Ashtavinayaka temples are eight famous Ganesha temples in and around Pune district of Maharashtra. Ashta in Sanskrit means eight, and therefore Ashtavinayaka means ‘eight Ganeshas’. All these temples contain idols which are believed to be Swayambhu (self-originated). Each of these Ganesha shrines has its own distinct legend and history. Each idol and its trunk have different forms.
It is widely believed that visiting Ashtavinayaka Temples at least once in a lifetime is obligatory for every Hindu. Ashtavinayaka yatra is very popular among Hindus across India. The trip involves a pilgrimage that covers these eight temples in a pre-ascertained sequence. The entire pilgrimage covers a distance of 654 km. A visit to the first Ganapati again, after paying tribute to all the eight Ganapatis is essential to complete the pilgrimage.
1. Shree Mayureshwar Temple, Morgaon
Also known as Moreshwar temple, the mandir is located in the Morgaon village in Pune district. It is the most important of all the eight Ashtavinayak temples. The Ashtavinayaka pilgrimage should start and end at this temple.
The idol here has three eyes with its trunk turning towards the left direction. Idols of Siddhi and Buddhi can also be seen at Ganesha’s sides. Siddhi and Buddhi are companions of Ganesha. The shrine has four gates, and is flanked by minarets on four sides. Therefore, the temple will look like a mosque, if seen from a distance.
As per the legend, once little Ganesha knocked an egg from a mango tree. A peacock appeared from the egg. Ganesha mounted the peacock and assumed the name Mayuresvara. Mayuresvara later killed Sindhu and his army-generals at the temple site.
It is believed that Moregaon Village used to have plenty of peacock population in the ancient time. The temple got its name based on these beliefs.
2. Shree Siddhivinayaka Temple, Siddtek, Ahmednagar district
Siddhivinayaka Temple located on the banks of Bhima River is the second temple to be visited during the Ashta Vinayak Mandir Yatra. Ganesha here is known to bless his devotees with Sidhi.
It is believed that the right-trunked Ganesha is very powerful, but difficult to please. This is the only Ashtavinayaka shrine where the deity has his trunk to the right. Traditionally, an icon whose trunk is to the right is named “Siddhi-Vinayaka”, the giver of siddhi (accomplishment, success, supernatural powers).The temple is thus considered as a jagrut kshetra where the deity is said to highly powerful.
The site of the temple got its name Siddhatek because it is the place where Vishnu is believed to acquire siddhis. The story goes like this. While Brahma was creating the universe, two demons – Madhu and Kaitabha, emerged from the dirt in sleeping Vishnu’s ear. These demons disturbed the creation process. Meanwhile Vishnu awoke and fought with the demons. But he could not defeat them. Shiva told Vishnu to appease Ganesha – the remover of obstacles. Vishnu performed atonement at Siddhatek. Ganesha was pleased by his action and conferred his blessings and siddhis on Vishnu. Vishnu could easily defeat the demons with Ganesha’s blessings.
3. Shree Ballaleshwar Temple, Pali, Raigad district
The Ballaleshwar Temple is the third Ashta Vinayak Temple to be visited during the Ashta Vinayak Temple Pilgrimage. The uniqueness of this Ganesha temple is that it is the only Ganesha temple that is known in the name of his devotee.
Historical Sanrasgad Fort is located on one side of the temple, and River Amba is flowing on the other side. Two lakes are there in front of the temple. The original wooden temple was built by Moreshvar Vitthal Sindkar in 1640. The current stone structure was built in 1760. The idol is placed in the temple in such a way that the rays of the rising sun will fall directly on it.
The name of the temple has a story behind it. There was a Ganesha devout boy named Ballala in the village of Pali. His parents were Kalyan and Indumati. He was an ardent devotee of the Lord. One day he invited all the boys in the village for a Ganapati pooja. The pooja prolonged for a few days and kids were reluctant to go back to their homes before the completion of pooja. They were so immersed in the pooja and forgot about their hunger and thirst. Parents of the kids complained to Ballala’s father. Provoked by the complaints, he reached the pooja venue and threw the huge stone which was worshipped as deity, into pieces. He had beaten up his son severely. But Ballala did not stop chanting the prayer. Pleased with the boy’s devotion, Lord Ganesha appeared before the wounded boy and healed. The boy expressed his wish that the Lord should take abode in his village. He agreed and blessed him saying that, Ganesha will be known as Ballala in Pali. Ganesha vanished into the stone and suddenly it was made whole again. That stone statue is called Ballaleshwar (Ballal’s Lord).
4. Shree Varad Vinayak Temple, Mahad
This is the fourth Vinayaka temple to be visited during the Ashtavinayaka Pilgrimage. This temple is the closest to the Mumbai city. The deity in the name Varad Vinayak is believed to satisfy all the dreams and desires of the devotees. Ganesha here will also confer additional blessings on his worshippers.
The east-facing idol with left-ward trunk is always seen with a forever burning oil lamp called Nandadeep. It is believed to be burning incessantly since 1892. The temple has a 25-ft high dome with golden top featuring designs of cobra. The four sides of the temple are flanked by elephant idols.
The idol of this temple was found in the adjoining lake in an immersed position in 1690 AD. This temple is believed to be built in 1725AD by Subhedar Ramji Mahadev.
The Varadvinayak shrine is associated with the legend of charming young Prince Rukmangada. Once Rishi Vachaknavi’s wife Mukunda expressed her love towards the prince and asked him to fulfill her desires. Prince Rukmangad openly refused her desires. Seeing Mukunda’s depression, lord Indra approached her in the form of the prince and fulfilled her desires. Mukunda gave birth to a son. She named him Grutsamad. When Grutsamad became mature enough he came to know about the reason for his birth. He cursed his mother to become a thorny berry-bearing “Bhor” plant. Annoyed Mukunda in turn cursed her son to become father of a cruel demon. Suddenly a heavenly voice revealed the truth that Grutsamad was the son of Indra. The shocked mother and son could not take back their curses. Mukunda was transformed into a Bhor plant. Mortified Gritsamada retired to the Pushpak forest where he spent his life meditating on Lord Ganesha.
Pleased Lord Ganesha appeared before Gritsamada and blessed him to bear a son who could be defeated only by Shiva. Gritsamada built a temple at the site. The Ganesha idol installed there is called Varadavinayaka. Grutsamad is famous for the mantra GaNanaN Tva.
5. Shree Chintamani Temple, Theur
This is the fifth Ganesha temple to be visited during the Ashtavinayaka Temple Tour. The Ganesha here is believed to bring equanimity, and is worshipped as deliverer from life’s worries and tensions. The idol with left-ward trunk has diamonds in the place of eyes.
The deity earned the name Chintamani thanks to an incident that is believed to take place at the site of the temple. The sage Kapila had the pride possession of the valuable gem Chintamani. The gem was believed to have the power to grant one’s wishes. One day prince Guna came to visit sage Kapila. Kapila showed off the brilliant gem to the prince. Highly tempted by its grandiose, Guna managed to steal the gem. Disheartened Kapila prayed to Ganesha. The Lord restored Chintamani to him, but Kapila refused to take it back. He requested Ganesha to stay back at the place and called him Chintamani Vinayaka.
6. Shri Girijatmaj Temple, Lenyadri
This is the sixth Vinayaka temple to be visited while doing Ashtavinayaka Pilgrimage. Here Ganesha is worshipped as Parvati’s (Girija’s) son (Atmaj). This is the only Ashtavinayaka temple that is built on a mountain and is located inside a Buddhist cave temple. The temple with north-facing idol with left-ward trunk faces the south. The deity here should be worshipped from the rear of the temple. The idol is unique in the way that it does not have a definite carved shape. The temple gets illuminated only by the sunlight during daytime. The Lord is believed to be in infant form in this shrine.
Lenyadri, meaning mountain cave, has a series of about 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves. The Ganesha temple is located in Cave 7. As the legend goes, Goddess Parvati (Shiva’s wife) performed atonement for 12 years in the caves of Lenyadri to bear Vinayaka as her son. Pleased by her penance, Lord Ganesha blessed her with her wish.
“On the fourth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month Bhadrapada (Ganesh chaturthi day), Parvati worshipped a clay image of Ganesha, which came alive. Thus, Ganesha was born to Parvati at Lenyadri. Later, he was named Gunesha by Shiva. Shiva gave him a boon that whosoever remembers him before starting a job, will successfully complete that task. For 15 years Gunesha grew up at Lenyadri. Sindhu, who knew that his death would be at the hands of Gunesha, sent demons like Krur, Balasur, Vyomasur, Kshemma, Kushal, and many more, to kill Gunesha, but all of them were instead killed by him. At the age of six, the architect-god Vishwakarma worshipped Gunesha and endowed him with the weapons Pasha (noose), Parashu (axe), Ankusha (hook) and Padma(Lotus).”
7. Shri Vigneshwara Temple, Ozhar
This is the seventh temple to be visited during the Ashta Vinayaka Temple Journey. The deity here is known as Vigneshwara or the remover of all obstacles. Worshippers believe that a devout visit to this temple will take away all troubles in their life.
High stone walls with upper gold cladding surround the temple. The east-facing idol with left-ward trunk is flanked by Riddhi and Siddhi. The forehead of the idol features diamond. The naval of the statue is studded with some precious jewels. Eyes of the idol are adorned with rubies.
The story behind Shri Vigneshwara Temple goes like this. Infuriated by king Abhinandana’s disregard to him while offering a sacrifice, Indra ordered Kala to destroy the sacrifice. Kala incarnated in the form of demon Vignasura, and created obstacles to the sacrifice and ruined it. He kept on doing chaos in the universe by troubling all the good deeds of sages. The exasperated sages worshipped Ganesha and asked him to destroy Vignasura. Ganesha killed the demon and gratified the sages. To commemorate the good deed at the site, sages consecrated an image of Ganesha as Vigneshwara at Ozar.
8. Shri Mahaganapati Temple, Ranjangoan
This is the eighth temple to be visited during the Ashta Vinayaka Temple PIlgrimage. Shri Mahaganapati is believed to be the most powerful representation of Ganesha. The east-facing Ganesha idol with left-ward trunk is seated cross-legged with a broad forehead. The temple is magnificent with massive and beautiful entrance gate. The Idols of Jay and Vijay are placed near the gateway. The idol is placed in such a way that sun rays will fall directly on it.
The story behind the temple’s origin is linked to annihilation of demon Tripurasura by Shiva. Shiva could do it only after invoking his son Ganapati. Tripurasura used to cause lot of troubles and sufferings to both humans and heavenly beings. Shiva wanted to stop this but could not kill the asura. Upon Narada’s advice, Shiva invoked Ganesha. He could kill the demon with a single arrow bringing an end to chaos. The site of the temple is the place where Shiva worshipped Ganesha. The temple is also known as Tripurarivade Mahaganpati.