Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), December 4
The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SST) on Friday said that the ‘civilized dress code’ suggested for darshan at the world-famous temple is neither new nor compulsory, but devotees must “cover their legs at least below the knees and arms till the elbows”.
Referring to an ultimatum issued by social activist and leader of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade (BRYZ President Trupti Desai, the SSST chief spokesperson Rajaram Thete said the civilized dress code is voluntary in nature and suggested way back in 2005.
“The old board at the temple gates got faded and damaged, so last month we erected a new one. Some people have misinterpreted it as a new dress code… It has been in existence since over 15 years. This seems to be just a publicity stunt,” Thete told IANS.
He said that many people come under-dressed which lowers the dignity of the temple, and there been scores of complaints by other devotees.
“This request is purely seeking peoples’ cooperation to come properly attired, covering their legs at least below the knees and arms till the elbows, as desired in Indian culture and in keeping with the atmosphere here,” Thete explained.
In the past few years, many devotees, especially some women turn up in bare shorts or sleeveless tops, which others found distracting and disturbing in the long queues for darshan of Saibaba, a volunteer at the temple said.
The Pune-based Desai has shot off a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray demanding action against the SSST authorities for violating people’s democratic rights besides insulting them.
Serving a deadline of December 10 to the temple management by which they must remove the alleged dress code, she warned of an agitation at the Shirdi temple when they would go and remove the board.
Desai further demanded that since the temple priests (pujaris) are also half-clad, would the SSST ask them to be properly attired, but the temple authorities declined to react.
Reopening after the pandemic lockdown in late-November, the Shirdi Temple now permits around 10,000 devotees daily, strictkly implementing all Covid-19 protocols.
Prior to the lockdown, the temple normally attracted 100,000-plus devotees from all over the world daily with all its services available virtually round-the-clock.