What would you say about a village where its homes, shops or temples have no doors? Strange but true, this is the case with a village called Shani Shingnapur which is a unique place of pilgrimage where the deity himself stands under an open sky without shelter and the devotees and local residents enjoy a fearless life, all thanks to the blessings of Lord Shani who, it is believed, is very powerful and immediately punishes anyone attempting theft with blindness.
Shani Shingnapur, also known as Sonai, is situated in the Nevase taluka of Ahmednagar district and lies about 6 kilometers off Godegaon, an important marketplace along the Ahmednagar-Aurangabad Highway. Around 160 kilometers from Pune and 265 kilometers from Mumbai, the village is an important pilgrimage centre for Hindus who worship God Shani or Shanaishwara - the Saturn, a dreaded planet in astrology. It is personified in the form of a black stone which is five and a half feet high and one and a half feet wide standing erect on an open air platform. There is a ‘trishul’ alongside the stone as well as a ‘Nandi’ (bull) on its south. Two small images, one of Shiva and the other of Hanuman, complete the tableau.
An east-facing multi-deity temple was built west of the Shani idol later. The premises also contain a tomb of Saint Udasi Baba and a temple dedicated to Dattatray. The deity of Shani Shingnapur is called ‘swayambhoo’, a ‘jagrut devasthan’. The exact period of this monument is not known but it is widely believed that it has been in existence since the beginning of the ‘Kali yuga.’ However, the popularity of the shrine has increased tremendously only over the past 20-25 years.
According to the legend about the shrine, a miracle took place about 150 years ago after a heavy bout of rain and floods. A huge black slab came floating on the water, which was noticed by the local shepherds after the water drained away. When one of them touched it with a pointed rod, blood started oozing from it. Obviously the frightened shepherds took to their heels. That night, Shanaishwara appeared in the dream of the most devoted and pious of the shepherds and stated that he wished to stay in that village in the same form and without a roof above him. In return, he promised that there would never be any fear of theft in the village. Since then the stone has been worshipped as Lord Shani.
One of the several unique features about Shani Shingnapur is that devotees can perform ‘pooja’, ‘abhishek’ or other religious rituals themselves and offer oil and ‘udid’(black gram) to the god. The other is of course the fact that while there are door frames, there are no doors for any of the establishments in the village within a 1 kilometer radius of the village center, including the village post office. In fact, the UCO Bank opened a ‘lockless’ branch in this village, the first-of-its-kind in the country in January 2011. Thousands of devotees visit this place daily but the crowd swells especially on Saturdays, Shani Trayodashi, Shani Amavasya and Shani Jayanti. It is estimated that more than 3 lakh people seek blessings on these days. There is a palanquin procession and a fair in the village on these days.
Distance from Mumbai: 320 kms