It may seem hard to believe, however there is a village in India where each of the 300 odd buildings has doorways but no doors. The village is Shani Shingnapur, and the residents that live there leave their homes open to all. Local businesses and schools do the same. It is an Indian village without doors,
Even the local branch of the United Commercial Bank (State owned UCO) has attempted to follow the village tradition with a lockless entrance, (however cash valuables and the 24hr ATM are secured.)
The residents of the village, which is situated in the state of Maharashtra, have chosen not to use doors because they believe that Shani, God of Saturn – will protect them. If anyone attempts theft from within the village their God will punish them.
The tradition to not lock up their belongings or their homes goes back countless generations. The legend began when a stone and iron slab was said to have washed up upon the shores of a nearby river after a flood. When the shepherds found the strange slab, they poked it with a stick and it began to ooze blood.
That same evening, Shani appeared within the dream of the village head and revealed that the slab the shepherds had found was in fact his own idol.
He told the villager that the idol was so powerful that it did not need to be placed under shelter.
He also said that the villagers never needed to install doors again, because he would always protect them from any kind of danger.
Because of the legend, the residents of Shani Shingnapur believe that their temple is a “jagrut devasthan” (an “alive temple”). The Shani God is seen as all powerful and this has kept the pious community relatively crime free.
However, that might be changing. A documentary filmed in the 1990s has helped the village rise to prominence, the impact being a large increase in tourism over recent years.
This has of course helped the village economically. Where once the villagers mainly relied on sugar cane farming as their main source of income, tourism has usurped such trade with several thousand visitors pouring in each day during high season.
They are there to pray to the deity, often bringing gifts such as mustard oil as offerings to Shani. Others are there to witness the spectacle and to see a village without doors. However, this has predictably led to other problems. Some of which may threaten the traditional village way of life.
With so many visitors to the village, crime is on the up. Those that do not believe in the local deity, and wish to take advantage of the resident’s traditions, find themselves in a place with very little security.
In 2010, a visitor reported that cash and valuables worth 35,000 rupees ($567) were stolen from his vehicle.
In 2012, gold ornaments worth 70,000 rupees ($1,135) were stolen from an unlocked cupboard in the house of a temple trustee.
And petty thefts are also on the increase with pickpocketing and vehicle thefts taking place from areas around the temple.
Furthermore it is believed that many thefts go unreported. The economy of the village revolves around the temple, so the no-theft claim is important for continuing its popularity.
Currently you will find the occasional doorway with planks blocking the entrance. This is to keep out wild animals. The sad fact is, if crime does continue to increase, some residents say they will have no choice but to install doors.