Village without Doors; God is their Guard..!!
There is a small village in India, where houses have no doors. Not only houses but all other buildings such as shops, hotels, offices and even bank are without doors. They have only door frames and curtains. The villagers never keep cash and valuables under lock and keys. They live in harmony with a single belief that their powerful God Shanishwara (Saturn) protects them from thieves and punishes those who attempt thefts. For them this world is an open space suitable for anyone to live with freedom and without fear. Their minds are open just like their houses. Their belief protects them. Their Lord is alive, watching his devotees every moment and caring them like his dearest children. No thieves, no liquor, no gambling, no non-vegetarian food, no cheating, no untruth; it is a wonderful place to live. It is not a dream place; but a real village vibrating with the heart-beats of about 7000 God-fearing people. They have only one language, one caste, one religion, and one belief. The village is Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra State, situated in Nevasa Taluk of Ahmednagar District, known all over the world for its famous temple of Lord Shanishwara.
In 2011,UCO bank opened a “lockless” branch in the village, the first of its kind in the country. They cannot break the traditions of the village and at the same time they have to maintain the high security norms of the industry as per government regulations. Hence they have provided a glass door at the entrance that always remains open and there is no conventional lock provided. However necessary measures have been taken for proper security and safety of lockers and documents.
The Shrine and the Worship
The idol of Lord Shanishwara is a shiny black rock of about 5 ½ feet high, installed in an open platform without roof or temple, and decorated with garlands of flowers. There is a bull image on the southern side and small images of Shiva and Hanuman in front of the main deity. A lamp in front of the shrine burns through day and night.
The huge temple complex offers reception, book stall, accommodation and several facilities to the devotees in an extremely clean atmosphere. Booklets describing the guidance to the devotees are available in English, Hindi and Marathi languages.
Devotees wear saffron dress and take a dip at the holy water near the temple before entering the shrine. There are separate queues for devotees with wet dress and for others with normal dress. After carrying out a couple of pradakshinams (circumambulation) the devotees perform Abhishekam by showering the deity with water and oil, and offering flowers to Lord Shani. There is no separate priest; every devotee is a priest himself. But only men with wet dress are allowed to get on to the platform and do Abhishekam. Others and women devotees should stand below the platform. There are many arrangements for Abhishekam. The devotees can pour oil in a tank kept for the purpose, near the stage, from where it is sent continuously to a dripping vessel hanging above the image.
Story behind the Worship
There is a story behind the worship of Lord Shanishwara in that village. It is like this:
Hundreds of years ago, there was a heavy rain in the village and in the rain water a huge black stone of 5 ½ feet high and 1 ½ feet wide came floating. When the rain stopped, and when the water flow slowed down, the stone got stuck under the roots of a large tree. Some shepherds saw the stone and tried to remove it from the roots of the tree. When they touched it with a rod, the stone started bleeding. The shepherds became frightened and ran away from the place. That night Lord Shanishwara appeared in the dream of one of the shepherds and told him that he was Shanishwara and the black stone was his Swayambhu (self-evolved) image. He instructed the shepherd to install him under the open sky, without any roof, and to carry out daily puja and ‘oil abhisheka’ on every Saturday. He assured that he would protect the village from thieves and all devilish acts.
Unique Features and Popular Legends
It is believed that of Lord Shanishwara of this open temple is very powerful. Shani is watching everything happening in that village and gives hard punishments to whoever attempts thefts. If anything is lost from a devotee, like cash, golden chain, watch or any valuables, he will get it back immediately by the power of the Lord.
The pamphlet of the shrine proudly declares that professional robbers, dacoits and drunkards will never come there; but if they come by chance they will behave like wise people, due to the power of Lord Shanishwara.
There are some popular legends regarding Shani Shingnapur, which are as follows.
“There is God, but no Temple”: Lord Shanishwara is open to all; it is the symbol of freedom and open mind. The image is installed under the open sky without any temple or roof and is capable to resist all forms of harsh conditions, including rain, sunlight, cold, storm or any abnormal natural calamities.
“There is Tree, but no Shade”: Lord Shanishwara does not want to live in the shadow of anything. There was a neem tree near the Moolasthan, but its shadow would never fall on the statue, because whenever a branch grew towards the side of the statue, it would automatically break and fall down.
“There is House, but no Door”: The villagers have complete faith on Lord Shanishwara and that is why they do not construct any doors or windows to their houses. In this world of selfishness, when people build walls between them, these villagers teach us a unique lesson of selflessness and open mind.
“There is Fear, but no Enemy”: Shani is usually misinterpreted as a deity responsible for all our sufferings. But the truth is that Shani is not our enemy, but our friend. We are afraid of him because we do wrong things. Fear is there when we are guilty. Nobody is going to attack us if we are good in our thoughts and deeds. We reap what we sow. No external force can stop it.
When to Visit
The shrine is open for visit by everyone for twenty four hours. Thousands of people all over the world visit there every day with devotion and offer oil to Lord Shanishwara. The temple is now a large trust and is the main source of income of the village. The most auspicious day is Amavasya (the new moon day) during which the visitors exceeds lakhs in numbers. During new moon days a fair will be conducted on the village, and when the days fall on Saturdays, big festivals will be held. Shani Jayanti festival is held to celebrate the birthday of Lord Shanishwara, which falls in the month of May.
How to reach there
Nearest city is Ahmednagar which is about 35 km from Shani Shingnapur. Shirdi, the famous religious place, is at a distance of about 65 km by road. From Mumbai it is 265 km by road, from Pune 160 km and from Aurangabad it is about 90 km. Nearest railway station is Srirampur. Other suggested railway stations are Ahmednagar, Rahuri and Belapur. Nearest international airport is Mumbai. Visitors from other states of the country can come to Aurangabad or Pune by air. State Transport buses, taxis and jeeps can be utilized to reach Shani Shingnapur from the airports, railway stations and other city centers.
Shani Shingnapur is a small village and you cannot expect a comfortable hotel accommodation. The famous religious center Shirdi is only 65 km from the village, where comfortable hotel accommodation is available, suitable for all classes of people. So it is advisable to stay in a good hotel at Shirdi, and visit this village starting the journey from Shirdi in the early morning and return back by noon.
Everything goes fine till few years back, till 2010, without any significant records of thefts. But in recent years, stories have spread regarding incidents of few thefts of cash and valuables from a vehicle as well as from a retired official of the Trust. Rumours are also spread that Lord Shani punished the criminals immediately with mental and physical torture. But for a village like Shani Shingnapur, famous in the world for its ethics, tradition and faith, such incidents will affect its reputation badly. Moreover, the economy of the village revolves around the temple and their tradition. The villagers do not want to lose their popularity and their faith on their beloved protector, the Lord Shanishwara. It will not be surprising if they pressurize the concerned authorities to see many of the thefts go unreported. Their decisions can be justified unless they do not create major security issues.
Time has been changing and changes are being reflected everywhere. There are some people who do not want to take risk and are planning to build their houses with doors. And there are people who live in the village boundary in isolated area who have started to construct doors to their houses to ensure safety of their family. They are also sincere devotees and regular visitors of Lord Shanishwara. They are sure that they will face resistance from the villagers, but still they do not want to take any chances. They believe that human nature is beyond any predictions.
Shani Shingnapur is a model village that declares the world the glory of morality and freedom. A village like this cannot be seen anywhere in this world. No riots, no treacheries and no bloodsheds in the name of God. The village is peaceful. In the name of a faith that is powerful than all powers in this world, the whole village is following the path of virtue. With minds open to the whole world, hearts without selfishness and a language pulsating with love, they step ahead singing the divine song of freedom. Even though the tricky world tries to cheat them with all sorts of foul plays, they are not attracted towards it, but try to survive without losing the sanctity and innocence of their heart, and always upholding their tradition and faith.
Faith; it can be blind or realistic. But, if it brings goodness to everyone, it should be appreciated; and if it proclaims the message of peace it should be highly admired. Your power of reasoning is the deciding factor. And, you have the freedom to believe what you think is right!!
Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shingnapur.jpg
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