Shani Shingnapur or Shani Shinganapur or Shingnapur or Sonai is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Situated in Nevasa taluka in Ahmednagar district, the village is known for its popular temple of Shani, the Hindu god associated with the planet (graha) Saturn. Shingnapur is 35 km from Ahmednagar city.
Shingnapur is also famous for the fact that no house in the village has doors, only door frames. Despite this, no theft was reported in the village until 2010 when cash and items worth Rs. 35000/- were stolen for a vehicle, then in 2011 when Rs. 50000/-, gold rings, mobile phone, etc. was stolen from the home of a retired official of the Shree Shanaishwar Devasthan Trust and then again in January 2012 gold ornaments were stolen in temple itself! Still some villagers never keep their valuables under lock and key. Villagers believe that the temple is a “jagrut devasthan” (lit. “alive temple”), meaning that the god here is very powerful. They believe that god Shani punishes anyone attempting theft. The deity here is “Swayambhu” (Sanskrit: self-evolved deity) that is self emerged from earth in form of black but imposing stone. Though no one knows the exact period, it is believed that the Swayambhu Shanaishwara statue was found from times immemorial by shepherds of the then local hamlet. It is believed to be in existence at least since Kali yuga. Though there has been reports of thefts in Oct 2010 Feb 2011 and Jan 2012.
The story of the swayambhu statue handed down from generations through word of mouth, goes something like this: When the Shepherd touched the stone with a pointed rod, the stone started bleeding. The shepherds were astounded. Soon the whole village gathered around to watch the miracle. On that night Lord Shanaishwara appeared in the dream of the most devoted and pious of the shepherds.
He told the shepherd that he is “Shanaishwara”. He also told that the unique looking black stone is his swayambhu form. The shepherd prayed and asked the lord whether he should construct a temple for him. To this, Lord Shani Mahatma said there is no need for a roof as the whole sky is his roof and he preferred to be under open sky. He asked the shephered to do daily pooja and ‘Tailabhisheka’ every Saturday without fail. He also promised the whole hamlet will have no fear of dacoits or burglars or thieves.
So, Lord Shanaishwara can be seen even today, in the open yard without any roof above. To this day, there are no doors for any houses, shops, temples. It is to be seen to believe that even post office has no door, not to speak of locks. Due to the fear of Lord Shani, none of the structures, be it dwelling houses, huts, shops, etc. situated within one kilometer radius of this Lord Shani temple have neither doors nor locks. No thievery or burglary was reported until 2010 when first theft was reported and again another one was reported in 2011. Some who have tried to steal have died vomiting blood within minutes of their act and before they could cross the boundary. Many others are said have received varied punishments such as long sickness, mental imbalance etc.
Shani Shingnapur is visited daily by thousands of devotees praying for Lord Shaneswara’s favour. The place is busiest on Saturdays. Shani Trayodasi is considered to be a favorite day for the lord. Similarly Saturday falling on ‘Amavasya’ (new moon day in Sanskrit and many other Indian languages) is considered to be a favorites day for the Lord Shanaishwara. Thousands of devotees seeking his blessings throng this temple in thousands.
The shrine for Shani consists of a five and a half feet high black rock installed on an open-air platform, which symbolizes the god Shani. A Trishula (trident) is placed along the side of the image and a Nandi (bull) image is on the south side. In front are the small images of Shiva and Hanuman.
Generally, the temple has 30–45,000 visitors a day, which swells to around three lakh (i.e. three hundred thousand) on amavasya (the new moon day), believed to be the most auspicious day to appease Shani. The village holds a fair in honour of the deity on this day. A bigger festival is held on new moon days that fall on Saturdays. Devotees bathe Lord Shani’s image with water and oil and offer flowers, and udid to him. A palanquin procession of Shani is held on the day of the fair.