Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati has waded into a controversy by saying that entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple will lead to rise in crimes against them like rape.

“Women should not feel triumphant about visiting the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra. They should stop all the drum beating about what they have done. Worshipping Shani will bring ill luck to them and give rise to crimes against them like rape,” he told reporters in Haridwar yesterday.

A 400-year-old ban on entry of women into the shrine’s core area was lifted by the temple trust last week following advocacy group Bhoomata Brigade’s agitation against gender bias and the Bombay High Court order upholding the equal rights to worship.

Noting that worshipping shani is not good for women, Swaroopanand said instead of exulting over visiting the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shinganapur temple, they should have done something about stopping men from consuming intoxicating substances under whose influence they commit crimes against them like rape.

Swaroopanand, who is the Shankaracharya of the Dwarka-Shardapeeth, is on a fortnight long visit to Haridwar. Criticising his statement, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said his views need to be rejected as they are far removed from reality and the Indian Constitution. “Will the shankacharya answer that all these years women were not allowed into the temple so was there absolutely no problem that women faced,” she asked.

b”Women’s rights activists at Shani Shingnapur’s inner sanctum | Source: PTI”
“How can he say that women going into the temple is going to lead to the destruction of women. So all these years women were not there but many women faced so many problems and issues,” she said.

Karat said the “thinking itself is far removed from reality, from India’s Constitution, from people of India’s experience, that just has to be rejected”. Not a stranger to controversies, Swaroopanand also held the prevailing practice of worshipping Sai Baba in the temples of Maharashtra responsible for the drought in the state.

“Sai Baba has been installed in the temples of Maharashtra and deities like Ganesh and Hanuman have been placed at his feet. When those not meant to be worshipped are worshipped in temples, disasters like droughts are bound to happen,” he held.