Women are not allowed to enter the templeNews — By The Desk on June 17, 2008 at 11:19 AM
Expressindia.com: At Uma Maheshwar Mandir in Somwar Peth, the 300-year-old tradition lives on; trustees, pundits say the practice must continue. In a city, known for its path-breaking concepts like women priests, a 300-year-old tradition continues to live on, with no eyebrows raised.
Uma Maheshwar Mandir — located in the midst of Siddhivinayak Keshar Society in Somwar Peth — has kept women out since it came into existence. Comprising three Shankar temples, it is located at the centre of the complex that has in its precincts 75 flats, 70 offices and 32 shops and is a hub of incessant activity all day long. Even as other temples in the city that started out with similar restrictions gradually succumbed to the forces of change and opened their doors to both men and women, at the Uma Maheshwar temple this ancient practice persists till today.
At the temple premises, words painted on the walls of the buildings surrounding the temples drive home the point: Kripaya mahilani mandirat pravesh karu naye (Women are requested not to enter the temple). None of the women from the 75 families that live in the complex have ever transcended this limit set for them and other women folk.
“These are all samadhi mandirs — the mahants or priests took samadhi inside the temple and the shiv pind was then made over the samadhi. Women are not allowed to enter such temples from time immemorial and we have ensured that this tradition is not broken,” says Balasaheb Ladkat, a local politician who owned the wada that was demolished about six years ago to build the modern complex and is also the trustee of the temple.
“One of the male members of the family conducts the daily puja here everyday. On special occasions we have havans with gayatri mantra being recited over the microphones that everyone can listen to. So there is no need really for the women to enter the temples,” says Ladkat.
Sudha Ladkat, his sister-in-law who lives in a wing of the building where the entire Ladkat clan resides, admits that the women in the complex and outside have accepted the practice without raising objections. “It’s an old tradition and we just follow it, though at times one does feel that we women should also be able to go inside the temple,” says Sudha. Her husband Rajendra Ladkat is a lecturer at the College of Engineering Pune.
Aarti Takalkar, a BPO employee with WNS who has been staying at the complex for the past two years, attributes it all to “superstition” but admits that she too has never entered the temple out of respect for the sentiments of the people around.
Pushpalata Dharamadhikari, one of the senior most women pundits of the city, says barring women from certain temples is not a new practice in the country or the city. “Even in Pune there is the Omkareshwar temple near Balgandharva Rangmandir where women are not allowed. The main motive behind this is to preserve the purity of the place and I don’t think there is anything wrong in it. Since it’s an ancient practice it makes sense to continue with it,” says Dharamadhikari.
Echoes Ladkat, “There is this Kanifnath temple in Saswad where women are not allowed. Most shani temples too follow this. Traditionally women were not allowed even in the Jangli Maharaj temple in the city but now that has changed. But we intend to continue with this belief and practice over here as long as can.”