Shani Shingnapur – The lockless village

14.11.2016:

06.05 hrs – We were on the road trying to get an auto-rickshaw which can take us to the famous nearby village Shani Shingnapur. Our auto-driver earlier who dropped us at the temple told us that the auto-wala would charge a sum of Rs. 120/- for a to and fro journey from Shirdi to Shani Shingnapur. I think that was the first auto which was ready for it’s first trip of the day 🙂 And there we were telling them the same old story that we don’t have any money left with us, but want to visit the other temple 🙂 😀 . Thanks to demonetization once again 🙂

The auto was getting filled infront of us, but we were still struggling to convince the auto-driver to find out ways to take us there. Finally, we came with our brilliant idea of swiping our debit cards at any petrol pumps 🙂 . The old driver thought of it for a moment and told us that he would be getting his tank filled by swiping our card and would return the balance amount after our ticket-charges. It seemed to us like hitting a jack-pot. Hurrah! He is gonna give us some hot ready cash in our hands which is very much essential to carry on with our forward journey from Shirdi 🙂

At last, we settled down at the rear end of the auto-rickshaw and the driver brought the engine to life. It was still dark outside and Mythri and I started eating the prasad. Once finished, we dozed off, but couldn’t get a nice lap, as the condition of the road was too bad and there were bumps all the way. It took us almost 1.5 hrs to reach our destination. 08.00 hrs – Our auto stopped infront of a shop from where we can buy the things like oil and flowers to offer at the temple.

Hinduism considers that the planets in our solar system have an impact upon our physiology, psychological structure and the context of our lives. Hence, Hindus consider these planets as forms of different energies and had constructed temples for them. Shani or Saturn, son of the Lord Surya, is considered to be the lord of dominance, distress, depression, disease and disaster. The Indian astrologers, based upon the birth place and time of birth and some other facts calculate when the impact of Saturn can be more in our lives which is known as ‘Saade Saati’ or ‘Yellanati Shani’ (in Telugu), which will last for seven and a half years.

In this phase, one may become more susceptible to depression or distress and in order to bridge those pits, various processes and rituals are associated with Shani temples. These are the temples where Saturn is personified as a God. And Shani Shingnapur is one such temples in India. This temple is not of the regular architecture which one can see throughout India, but the deity is in open space. The deity here is a 5’9” idol made of black stone, mounted on a raised platform in an open place. Usually in every other temples which I visited so far, Lord Shani would be in a sculpt form, but here it is in the form of a stone.

According to Hindu tradition, oil is poured onto the idol of Lord Shani in any temple. Here, there is a large bin in which we can empty the oil packets or bottles and the oil would be poured directly on top of the idol as it passes through the pipes that are connected to the bin. We went around the temple complex after the aarti. Legend is that the idol flowed along with the flood waters and struck in the bushes and a local shepherd tried to release it, and when he tried poking it, the idol started bleeding and the villagers left the idol at the same place after this incident. Later that night, Lord Shani Dev appeared in a villager’s dream and told that it was he and the other morning, the villagers cleared off the bushes and erected the idol and started offering pujas.

But why a lockless village? Coz, the houses in this village doesn’t have any doors and latches, except that they hold some curtains. It is believed that Lord Shani Dev protects the village and no theft will occur here. They villagers also say that if ever a thief attempts to stole something, he goes blind and the things would be intact at the same place as they were placed before. The most astonishing thing is that even the bank and the police station in this village keep up with the tradition and has no locks. It is also a zero-crime village!

Interesting, isn’t it??

 

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Time to move on! Lachung is waiting!!

 

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Though the classrooms were way dark and pretty cool, we, at least I managed to grab some good sleep that night. My darling friend Shweta woke me up early in the morning around 4.30 AM and when moved out of the room to the open ground, that was one awesome scene with the twinkling stars up above the sky, the moon throwing some bright light and the tips of the surrounding mountains shining dim in the moon light. But, I couldn’t get a chance to capture that awesome scene as it was extremely difficult to find out my camera in that dark cosy classroom 😦

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It was a sunny day and the weather was clear. We packed our rucksacks and left for breakfast. Before moving on, we quickly cleaned up the surroundings and set on to the track for Lachung, our next base camp at around 7.30 AM. Lachung is a small mountain village located at an altitude of 8600 ft and a distance of about 110 kms from Gangtok and 25 kms from Chungthang. And we gonna trek this 25 kms in a single day. Though excited, we were a bit scared too. Scared not because of the distance, but coz of the off-road route which we gonna follow!

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The way to Lachung is through quaint villages, scenic spots, and waterfalls. The first leg is of 12 or 13 kms. It’s almost a road trek except for one or two shortcuts. We stopped at a roadside tea spot around 10 AM where we got some buns and tea as refreshments. After relaxing for a short span of 20 minutes, we resumed our trek towards Lachung. They told us that the next leg is of another 12 kms but it’s only at the end of the trek we realized that it is nearly 16 kms.

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The second leg is far more beautiful than the first leg, as there were lots of streams which cut right through the roads, some lush green agri fields probably of some millets or fodder, yaks, Rhododendrons, waterfalls and the beautiful Teesta River running all way along with us. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trek as the short hikes through the forests were spine chilling, because of the narrow margins and rough terrain.

DSC_0245We could see more and more number of army people and their vehicles as were nearing Lachung. Before 1950, Lachung served as a trade point between Sikkim and Tibet and after the Chinese annexation, this has been shut down. The Indian Army now has a forward base at Lachung. Finally at around 3.30 PM we reached our base camp at Lachung. A hot meal was served to us and it felt so good to have something hot after a long trek.

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We had lots of fun before having our dinner and retiring to our beds. Lucky enough to get a bed to sleep, but not in the sleeping bag 😀 .  Stay tuned to see what’s waiting for us in Lachung!!