Sunday, 26 September, 2021
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Tale of a strange temple village

  • Chinmay Prasun Biswas
  • 3 September, 2021 12:00 AM
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The question of security is a burning issue all over the world. Crores of money are being spent for this purpose. Hundreds of companies around the world are producing different types of manual, mechanical, electronic, even remote control security equipment for household, motor garage, warehouse, office, bank, important buildings and installations. Thousands of trained forces always remain deployed to ensure airtight security of heads of states and governments, other VIPs in the fields of politics, administration, judiciary, film, sports and so on. Strange type of security measures are found in thriller movies like Star Wars and other films including those of James Bond series. Initial step to security in household or any building is to use lock at doors or gates.

Now-a-days when we cannot feel safe even with three-level security measures in our houses there is a village in India where the houses remain always open. In fact, there are no doors in the houses of that village. So, the question of closing does not arise. Located in Navasa district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, 35 km from Ahmednagar, the name of this village with 3,000 Marathi speaking population is Shani Singapur (trumpet of God Shani). This village is important because there is a unique temple of Shani, a Hindu deity. The village has been named after the God, Shani.

It is said that about 300 years ago a heavy rain flooded the village and a huge black stone was found on the bank of the Panashala River flowing beside the village. Curious people thought that it was a stone that flowed naturally in the river. Some others thought that it came under the influence of some divine power. Amid such confusion, a shepherd hit the stone with his stick and sat down. Immediately, blood began to trickle down from the stone. Being afraid, people started running. At night, everyone fell asleep at the same time under the influence of some invisible force. While everyone was asleep, the god Shani appeared in everyone’s dream at the same time. He told everyone that it is not an ordinary idol, it is me. If you worship me, I shall give you all freedom and security. Otherwise, this flow of blood will not stop.

God Shani tagged two conditions as a method of his worship –the idol will be preserved somewhere in this village and no one in the village will close the door of his house. If anybody closes the door of the house he (the god) will not take responsibility for his safety. For providing security, the deity must have access to everyone's house from time to time. Moreover, if the door of a house is closed the householder will be deprived of the god’s grace.

In the morning, one by one, the villagers realised that everyone had dreamt the same dream i.e. of  God Shani who had appeared in everyone's dreams. Gradually, all the villagers appeared near the stone. The flow of blood stopped temporarily.

As decided by the villagers, the sacred stone was placed vertically on ground on an altar. A doorless temple was built there which is called the temple of God Shani. The temple has a building, but the stone is placed under the open sky. Gradually, the temple became popular. There are other temples of Shani in India, but this temple is considered to be the largest temple of Shani in the world.

Since then nobody in the village builds door in his house. That trend is continuing ever since. However, some people later surrounded the lower portion of the entrance with a wooden frame so that dogs cannot enter into their houses, but the upper side is always open by the order of the god. However, curtains are hung in some rooms.

Not only houses, but also offices, shops, school and everything in Shani Singapur village remain always open. Even people of the village leave their money open in confidence believing that it is the responsibility of God Shani to take care of their resources. There is no door in the public toilets of the village. However, to protect privacy villagers use a square shaped plywood. Doorless system is also followed in constructing modern households in this village.

Around 40,000 people visit this village every month, worship the God, Shani, and donate huge amount of money. Despite the influx of so many people, theft never happens and poverty has disappeared from this village. However, for the first time in 2010 a visitor complained that about Tk 35,000 had been stolen from his car. In 2011, another visitor complained that gold worth around Tk 70,000 had been stolen from him. Local leaders called for trial in both cases, but the plaintiffs failed to produce any strong evidence to establish their claim. As a result, their complaints were dismissed. The villagers believed that those persons had accused them of stealing to verity the power of God Shani.

This village needs no police or security forces. However, a police station was set up in September 2015 to take care of the growing number of government offices and visitors. But, so far, no trial or complaint has been filed at the police station. In 2011, a branch of state-owned UCo Bank (formerly known as United Commercial Bank) was opened in the village. After discussing with the villagers, it was decided to install transparent glass door so that the god can observe everything inside and the door will never be locked. That transparent door remains unlocked round the clock, but no untoward incident has occurred so far.

It may appear that though the houses remain open certainly the villagers always keep a watchful eye on their resources, but the fact is reverse. When a family moves or goes outside the village, their resources remain completely exposed. They do not even request their neighbour(s) to take care of their houses.

The villagers believe that if anybody attempts to steal here, he will turn blind or face severe damage at the curse of God Shani. It is said that once a man placed a wooden door in his house to ensure security of his family and property. The next morning, he died from a tragic road accident.  All these may sound like fable, but this is a reality in Shani Singapur village.

 

The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes