Ashtavinak Yatra (pilgrimage) covers eight (8) holy temples of Lord Ganesha. All ashtavinayak temples have “swayambhu” idols of Lord Ganesha and are supposed to be ‘jagrut’. Infact there are nine (9) such “swayambhu” idols of Lord Ganesha (I’ll give the details later on in this blog.
One needs to follow a particular sequence to complete this ‘yatra’. I shall speak about each of these places in the chronological order of their visits. Off the 8 temples 6 are in Pune district while the remaining 2 are in Raigad districts of Maharashtra.
Mayureshwar Ganesh Mandir at Morgaon
This is the most important temple on this tour. The temple, built from black-stone during the Bahamani reign, has four gates (It is supposed to have been built by one of the knights named Mr. Gole, from the court of Bidar’s Sultan). The temple is situated in the centre of the village. The temple is covered from all sides by four minarets and gives feeling of a mosque if seen from a distance. This was done to prevent attacks on the temple during Mughal periods. The temple has 50 feet tall wall around it Shri Mayureshwar, Morgaon. There is a Nandi (Shiva’s bull mount) sitting in front of this temple entrance, which is unique, as Nandi is normally in front of only Shiva temples. However, the story says that this statue was being carried to some Shiva Mandir during which the vehicle carrying it broke down and the Nandi statue could not be removed from its current place. The murti of Lord Ganesha, riding a peacock, in the form of Mayureshwara is believed to have slain the demon Sindhu at this spot. The idol, with its trunk turned to the left, has a cobra (Nagaraja) poised over it protecting it. This form of Ganesha also has two other murtis of Siddhi (Capability) and Riddhi (Intelligence). However, this is not the original murti -which is said to have been consecrated twice by Brahma, once before and once after being destroyed by the asura Sindhurasur. The original murti, smaller in size and made of atoms of sand, iron, and diamonds, was supposedly enclosed in a copper sheet by the Pandavas and placed behind the one that is currently worshiped. The temple is situated at a distance of 55 km from Pune, next to the river Karha in the village of Morgaon. The village derives its name from the Marathi name of the bird Peacock – also the national bird of India; there used to be a lot of peacocks in this village in the ancient time, and the village is also set out in the shape of a peacock.
Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple at Siddhatek
God Vishnu is supposed to have vanquished the asuras Madhu and Kaitabh after propitiating Ganesha here. This is the only murti of these eight with the trunk positioned to the right (ujave sonde cha).
It is believed that the two saints Shri Morya Gosavi and Shri Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon received their enlightenment here. The temple is North-facing and is on a small hillock. The main road towards the temple was believed to be built by Peshwa’s general Haripant Phadake. The inner sanctum, 15 feet high and 10 feet wide is built by Punyashloka Ahilyabai Holkar. The idol is 3feet tall and 2.5feet wide. The idol faces North-direction. The stomach of the murti is not wide, but Riddhi and Siddhi murtis are sitting on one thigh. This murti’s trunk is turning to the right. The right-sided-trunk (उजवा सोंडेचा गणपती) Ganesha is supposed to be very strict for the devotees. To make one round (pradakshina) around the temple one has to make the round trip of the hillock. This takes about 30 minutes with moderate speed. Peshwa general Haripant Phadake lost his General’s position and did 21 Pradakshina around the temple. On the 21st day Peshwa’s court-man came and took him to the court with royal honor. Haripant promised the God that he will bring the stones of the castle which he will win from the first war he will fight as the general. The stone pathway is built from the Badami-Castle which was attacked by Haripant soon after he became the general. This temple is situated off the Pune-Sholapur highway about 48 km from the town of Srigonda in Ahmadnagar district. The temple is situated next to Bhima river. On Pune-Sholapur railway, Daund Railway station is 18 km from here.
Chintamani Ganapati at Theur
Shri Chintamani Ganesha is believed to have got back the precious Chinatamani jewel from the greedy Guna for sage Kapila at this spot. However, after bringing back the jewel, sage Kapila put it in Vinayaka’s (Ganesha’s) neck. Thus the name Chintamani Vinayak. This happened under the Kadamb tree, therefore Theur is known as Kadambanagar in old times. The lake behind the temple is called Kadambteertha. The temple entrance is North facing. The outer wooden hall was built by Peshwas. The main temple is supposed to have been built by Dharanidhar Maharaj Dev from the family-lineage of Shri Moraya Gosavi. He must have built this around 100 years before Senior Shrimant Madhavrao Peshwa built the outer wooden hall. This idol also has a left trunk, with carbuncle and diamonds as its eyes. The idol faces the East side. Theur’s Chintamani was the family deity of Shrimant Madhavrao I Peshwa. He suffered from tuberculosis and died at a very young age (~27years). He is supposed to have died in this temple. His wife, Ramabai committed Sati with him on 18 November 1772. The temple is located 22 km from Pune, off the Pune-Sholapur highway, and is hence the nearest from Pune. The village of Theur sits at the confluence of three major regional rivers—Mula, Mutha & Bhima.
Mahaganapti at Ranjangaon
Shiva is believed to have worshipped Ganesha before fighting the demon Tripurasura here. The temple was built by Shiva where he worshipped Ganesha, and the town he set up was called Manipur which is now known as Ranjangaon. The idol faces the east, is seated in a cross-legged position with a broad forehead, with its trunk pointing to the left. It is said that the original idol is hidden in the basement, having 10 trunks and 20 hands and is called Mahotkat, however, the temple authorities deny existence of any such idol. Constructed so that the rays of the sun fall directly on the idol (during the Southward movement of the sun), the temple bears a distinct resemblance to the architecture reminiscent of the 9th and 10th Centuries and faces the east. Shrimant Madhavrao Peshwa used to visit this temple very often and built the stone sanctum around the idol and in 1790AD Mr. Anyaba Dev was authorised to worship the idol. Ranjangaoncha Mahaganapati is considered to be one of the Ashta Vinayak shrines of Maharashtra, celebrating eight instances of legends related to Ganesha. Legend has it that when a sage had once sneezed he gave out a child; since being with the sage the child learnt many good stuff about Lord Ganesha, however had inherited many evil thoughts within; when he grew he developed in to a demon by name Tripurasura; thereafter he prayed to Lord Shiva and got three powerful citadels (the evil Tripuram forts) of Gold, Silver and Bronze with a boon of invincibility until all the three are in linear; with the boon to his side he caused suffering to all beings in the heavens and on earth.Upon hearing the fervent appeals of the Gods, Shiva intervened, and realized that he could not defeat the demon. It was upon hearing Narada Muni’s advice that Shiva saluted Ganesha and then shot a single arrow that pierced through the citadels, bringing an end to the demon. Shiva, the slayer of the Tripura citadels is enshrined at Bhimashankaram nearby. A variation of this legend is commonly known in South India. Ganesha is said to have caused the axle in Shiva’s chariot to break, as the latter headed to battle the demon without saluting Ganesha before he set out. Upon realizing his act of omission, Shiva saluted his son Ganesha, and then proceeded victoriously to a short battle against the powerful demon. (See Acharapakkam – an ancient temple in Tamil Nadu glorified by the 1st millennium Tamil hymns enshrining Shiva associated with this legend, as well as Tiruvirkolam and Tiruvatikai – both over 1200 years old, associated with the legend of Tripurasamhaaram).(The Tamil lines of 15th century saint poet Arunagirinathar: ‘Muppuram eri seida, Acchivan urai ratham, acchadu podi seida athi deera’ where he describes Ganesha as the valiant hero, who caused the axle of Shiva’s chariot to crumble to dust, as Shiva headed out to destroy Tripurasura, narrate this legend.)The Temple: Mahaganapati is portrayed, seated on a lotus, flanked by his consorts Siddhi and Ridhi. The temple dates back to the period of Peshwa Madhav Rao.The temple of Maha Ganpati is very close to the centre of the town Ranjangaon. The temple was erected during the rule of the Peshwas. Peshwa Madhavrao had constructed the Garbhagriha, the sanctum to house the swayambhoo statue. The temple faces east. It has an imposing main gate which is guarded by two statues of Jay and Vijay. The temple is designed in such away that during Dakshinayan[ the apparent movement of the son to the south] the rays of the sun fall directly on the deity. The deity is seated and flanked on both sides by Riddhi and Siddhi. The trunk of the deity turns to the left. There is a local belief that the real statue of Mahaganapti is hidden in some vault and this statue has ten trunks and twenty arms. But there is nothing to substantiate this belief.
Vighneshwar Vinayak (Ganapati) at Ozhar
The history encompassing this idol states that Vighnasur, a demon was created by the King of Gods, Indra to destroy the prayer organized by King Abhinandan. However, the demon went a step further and destroyed all vedic, religious acts and to answer the people’s prayers for protection, Ganesh defeated him. The story goes on to say that on being conquered, the demon begged and pleaded with Ganesha to show a mercy. Ganesha then granted in his plea, but on the condition that demon should not go to the place where Ganesha worshipping is going on. In return the demon asked a favour that his name should be taken before Ganesha’s name, thus the name of Ganesha became Vighnahar or Vighneshwar (Vighna in Sanskrit means a sudden interruption in the ongoing work due to some unforeseen, unwarranted event or cause).
The Ganesha here is called Shri Vighneshwar Vinayak. The temple faces east and is surrounded by a thick stone wall. One can walk on the wall. The main hall of the temple is 20 feet long and the inner hall is 10feet long. This idol, facing the east, has its trunk towards the left and rubies in its eyes. There is a diamond on the forehead and some jewel in the navel. Idols of Riddhi and Siddhi are placed on the two sides of the Ganesha idol. The temple top is Golden and is possibly built by Chimaji Appa after defeating the Portuguese rulers of Vasai and Sashti. The temple is probably built around 1785AD.
This temple is located just off the Pune-Nashik Highway, in the town of Ozhar. It is enclosed on all sides by high stone walls, and its pinnacle is made of gold. The temple is situated on the banks of river Kukadi. Via Mumbai-Thane-Kalyan-Bapsai-Saralgaon-Otur, Ozhar is 182 km.
Shri Lenyandri Morya Ardh Peeth at Wadgaon (Kashimbeg)
Girijatmaja Vinayak Ganapati can be said as half peeth. As the main trunk of Girijatmaja Vinayaka is near a hill top at Wadgaon Kashimbeg, Taluka Ambegao, District Pune. The following picture and inscriptions will clear any doubts in this respect. Please note “Ashtavinayak Darshan” remains incomplete without visiting this Temple. Most of the Ashtavinayak tour operators do not include this “ARDHA PEETH’ in the program. One should make a note of this.
There is not much information available to the common man about the importance of this “aardha peeth” and I would like to discuss about this temple first before mentioning about the Lenyandri Girijatmaja Ganapati Temple.
A small temple on top of a hillock is actually right behind the Girijatmaja Hill. Its a good one hours journey from Lenyandri Ganapati Temple. Its a quite place with very few visitors as not many people know about it. You can’t enter the ‘gabhara’ as it is sufficiently big only for the priest (पुजारी) to sit and perform puja. Only the head and trunk of Ganapati idol is visible as the back of Lord Ganesha is believed to be at Lenyandri.
Lenyandri Girijatmaja Ganapati at Lenyandri
Out of 18 Buddhist caves on mountain, Girijatmaja Vinayak’s temple is in the eighth cave. These caves are also called as Ganesh caves. The temple is reached after climbing 307 steps. The entire temple is carved out of single stone and is facing south. In front of Main Mandir, there is huge Sabhamandap (Hall) which is nearly 53 feet long and 51 feet broad and to your surprise there is not a single pillar in this Sabhamandap. It has 18 small apartments for meditation. Shree Girijatmaj’s idol is placed in the middle apartment.
Sabhamandap of main temple is only 7 feet high. It has six stone pillars with cow, elephant etc. carved on them. From the main temple one can view river flowing and the Junnar town spread near the river.
Girijatmaja’s idol faces east. Parvati consecrated Ganesh idol in the cave wherein she had performed penances.
Idol here is not a separate and distinct one. It has been carved on stone wall of the cave. Previously idol was covered with armour. Now, since the armour is fallen Girijatmaj’s idol with neck turned to left side can be seen. As such only one eye of the idol can be seen.
Ballaleshwar Ganapati at Pali
Ballaleshwar (Pali) Ganesha is believed to have saved this boy-devotee, Ballala, who was beaten by local villagers and his father (Kalyani-seth) for his single-minded devotion to him. Shri Ballaleshwar, Pali. The original wooden temple was reconstructed in to a stone temple by Nana Phadanavis in 1760. There are two small lakes constructed on two sides of the temple. One of them is reserved for the puja (worship) of the Deity. This Temple faces the east and has two sanctums. The inner one houses the murti and has a Mushika (Ganesha’s mouse vahana) with modaka in his forepaws in front of it. The hall, supported by eight exquisitely carved pillars demands as much attention as the idol, sitting on throne carved like a Cyprus tree. The eight pillars depict the eight directions. Inner sanctum is 15 feet tall and outer one is 12 feet tall. The temple is constructed in such a way that after the winter (dakshinayan : southward movement of the sun) solstice, the sun rays fall on the Ganesha murti at sunrise. The temple is built with stones which are stuck together very tight using melted lead. Like a few other murtis, this one has diamonds embedded in the eyes and navel, and with His trunk pointing to the left. One specialty of this temple is that the prasad offered to this Ganapati at Pali is Besan Laadu instead of Modak that is normally offered to other Ganapatis. The shape of the idol itself bears a striking semblance with the mountain which forms the backdrop of this temple. This is more prominently felt if one views the photograph of the mountain and then sees the idol. The temple is located in the town of Pali, off the Mumbai-Pune highway, about 11 km before Nagothane on the Mumbai-Goa highway. This is located 30 km to the South-West of Karjat Railway Station. Mumbai-Panvel-Khopoli-Pali is 124 km. Pune-Lonavla-Khopoli-Pali is 111 km. Behind this temple is the temple of Shri Dhundi-Vinayak which is West facing. This is a very rare idol which is facing the West. The story says that this idol was the same one which was thrown by Ballala’s father (Kalyani-seth) while Ballala was worshipping it.
Ganesh Purana gives an elaborate picture of LEELAS of Lord Ganesha. The legendary story of Shri Ballaleshwar is covered in Upasana Khand Section -22 occurred in Pali – the old name Pallipur. Kalyansheth was a merchant in Pallipur and was married to Indumati. The couple was childless for quite some time but later was blessed with a son known as Ballal. As Ballal grew, he spent much of his time in worshiping and praying. He was devotee of Lord Ganesha and used to worship stone idol of Shri Ganesha in the forest along with his friends and companions. As it used to take time, the friends would reach home late. Regular delay in returning house used to irritate the parents of the friends of Ballal who complained to his father saying that Ballal was responsible for spoiling the kids. Already unhappy with Ballal for not concentrating on his studies, Kalyansheth was boiling with anger when he heard the complaint. Immediately he reached the place of worship in the forest and devastated Pooja arrangements organized by Ballal and his friends. He threw away the Stone Idol of Shri Ganesh and broke the pandal. All the kids got frightened but Ballal who was engrossed in Pooja and japa, did not even know what was happening around. Kalayan beat Ballal mercilessly and tied him to the tree saying to get fed and freed by Shri Ganesha. He left for home thereafter.Ballal semiconscious and tied to the tree in the forest was lying as that with severe pain all over, started calling his beloved God, Shri Ganesha.“O Lord, Shri Ganesha, I was busy in praying you, I was right and humble but my cruel father has spoiled my act of devotion and hence I am unable to perform Pooja.”Shri Ganesha was pleased and responded quickly. Ballal was freed. He blessed Ballal to be superior devotee with larger lifespan. Shri Ganesha hugged Ballal and said that his father would suffer for his wrongdoings. Ballal insisted that Lord Ganesha should continue to stay there at Pali. Nodding His head Shri Ganesha made his permanent stay at Pali as Ballal Vinayak and disappeared in a large stone. This is famous as Shri Ballaleshwar. Shri Dhundi Vinayak in the above mentioned story the stone idol which Ballal used to worship and which was thrown away by Kalyan Sheth is known as Dhundi Vinayak. The idol is facing west. The birth celebration of Dhundi Vinayak takes place from Jeshtha Pratipada to Panchami. From ancient time, it is a practice to take darshan of Dhundi Vinayak before proceeding to main idol Shree Ballaleshwar.
Varadavinayak Ganapati at Mahad
The handsome Prince Rukmangad refused sage Vachaknavi’s wife Mukunda’s illicit call, and was cursed to suffer from leprosy. Mukunda was satisfied by Indra who deceived her as Rukmangad and she bore a child by name Grutsamad. When Grutsamad came to know about the real story he cursed his mother Mukunda to become the tree of Bori and she in turn cursed him to bore a demon son named Tripurasur, the one who was defeated by Shiva after praying the Ranjangaon Ganesha. Grutsamad after getting cursed went to the forest of Pushpak and worshipped Ganesha. Sage Grutsamad is famous for the mantra GaNanaN Tva. He founded the temple and called this Ganesha: Varada-Vinayak.Ganesha is said to reside here in the form of Varada Vinayaka, the giver of bounty and success. The idol was found in the adjoining lake (to Mr. Dhondu Paudkar in 1690AD), in an immersed position and hence its weathered look. In 1725AD the then Kalyan subhedar, Mr. Ramji Mahadev Biwalkar built the Varadavinayak temple and the village of Mahad. The idol faces the east, has its trunk to the left and has been in the constant company of an oil lamp – said to be burning continuously since 1892. There are 4 elephant idols on 4 sides of the temple. the hall is 8feet by 8feet. The dome is 25feet high and is golden at the top. The dome has designs of cobra. This is the only temple where devotees are allowed to personally pay their homage and respects to the idol. They are allowed in the immediate vicinity of this idol to perform their prayers. The temple is located three kilometers off the Pune-Mumbai highway near Khopoli (80 km from Pune), and is thus closest to Mumbai city. Karjat Railway Station, Karjat on Mumbai-Pune railway is 24 km from this place and 6 km from Khopoli.
Ashtavinayak Yatra (Darshan) is not complete without visiting Morgaon’s Mayureshwar Ganapati Mandir again. The coconut used to be placed at the feet of the first Ganapati is to be used at all the other Ashtavinayak Ganapati. This coconut is to brought back to Morgaon and then taken home for preparation of ‘prasada’.
Ashtavinayak Yatra is one of those yatras which has gained lot of importance in recent times. Like the sacred 12 Jyotirling Yatra, Kashi Yatra, Vaishavdevi Yatra, Narmada Pradakshina, Maanasarovar Yatra, this yatra is supposed to fulfill your wishes and desires. There are countless pilgrims which will vouch on this experience.
Our Tour was organized by Radhakrishna Tours & Travels based at Thane (Ashtavinayak.com) and out Manager Yugandhar made it sure we were all very comfortable. All arrangements were just superb. The food, snacks, accommodation (at Lenyandri) were just perfect. So much so that I strongly recommend it to all prospective pilgrims who want to go on this “ASHTAVINAY YATRA”.