A temple which welcomes only women

By Asit Srivastava, IANS,

Lucknow : It’s a man’s world, but not in an old temple in Uttar Pradesh where only women can worship – and men may do so at their own risk.

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The Brahm temple in Sakaldiha town of Chanduali district, some 300 km from Lucknow, was built nearly 120 years ago in the memory of a seer named Shreepath, who is said to have wished victory to daughters and defeat to sons.

“Since time immemorial, only women and girls come here and offer turmeric to the deity. Most of the time, women come in groups to perform yagna (a ritual to invoke the gods) and seek blessings from the seer who was believed to possess spiritual powers,” Jamuni Kanta, who has been living in Sakaldiha for the last 65 years, told IANS on telephone.

According to local people, while women from Sakaldiha and neighbouring towns throng the temple every day, men do not come due to the belief that visiting the temple will bring them bad luck.

The story relates to a dispute between Shreepath and king Chatra Shah and his sons, who ruled Sakaldiha town long ago.

“It is believed that Shreepath’s cattle strayed into the fields of the king, so he and his son held the seer captive for several days as punishment,” said Kisna Kanti, a former head of Itwa village in Sakaldiha.

To show his resentment, Shreepath undertook a fast. Gradually he turned sick and frail. While the king’s sons still did not pay heed, his two daughters were moved to tears by his condition.

Going against their father’s decision that no one should meet Shreepath, the two went to meet him in the prison with a glass of water and a few tulsi leaves.

“The two urged the seer to forgive their father and brothers and have the tulsi leaves with the water. The seer agreed. Soon after eating the leaves and consuming water, the seer breathed his last, saying ‘putriyon ki jai ho, putron ka chhay ho’ (hail the daughters, defeat to the sons),” narrated Kanti.

A fews days after Shreepath’s death, the king and his two sons were killed while riding a chariot but the two sisters escaped unhurt. The sisters attributed this to the blessings of Shreepath and urged the women of the town to set up a temple in his name.

“Inside the temple there is no idol. There’s a small raised platform that is symbolic of the ‘aasan’ of Shreepath. We offer turmeric, ghee and flowers to this aasan,” said Shashi Prabha, a teacher at a private school in Sakaldiha, who visits the temple regularly.

Locals say on several occasions, men entered the temple to offer prayers, but with unfortunate consequences.

“In most of the cases, men visiting the temple got afflicted with health disorders. Though men come here with their wives, sisters and mothers, they do not enter the temple and wait outside till prayers are over,” said Jagrani Devi, a local woman.

“Many men, however, do contribute towards the maintenance of the temple,” she said.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at [email protected])