Try to imagine a village in which homes do not have front doors, where shops are always left un-shuttered and still the locals never feel unsafe.
Well, this is just how things are in Shani Shingnapur in the Maharashtra’s state of India, where villagers do not avail any security because they have an undying faith in their Lord Shani, the god Saturn, who is revered as the guardian of this village.
Legend has it that about 300 years ago, after a heavy bout of flooding, a large and heavy black rock slab was found drenched up on the shores of the river Panasnala. This same slab once flowed through the village. The locals then dabbed this 1.5m boulder with a stick, and blood started coming out of it.
Later that same night, Lord Shani appeared in the dreams of this village’s head, revealing that the black slab was his own idol. Lord Shani ordered that the black slab be kept in the village, because he would like to reside in the village from there on. But Lord Shani had one condition, which was that, this rock and its powers must never be sheltered because he needed to oversee that village without any hindrance. Lord Shani then blessed the village head and vowed to protect this village from any danger.
The villagers then installed this huge slab symbolic of Lord Shani on a roofless platform in the heart of the town and decided to get rid of all doors and locks. They decided that they didn’t need them anymore when Lord Shani himself would watch over them. The same tradition continued for generations altogether. Occasionally, locals lean wooden panels against their doors frames and keep stray dogs out – but they still have no permanent doors, and their jewelry and money is always left unsecured. Even public toilets there only have a thin curtain for privacy.
All the new constructions have to abide by these protocols. What’s funny is that the United Commercial Bank went ahead to open India’s first “lockless” bank branch here in 2011, installing a glass entrance for transparency and an almost invisible remote-controlled electromagnetic lock in the spirit of the villagers’ beliefs. It fascinates tourists to see how out of all institutions, could a bank survive without locks.
It is believed that anyone who commits theft here will immediately turn blind and anyone dishonest will be punished with bad luck of seven-and-a-half years. In fact, it is also believed that if a villager would install wooden panes at his house’s entrance, he will have a car accident the next day.
It is because of this very strange history that Shani Shingnapur attracts a lot of devotees from all over India. About 40,000 visitors come here each day to see this once-humble shrine that has now grown into a large temple because of the generous amount of donations it has received over many years. This helped the shrine to afford construction around it and become a full blown temple.