Pune: Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar today claimed to have broken the impasse on the ‘gender bias’ at Shani Shingnapur temple by proposing the “Tirupati Balaji” darshan model that keeps both men and women away from inner sanctum, but women’s activist Trupti Desai said she is awaiting a “proper decision” from Chief Minister on the issue. The Art of Living Foundation founder today mediated on the issue by holding separate meetings with the trustees of the temple and Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai, who had recently led an agitation against the traditional ban on women at the temple’s sacred ‘chabutara’ (platform) at the temple.
“There are two models for darshans by devotees namely Kashi Vishwanath and Tirupati Balaji. This solution is based on the Tirupati Balaji model where no one — men or women — are allowed in the inner sanctum,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told reporters here after the meeting.
“No one (both men and women) will step on the sacred chabutara and all will have darshan of the deity from a distance of three feet away from it. Thus there will be no gender discrimination,” he said. “It is not that you do not get blessings of God if you have a darshan from some distance,” he added.
The spiritual leader said that because of constant pouring of oil, the slippery surface of the chabutara posed the risk of skidding for the devotees who throng for darshan. “There seems to be a communication gap between the two sides,”he felt. However, responding to Sri Sri’s suggestion, Desai said, “If both men and women are to be disallowed to have darshan by stepping on the chabutara in future, then activists of Bhoomata Brigade should have an opportunity to perform the
last Pooja at the sacred platform in the presence of Sri Sri and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.”
Asked what was her next move since she was not satisfied with the formula evolved by Sri Sri , Desai said, “We are scheduled to meet Maharashtra Chief Minister next week. We hope he will take a proper decision on the issue backing women’s rights to end gender bias at religious places.”
On January 26, at least 400 women volunteers, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had made an unsuccessful attempt to storm the chabutara of the temple when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km from the shrine. Desai told reporters that it was wrong to prohibit men also in order to perpetuate the traditional ban on women to offer Pooja by stepping on the chabutara.
“If only priests were to be allowed entry into the chabutara to perform pooja, they should include women priests also to sent out message of gender equality,” she demanded. A representative of the temple trustees said they agreed with Ravi Shankar’s proposal to disallow both men and women from stepping on the chabutara, but disagreed with the suggestion to allow the women activists to perform the “last pooja” before effecting the gender neutral ban.