A small village which is 35 km away from the Ahmednagar of Maharashtra has got its own significances and tradition. The village known for the “Shani” temple (The God associated with planet Saturn) was also named after Lord Shani.
Shani Shignapur is also famous for the fact that no houses in the village as doors. The villagers strongly believed in their diety as the protector. The village has a 300 year old legacy. And this belief is extended to the commercial buildings including hotels, civic establishments and even banks!. And it will be very difficult for you to get keys and locks in Shignapur.
Surprisingly, no thefts are reported in the village. It is believed that God Shani punishes the one who tries to steal the belongings of others.
The diety here is a 1.5 m black monolith installed on a platform without under any roof. The deity is “Swayambu” (self evolved diety) . The temple is believed to be a “alive temple” and is opened 24 hours a day throughout the year.
The Myth of Shani Temple
According to their belief, in 17th century shepherds from Shignapur village found a black monolith floating across the river, they recovered and poked it with a stick. Suddenly, blood started to oozing out from the stone. Villagers assembled to view the miracle.
At that night Lord appeared in the dream of a shepherd and told him that he is “Shaneshwaran” and the black monolith found is his “ Swayambu”. Lord Shaneshwaran asked to offer him daily pooja and not to construct any temple, as whole sky is his roof and preferred to be under open sky. And he promised the villagers need not have to fear about dacoity or burglar .
Locals even today there is no doors for their houses, except door frames and curtains to maintain privacy. They go about their daily chores without worrying about the security of their belongings. They even go out of town for days not even asking their neighbours to keep vigil.
The temple is a popular divine destination, almost 40,000 devotees visits each day, the number even rises during the new moon , especially if it falls on Saturday which is considered as auspicious .
According to the 400 year old tradition, women were not allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the temple. And on 30 March 2016 Bombay high Court asked Maharashtra Government to take off the restriction on women regarding the entry of temple. But, even now the local women wouldn’t enter the inner sanctum of the temple as a respect to their tradition.
People with Open hearts
The locals always welcomed the visitors with open heart, they followed the tradition of equating their “Adithis” with God (Adithi Devo Bhava), they never missed a chance to treat the visitors with their traditional Maharashtrian delicacy. They always believed that one should not be rich to share the food to each other.
The traditional Maharashtrian delicacy includes “ Pithla- Bhakri”, which is a popular dish. The dish is prepared with gram flour, turmeric , a pinch of salt , pithla-the porridge is slowly cooked in hot oil along with cumin seeds and mustard. Later, a thick paste of green chilies, peanuts and other condiments are added to the preparation. Along with this bright yellow-coloured dish, hot bhakri, a round flat thick bread and chutney made of green chillies serves a great combination.
There are almost 4000 residents in the village. The main occupation of the people here are agriculture and some have set up shops nearby temple to sell pooja items. The main crops grown are wheat, onion and sugarcane. Some residents also have shops which sells household goods and food, some others work in the temple.
Bank With No Locks
Another interesting thing you can find here is that, the only bank in India which is “lockless”. By keeping in mind the tradition of the village, the branch of United Commercial Bank was inaugrated on January 2011 lockless. It is first of its kind in the country.
The bank which currently has more than 10,000 account holders, assures that all documents and money are safe. Even though the bank doesn’t have a conventional lock system, it has doors and remotes controlled electromagnetic lock.
Exceptional Cases of Theft
Till 2010, there were no instances of theft or burglary reported but, in recent times two to three theft was reported in 2011 and 2012. Shani Shignapur, had no police station for years. A police station was shifted from a nearby village to Shignapur in 2015.
The way to Shignapur village is covered with the vast areas of sugarcanes. The sugarcane cultivation and production plays a main role in the economy of the town. The factory produces about 700 tonnes of sugar a day and every morning you can see people carrying the sugarcane in bull carts all the way to sugar factory.
And instead of machines, people here uses traditional way to squeeze the sugarcane juice. People use bull to extract juice from the sugarcane, this type of juice extraction centres are known as ‘Rasavanthy’.
The people of Shani Shignapur village still continues to follow and maintain their traditions and culture and also preserves their legacy as a town without doors. Not only the doors but also the hearts of the villagers are always open to welcome the visitors. The hospitality and warmth they expresses to the outsiders who comes to their village are amazing. The strong belief and the way hey preserves their culture is also a uncommon thing in the present scenario.