Today May 30th is observed as Shani Jayanti. Lord Shani, as you know is the ruler of Planet Saturn and the seers have said that he is the son of Lord Surya or the Sun God. Shani Jayanti is also known as Shani Amavasya, as it falls on the Amavasya (new moon) Tithi during Jyeshtha month (called Vaikassi in Tamil calendar) according to the Vedic calendar.
Astronomically, Saturn is the second largest planet and consists of Hydrogen and Helium gases, but is unique due to the rings around it. On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings. The planet has at least 83 moons.
Astrologically, the sages of yore recognised Lord Shani as the ruler of the planet Saturn. He is the judge amongst planets and dispenses justice according to our karma or deeds. He is also the lord of the zodiac signs, Aquarius (Kumbha Rashi) and Capricorn (Makara Rashi) in the Vedic system. Robert Svoboda’s iconic book. ‘The Greatness of Saturn’ describes the important position Saturn holds in the universe.
There are many temples of Lord Shani, but the Shani temple of Shingnapur, Maharashtra, and the Shani Temple at Thirunallar, Tamil Nadu are well known and famous. In this article, I will describe the Shani Shinganapur temple and will attempt to write about the Thirunallar temple in a subsequent article. (Edit: It is now published!)
Earlier in March this year (2022), I had Lord Saturn’s blessings to visit the Shani Shinganapur temple and with a deep sense of humility and gratitude, I want to describe the temple and the visit. We left Mumbai at the crack of dawn at around 5.30 am as the journey to Shani Shinganapur takes anywhere close to 6 hours, depending on the traffic conditions.
The route that we took from Mumbai was the Nasik road via Ghoti and finally reached Shani Shinganapur, which is in the Nevasa Taluka, Ahmednagar district.
The entrance of the temple has figures of Lord Hanuman on either side. The story goes that it was Lord Hanuman, who released the planets from captivity from the demon king Ravana and hence, Lord Shani proclaimed that anyone who worshipped Lord Hanuman would be protected from any malefic effects of the Saturn Mahadasha, and also the rigorous seven and a half years of the Saturn transit (Sade Sati). Lord Shani is believed to be the king of Shinganapur and hence the city never had problems with theft as justice would be meted out immediately.
The website of the temple says “By the grace of God Shani, the people here are God-fearing, religious, honest, and trustworthy. Here, not once has a theft occurred. The homes here have no doors and windows. Therefore, the windows of their minds are always open. They are very hospitable to guests.”
As we reached the temple, we stood in the line (that was thankfully not very long), there was an inexplicable feeling that swept the body, mind and soul. There are shops selling sesame oil and other puja materials as you approach the sanctum.
Shani Shinganapur temple is unique in the sense, that the idol of Lord Shani is devoid of any shade or dome. In front of us was the black aniconic idol made of iron and stone. Standing 6 feet tall and 1 foot 6 inches wide, the idol is exposed to all kinds of weather conditions. The darshan of the temple is done in a clockwise manner. According to legend, 350 years ago, there was a huge downpour of rain. All the neighbouring areas were flooded, but Shinganapur was miraculously saved from the deluge. There is a stream called Panas, that flows beside the village and a huge black stone drifted in the waters. The stone got caught in the branches of a berry tree. The next day as the waters abated, one of the shepherds found this unusual stone and touched it with a pointed iron rod upon which the stone started to bleed. That night, Lord Shani appeared in the dream of one of the cowherds and said that the stone was his ‘swayambhu’ or self-manifested form. He indicated that there was no need for a temple for him and he was happy to be in the open. The cowherd narrated his dream to the villagers and they decided to cart the stone to an appropriate place. However, as much as they tried the stone would not budge. That night Lord Shani visited the cowherd again in his dream and said only men who had dark skin and were related as uncle-nephew would be allowed to move the stone, and the stone had to be carted by bullocks that were black in colour. He promised the villagers that the hamlet will have no fear of thieves or dacoits. The villagers followed the instructions and the Lord was subsequently consecrated at the place he is currently found. Today there is also a trident alongside the stone idol and images of Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman are in front of him.
Most families in this village are supposed to be descendants of Maharaja Chhatrapati Shivaji and they are normally known by the names of Darandale, Bankar, Shete, and Borrude.
A few years ago, the temple found itself in the centre of a controversy over allowing women inside the shrine. Following a court order in 2016, the temple authorities now permit women inside the premises.
Fact-file: Shani Shinganapur can be reached by road from Aurangabad (84 kilometers), Shirdi (66 km), and Ahmednagar ( 36 km).
Temple address: Shri Shanaishwar Devasthan
Shanishingnapur, Post: Sonai,
Taluka: Nevasa, Dist.: Ahamadnagar
Pin. 414 105. Maharashtra, India.
Om Shanaishcharaya Namaha!
May 30th, 2022
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