Location and History
In this world, where increasing crime rates, thefts, and burglaries force us to secure our homes in all possible ways, all homes in an Indian village in the Maharashtra State of India are left unguarded with the belief that God would be protecting the homes against any form of mishap. The staunch belief of the people in the village of Shani Shingnapur is associated with the “Swayambhu (self-evolved deity) Temple” in the village, a temple believed to host the Hindu God “Shani” (Saturn), a God whose presence at the temple is so “alive” that he will punish all who dare to bring harm to the innocent villagers. An interesting story is associated with the temple and its deity. It is believed that long, long ago, an imposing black stone was discovered at the temple site by a group of shepherds which, when touched by a sword, would bleed. No one was able to explain this unnatural occurrence. However, one day, when one of the most devout shepherds in the village had a vision of Lord Shanaishwara appearing in his dreams, claiming that he was present in the stone in his swayambhu form, the shepherds understood the mystery of the bleeding stone. From then on, the stone served as the idol of Lord Shanaishwara and began to be worshiped by people from near and far.
Crime and Safety
A walk through the village of Shani Shingnapur will reveal its uniqueness. All the homes here are without doors. Only door frames define the entrance to these homes. This exhibits the strength of belief of people at the temple. Their belief has also been rewarded over the years with almost zero reports of thefts in the village till 2009. However, scattered reports of thefts and burglaries do exist in the past few years. For example, in 2010, cash worth over $500 USD was stolen from a vehicle in the village. In 2011, another major theft occurred in the home of a retired government official in the village and gold ornaments, mobile phones, and cash worth $750 USD were stolen. However, in no way were the beliefs of the villagers shaken by such incidences and they continued to live on in their own unique manner.
What About the Bank Vaults?
It is not only the homes in the village that are devoid of doors but in 2011, the United Commercial Bank, a centralized bank in India, opened a branch in the village which though fitted with doors, keeps them open at all times. The local police force is unhappy with such arrangements as the bank’s policies go against the norms of the Government about maintaining high levels of safety and security in the country's banks. The bank officials, however, appear to be quite sure of their decisions. They claim that the bank respects the beliefs of the locals of the village. The locals believe that anyone who tries to conduct criminal acts in the village will be subject to the wrath of Lord Shani.
Nature, Sights, and Sounds
Today, the village of Shani Shingnapur is visited by thousands of tourists and devotees who come here experience the strength and power of local beliefs in the village and its influence on the lifestyle of the people. It is not only the homes and banks in the village but also the shops, post offices and schools that lack doors and security options of any kind. It is believed that all who engage in criminal acts at the village will be subject to Lord Shani’s wrath. Legends even claim that in the past thieves attempting to steal from the village have died vomiting blood or suffered from mental illnesses and other diseases post such attempts. The village always thrives with pilgrims arriving here to pray to the temple God. The temple of Shani Shingnapur receives about 45,000 visitors a day and over 300,000 visitors on special occasions. Several festivals are celebrated at the temple during which the entire village is decorated and appears vibrant and full of life.
Prospects for the Future
The uniqueness of the village of Shani Shinganapur has spread its name far and wide and it is believed that in the future, not only pilgrims and local tourists but tourists from across the world will also visit the village to marvel at its distinct traditions and cultures and wonder at the strong beliefs of the people of the village that has allowed the village to do away with all forms of security measures in a world threatened with rising thefts and burglaries.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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