Shunning Tradition at Shingnapur

“Big news, eh?” That was Lulu, my parrot, who flew in to settle on my window. He must have watched me reading newspaper.
“Shani Shingnapur! Women want entry to the temple of Shani.”
“Oh, really? But what’s the big deal? Why aren’t they allowed?”
“Well, that’s the tradition”
“Not to allow women inside temple?”
“Yes” I said, “Ayyappan temple at Sabarimala also has a similar practice.”
“Ayyappan is a ‘brahmachari’, so no women!”
“Isn’t that interesting? Men are fallible, not gods. Aren’t women allowed to enter Hanuman temple?” Lulu said with a smirk.

“It all comes out of belief, you see.”
“Beliefs are based on not-knowing! When you know, you don’t require any belief. We think Gods treat all equally, but you treat Gods unequally! Hah!!”
“Yes. I get what you are saying. Actually these are traditions and customs practised for centuries. Shingnapur also has a very interesting custom.”  
“What’s that?”
“No door to any house. Nobody locks his home.”
“They say that god Shani punishes anyone who steals.”
“Interesting. Wow! It places such a high value on the innate good nature of people.”
“Hmmm…. At least in this case it works like that….”
“And to practise the act signifying highest level of trust you require a deterrence! They says ‘Shani will punish…’ Phew!”
“I don’t get what you are saying.”
“It is simple! Obvious! Treating men and women equally is an act of high value. Those who believe in God say that HE too practises it. So we create a deterrent if men do not practise it.”
“What’s that?”
“The Government must punish anyone who comes in the way of not allowing women inside the temple. Deterrence itself is not a pre-eminent value; the primary value is morality, if I may quote Herman Kahn. Parrots understand right and wrong better than men parroting the mantras.” Lulu offered me the chilly he was eating.

Vivek Patwardhan