My faintest memory of Shani Shingnapur dates back to the 90’s when I first saw a documentary on this legendary village on Doordarshan channel. It was the village where the houses have no doors and the shops remained unlocked.
The god- the guardian of the village would protect them against any theft. Once someone tried to steal from this village and he was punished with blindness immediately. A movie the naive in me enjoyed thoroughly during my childhood days. I never knew something like this really existed, till the time I visited Shani Shingnapur in 2013 during my extended trip to Shirdi. Off-course it was exciting and surprising at the same time. I had a good flashback walking here…
Shani Shingnapur is popularly known as the village of no doors, no locks which fall under Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. It’s known for its customary tradition of no doors for generations, which they practice towards their undying faith in the divinity of Lord Shani, the god of Saturn, considered as the holy guardian of the village.
It is believed that if anyone would attempt a theft here, they will attract the wrath from the supreme power and will be immediately punished with blindness. Even the jewellery and money are all kept without any lockers. Most of the public toilets in Shani Shingnapur village square have no doors. The villagers agreed to put a thin curtain near the entrance, for privacy of women. But not doors because that would go against the belief. The villagers occasionally use a barrier or a sheet at the entrance to keep the dogs and stray animals away from entering the home
According to the legends, roughly 300 years ago, a slab was found on the shores of the river Panasnala that once flowed through the village. When they touched it with a stick, blood started oozing out of it. Later that night Lord Shani himself appeared in the dreams of the village head, revealing that the slab was his own idol. He told him that the slab should be kept in the village where he will reside from here on.
But he had one condition: that it should not be sheltered due to its colossal powers. It’s said that the power of this rock is so divine that it can’t be kept under a roof. There is also a saying that the slab needs to be without shelter so that Shani can oversee the village without hindrance. Shani then blessed the village head and promised to protect the village from any kind of danger.
After the slab was enshrined, the villagers decided to boycott the doors. They didn’t need them anymore, not with the Lord to watch over them
It is believed that if a person steals anything, or does anything dishonest, he faces a ‘SAADHE Saati’ (a period of seven-and-a-half years of bad luck). Bad luck will follow the family — court cases, accidents, deaths, losses in business. Someone at the village installed wooden panes at the entrance of his house. His car met with an accident the very next day- the villagers told
Even the new constructions at the village follow the same protocol. In January 2011, the United Commercial Bank opened the country’s first lockless branch in Shani Shingnapur.
At the time, it earned appreciation for respecting the sentiments of the villagers and being the only bank in the country that didn’t use a padlock at the end of the day. But on closer inspection, one notes that it is only a matter of projection. The door is held shut by a remote-controlled electromagnetic lock. To further prevent any attempt of an incident, the bank reportedly sends its cash to the neighbouring Sonai before it shuts shop
Last year, the first police station was opened in the town; the local authorities never felt the need to install a door. They only have a sliding door to prevent dogs and cats from entering the police station. Interestingly, no complaint has been registered from Shani Shingnapur since the police station has been opened here. Though it received cases from the neighbouring villages which fall within its jurisdiction.
Is the Myth Real?
Although Shani Shingnapur has remained free from thefts for centuries, the village’s reputation has been knocked down with the cases of small robberies. In 2010, a visitor complained that cash and valuables worth 35,000 rupees ($567) were stolen from his vehicle. Another theft of gold ornaments worth 70,000 rupees ($1,135) was reported. However it was later dismissed insisting that it took place outside the village, in the temple premises.
Many people have been arguing that the low crime rate in the area is not due to the miraculous powers of the lord. It is because of the remote setting of the village which is located in the middle of nowhere. According to them, it is just a brand building exercise to expand tourism
It’s also said that not many police complaints have been registered owning to village reputation, which can impact the influx of tourists in the village. Apparently the main income of villagers…
I personally got in touch of a villager whose house was robbed off but he did not register a case owning to the pressure from the villagers. Now he keeps his belongings safe in the bank.
May be the reason that few villagers are challenging this age-old custom dismissing it as a myth and seeking for a change. They are asking for permissions to install doors to ensure well being of their family but have to face the flak from others, who still want to keep the belief alive.
For them Shani is the guardian angel and will keep protecting them from every evil eye.
Some of the pictures are submitted by Abhinav Singh
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