLLGATE LOCATED ON THE OUTSKIRTS. 10 TO 15 MEN ON THE MOTORCYCLES EITHER BLOCK THE VEHICLE RIGHT THERE OR CHASE YOU DOWN TO THE VILLAGE AND THEY DEMAND THAT THEY ALONE CAN TAKE YOU TO THE TEMPLE. THEN THERE COMES DIFFERENT GROUPS THUGS STATIONED JUST BEFORE A KM OF THE TEMPLE. EACH GROUP CONSISTS OF SIX TO EIGHT MEN THEY BLOCK THE VEHICLE AND THREATEN THE PASSENGERS TO ACCOMPANY THEM CLAIMING THEY ARE THE AUTHORISED AGENTS. THOUGH THE DRIVER IS A LOCAL GUY , HE WAS LITERALLLLLLY MANHANDLED WHEN HE TRIED TO SAY SOMETHING IN MARATHI. ALL THESE THINGS HAPPEN RIGHT IN FRONT OF POLICE AND THEY ARE MUTE SPECTATORS TO THIS ARTOCIOUS BEHAVIOUR. THIS SORT OF UNRULY, THREATENING, ROWDY ELEMENTS SPOIL THE SANCTITY OF THE SANCTORIUM AND WE HAVE TO THINK UMPTY NUMBER OF TIMES BEFORE VISITING THE TEMPLE. I HAVE SEEN PESTERING TOUTS AROUND TEMPLES BUT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I CAME ACROSS SUCH A BRUTAL SET OF ROGUES TERRORISING PILGRIMS. THIS IS A TOTAL SHAME ON THE LOCAL ADMINISTRAION AS WELL THE ENTIRE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OF MAHARASHTRA.
    J.RANGARAJAN

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    1. Sir
      We have gone there many times - both as group of tourists,as well as individually with our family.We know little Hindi only. But we never faced any problems. If we r lucky we will get guides knowing Tamil. Just like any other popular pilgrim places, some persuating canvassing for Pooja materials from the shops nearby. This is also not so disturbing as agentz in Palani,Rameswaram & other places in South. In my experience we have no problems in Religious places in any part - except very few disturbing places.

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  27. Hi, just stumbled upon your blog and felt like asking a question. I am planning to visit Shirdi next month and the same day, i wish to see this holy temple. But i have to catch a train that night at 12. Is it possible to visit Shirdi and shani signapur the same day? Help and guide me on this one.

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  28. @shashidhar: shingnapur is around 75 KMs from shirdi. There are many private vehicles who take you to shingnapur, you can find many people around Sai Baba's temple and near bus stand. Usually it takes 5 hours for the whole trip to shingnapur ( to and fro ), which includes going from shirdi to shingnapur, performing self pooja in the temple and coming back to shirdi. Usually the private vehicles charge around 100 to 150 rupees depending on the vehicle you are travelling and the condition of the vehicle.

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  29. kindly let me know the story behind no doors in the houses

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