Ashtavinayaka : The word comprises of two words within one is “Ashta” meaning eight and “Vinayaka” means Lord Ganesh. Therefore, Ashtavinayaka refers to eight Swayambhu (self created) Ganpati temples all located in Maharashtra. The idols of the temple are as it is as they were found, they are not sculpted by human hands. These temples are amongst important Hindu pilgrimage sites. These temples are located around two important cities of Maharashtra. These cities are Mumbai, the financial capital of India and the other is Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra. These places, where the temples are located, are easily accessible from these cities. One can hire a private taxi or can book a complete Ashtavinayak tour packages offered by local tourist operators.
It is difficult to cover all eight temples in one day, one has to take a break journey to complete the tour. It is a two day task to visit all these temples. Each temple has its own importance and a legend associated with it. Majority of the temples are situated in villages where development has not taken place with a pace and may be because of this, the areas are less populated, less polluted and away from the city’s hustle and bustle.
The eight temples of the ashtavinayak are (in no particular order):
Shree Mayureshwar / Moreshwar, Morgaon:
The temple is located at a distance of 64 Km from Pune in a small village named Moregaon. It is believed that Lord Ganesha took birth here as “Mayureshwar” with a motive to kill Sindhu who was inhuman with the people of the place and was involved in various destructive activities. The name “Mayureshwar” refers to “riding peacock”. Mayureshwar then killed sindhu and legends say that his head fell here at the village of Moregaon. The Temple was build in 14th century by Morya Gosavi.
Shree Chintamani, Theur:
The temple is located at a distance of 25 km from Pune in a small village named Theur. Morya Gosavi went under meditation and attained siddhi. Morya Gosavi’s son constructed this temple to commemorate the event.
Shree Mahaganpati, Ranjangaon :
The temple is located at a distance of 54 km from Pune in a small village named Ranjangaon. The name “Mahaganpati” means “The Great Ganpati”. The idol of the temple was huge and thus got its name as mahaganpati. The original huge idol is hidden in order to prevent it from destruction and thus is replaced by a smaller one. The legend associated with the temple is that Gritsamada when sneezed gave birth to Tripurasua and he was a great worshipper of Lord Ganesha. He soon became a powerful destructor and conquered all three worlds. Ganpati then told that Tripurasur can be killed by Lord Shiva only. Lord Shiva killed him and established a Maha Ganpati at Ranjangaon.
Shree Siddivinayak, Siddhatek:
The temple is located at a distance of 95 km from Pune in a small village named Siddhatek. The temple is situated on the banks of River Bhima near Ahmednagar. Legends say that while Lord Bramha was busy creating the world Lord Vishnu was sleeping and two demons escaped out from Vishnu’s ears to destroy the world created by Brahma. The demons were Madhu and Kaitaba. Vishnu then fought for 5000 years in order to get hold of Madhu and Kaitaba but couldn’t. Lord shiva then told Vishnu to worship Ganpati and then Vishnu invoked Ganpati on Siddhatek hill, destroyed the demons successfully and consecrated the spot.
Shree Vighneshwar, Ozar :
The temple is located at a distance of 102 Kms from Pune in a small village named Ozar. The temple was built in 1833. The main attractions of the temple are Deepmalas and the golden dome. Legends say that King Abhinandana wanted to become Indra and performed many sacrifices to become one. When Indra heard this, he was furious and sent Kaal (time) in the form of Vighnasura to kill Abhinandana and obstruct every rite performed by him. The common people of the village and rest of the world suffered a lot because of this act. Then all the Gods prayed Lord Ganesha to help them get rid of it. Ganpati defeated Vighnasura. Vighnasura then requested Ganpati to stay at Ozar and use his name as a prefix. Ganpati agreed to stay at Ozar and since then the temple is named as Shree Vighneshwar Ganpati.
Shree Girijatmaka, Lenyadri :
The temple is located at a distance of 96 Kms from Pune in a small village named Lenyadri. The temple is located at a hilltop with a picturesque view of the nearby area. The temple is situated in caves on top of a rocky hill on the banks of Kukdi river at Lenyadri. One has to climb 283 stairs to reach up the temple premise. Legends say that Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva, wanted a son so she worshipped Lord Ganpati for 12 long years and was finally blessed with Lord Ganpati himself as her son. The temple is considered sacred as it is believed that GAnapati’s thread ceremony took place here in these caves.
All the caves of Lenyadri are being taken care of by the Archeological Department of Govt. of India. The steps are not so easy to climb and hence recommended not to go in the evening.
Shree Ballashwar, Pali :
The temple is located at a distance of 110 Kms from Pune in a small village named Pali. The temple is being named after a devotee Ballal as Baleshwar. It is said that Lord Ganesha revealed about himself to Ballal at this place and since then it has become a sacred spot and is being worshipped by thousands of people across the country. The construction of the wooden temple is such that on the two equinoxes the sun rays fall directly on the Ganpati’s idol.
Shree Varad Vinayak, Madh /Mahad :
The temple is located at a distance of 81 Kms from Pune and 20 kms from Khandala in a small village named Mahad. It is known as Shree Varad Vinayak, which means the bestower of blessings.