Imagine a village with no locks or doors. This is in our India!
Shani Shingnapur, Maharashtra, June 1: It appears perfectly Utopian- everything nice and good, no evil, or deceit. In a tiny village tucked away in a corner of Western India, the houses of local residents lack front doors!! Yes you have heard it right. Even the shops are left unlocked during the night – the owners do not bat an eyelid about it! .
This is Maharashtra’s Shani Shingnapur village where villagers blow all security to the winds, owing to their unflinching faith in Lord Shani, (Saturn) , who is believed to be the self-appointed guardian of the locality.
As per legends, many centuries ago, following a heavy downpour and flooding, a sinister slab of rock was found washed up on the banks of the Panasnala River, which once flowed through the village. When the curious onlookers touched the boulder with a stick, it oozed blood!
Later that night, the village chief had a strange dream. In his dream Shani revealed that the slab was an idol of himself. The headman was ordered to place the slab in the village, where he would reside thenceforth. However said Shani, the rock must be kept fully exposed, so that the deity residing within, would be able to keep an eye on the entire village The headman promised to do the Lord’s biding, while Shani assured that he would perpetually protect the village and its residents. Later, the slab was installed on a roofless platform in the heart of the village. Eventually folks discarded all doors and locks. After all when the Lord Himself was keeping a vigil, no mortal would dare to commit any evil act.
The tradition continues even today. Though the local people sometimes use wooden panel to bar entry of stray animal into their homes, yet front doors are still missing. People are quite casual about their cash and valuables. That’s because they believe, misfortune will surely befall anyone who commits any evil.
Modern services must adhere to this tradition too. For instance, a police station set up less than a year ago, is yet to receive a complaint from the villagers. The station building has no front door either! Interestingly the United Commercial Bank opened its first “lockless” branch in Shani Shingnapur five years ago–, installing a glass entrance and a barely visible remote-controlled electromagnetic lock, in accordance with the local sentiments and beliefs. Today Shani Shingnapur is a popular tourist destination, drawing pilgrims from across the country. Although Shani Shingnapur has officially remained free from thefts for centuries, in 2010 and2011 there were reports of burglaries involving a good deal of cash and jewellery .
However the pooh pooh away the idea saying these incidents occurred outside the village. Meanwhile skeptics ascribe the low rate of crime in Shani Shingnapur to the to the village’s remote location rather than divine grace.
Nevertheless, changes are palpable in this remote village too. Many villagers are now opting for security systems in their dwellings rather than relying on divine providence.
However the bulk of the villagers continue to rely on their Lord for safety.