Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Jan 11: Anita Shetye, a housewife, created history of sort on Monday when she was unanimously appointed the first ever woman chairperson of the world-famous Shani Shingnapur Temple Trust, an official said.
Women devotees are not allowed to worship at this temple, dedicated to Lord Shanidev - the personification of planet Saturn.
"This is the first time in the temple's over five centuries old history that this welcome development has taken place today. Another woman, Vaishali Lande, has also been appointed to the board of 11 trustees managing the temple," Prafull N. Surpuriya, a trustee, confirmed to IANS.
Shetye, 40, will enjoy a five-year term in her post along with the other 11 trustees. As mandated, all the trustees are residents of Singnapur and born within the Shingnapur gram panchayat, which has a population of around 1,500.
"However, the temple will still continue to debar women devotees from worshipping at the temple," Surpuriya said.
"It is an ancient tradition that women are debarred from climbing up the temple steps to pour oil and offer prayers to Shanidev... There's no reason for us to change traditions," Surpuriya added.
Referring to a recent incident when a young woman unknowingly went up the temple steps and offered prayers before the deity, he pointed out that she admitted it was a genuine mistake and later apologised.
"Last month, a group of four women created a ruckus but along with some 400-500 other women, they left without going up to the temple," Surpuriya explained.
Shani Shingnapur is also globally renowned as the only village where the houses do not have doors and locks, and even a local branch of a nationalised bank does not have locks as there is no fear of thieves.
Although the temple itself has a much older history, the present form of management and running its activities are over five centuries old, Surpuriya said.