The Shani Temple at Shinganapur became famous all over India when Gulshan Kumar produced his epic movie ‘Suryaputra Shanidev’. Shani is unlikely to figure among the most popular Hindu deities. He is, nonetheless, revered by all. None wants to invite his wrath. A lot of Hindus fast on Saturdays to receive the blessings of Shani whom they believe has the power to change the course of their destiny.
Of all the Shani temples in India, the one at Shinganapur in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra deserves special mention. This shrine attracts over ten thousand devotees a day. Shinganapur is only about 70 kilometers from Shirdi. A large number of devotees who visit the Holy shrine of Shirdi Sai Baba also visit Shinganapur. From Shirdi you can easily hire a jeep to Shinganapur. Buses are also available.
Why worship Shani?
Shani is your friend. Contrary to popular belief, Shani isn’t cruel. He doesn’t punish the righteous. So, if you are an upright person, you don’t have to worry about inviting the displeasure of Shani. Shani rewards the good and punishes the wicked.
The legend of Shani
According to Skandh Purana, Shani is the son of Surya (Sun God) and his wife Chhaya. Sandhya was the daughter of Prajapati, the son of Lord Brahma. When she reached womanhood, her father got her married to Surya. She was a chaste and faithful wife but she could not bear the brightness of Surya. They had three children –Vaiwaswat Manu, Yamaraj and Yamuna. She loved them very much. Surya’s brightness continued to bother Sandhya and she decided to leave them. She went to her maternal home and lived a life of severe austerity. Thanks to the power of her austerity, she was able to create a Chhaya (shadow) like her and called her Suvarna. Sandhya told Chhaya Suvarna to go to Surya and be his wife. She also requested Suvarna not to reveal this secret to anyone. Chhaya agreed. She went to Surya and he accepted her without even realizing that she was not Sandhya. Surya and Chhaya had three children: Manu, Shani and Bhadra.
There is another story surrounding the birth of Shani. Chhaya was a great devotee of Shiva. When she was pregnant with Shani she got herself immersed in the worship of Shiva. She even forgot to take care of her and her unborn baby. As a result, Shani became black. When Chhaya delivered a black child, Surya puzzled and suspected the chastity of his wife.
Shani was born powerful because of his mother’s austerity. When he saw Surya insulting his mother over his black color, he cast a scornful glance at his father. Immediately Surya too turned black in color. Surya realized his mistake and started worshipping Shiva. Shiva forgave him and he got his original form back.
Surya accepted the fact that Shani was his son and started loving him wholeheartedly. According to Indian astrology, Planet Shani has an influence on our life from birth to death.
Location of Shani Shinganapur
Shinganapur is near Sonai, a small town on Nagar-Aurangabad Highway. You can also reach Shinganapur from Rahuri which is on Ahmednagar-Manmad Highway.
Shinganapur is famous for its doorless homes. Natives believe that Shanideva will protect their valuables. Interestingly cases of theft are almost never reported from here.
The idol of Shanideva
The majestic idol of Shanideva stands on a square platform. The black idol is made up of iron and stone. It is 5 ½ feet high and 1 ½ feet broad. There is no roof over the idol. Apparently Shanideva doesn’t need shelter. Neither does he want to live in anybody’s insignia of royalty.
New moon day is of special importance. Thousands of people visit the shrine on this day to seek the blessings of Shanideva.