India Shani temple to allow women worshippers

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe Shani Singhnapur temple has barred women from the inner sanctum for centuries

Authorities of a Hindu shrine in India's western Maharashtra state have decided to allow female worshippers enter the inner sanctum, reports say.

This followed weeks of protests by women's activists demanding entry to the Shani Shingnapur temple.

The temple has for centuries been open only to men, one of the few in India to preserve the tradition.

Last month the Bombay High court affirmed the right of women to enter and pray inside all temples.

The NDTV news channel reported that officials of the temple said that women would now "neither be encouraged nor stopped" from entering, effectively lifting the ban.

Several temples in India preserve the tradition of barring entry to women.

However, the Bombay high court ruled that women have a fundamental right to enter temples, and said those trying to prevent them would be handed a six-month jail term.

Last week protesters defied the court order and prevented a group of female activists from entering the shrine.

And last year, priests at the Shani Singhnapur temple carried out an elaborate ritual cleansing after a woman managed to gain entry inside and offer prayers.

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