While most of us are becoming increasingly watchful of our possessions and prefer to keep our houses and shops safely locked, there are others who decline to stay behind closed doors and windows. Welcome to the ‘door-less’ village – Shani Shignapur!
Imagine walking into a place where houses, markets, banks and even the washrooms are door-less and even window-less, for that matter.
Around 35 kilometres from Ahmednagar district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, the secluded Shani Shignapur village welcomes you with open arms, literally!
The place may seem alien to most of the visitors, as members of families residing here, happily show how all their money, gold and other valuables are kept unlocked in their houses, which do not even have front doors, forget about windows or curtains.
It all started around 300 years ago, when, as the legend goes, the village head touched a black stone with a pointed stick and the stone started to bleed. Soon, people from the entire area gathered around to watch the wonder and on that night, Lord Shaneshwara, the Hindu god linked with planet Saturn, appeared in the dream of the most devoted village head and told him that the black stone was his form. The head asked the lord whether he should construct a temple for him and to this, Lord Shani said that the entire sky is his roof and he preferred to be under it; also promising that no thief will be able to steal within the village premises.
Since then, the temple in the village is believed to be a ‘jaagrut devasthan’ (a temple with heavenly powers), where the lord still resides in the effigy. Trusting the god with their belongings and life, the villagers gave up on the concept of living behind closed doors and believe that God Shani will punish anyone attempting theft and thus, putting on doors will be an insult to Him. However, some do attach temporary doors at night, but only to keep animals away.
So much so, according to some villagers, people who have tried to steal in the village have died before they could even exit the boundaries of the place. Some of them also claim seeing people attempting theft with serious illness or mental instability.
The village is now a hotspot for many tourists and devotees, who wish to witness the traditions of this suburb and also seek the blessings of Lord Shani.
Reportedly, criminal activities in the village were almost nil until 2010, when cash and valuables worth INR 35,000 were stolen from a traveller. However, the villagers refuse to believe that something of this sort could happen inside the village, under the nose of Lord Shani and explained that the incident happened outside the village boundaries. Though the area is still away from heavy criminal records, incidents of cut-purse and snatching have been reported.
While many have strong faith, some of the villagers now wish to get rid of what they believe are superstitions. Families who live on the edge now have doors because there is a fear of burglary, while others have installed portable doors at the entrances and especially to the bathrooms.
The place is yet another example of how many Indians have carried forward their age-old traditional legacies and trust in god.