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AshtaVinayak - The Eight power centers of Lord Ganesha
By Chalomumbai correspondent

Ashta means eight and Vinayaka is one of the several names of Lord Ganesh. The Ashtavinaykas are eight Ganesh temples in Maharashtra namely Morgaon, Theoor, Pali, Mahad, Lenyadri, Ozar, Ranjangaon and Siddhatek, five of them being in Pune district alone.

The Ganesh idols in these temples are known to be swayambhu (born on their own, in other words, discovered, not constructed). That's why these temples have special significance. Devotees strongly believe that their wishes would be fulfilled if they visit these temples at least once in their lifetime. In fact, one would find very few Maharashtrian families that have not done the Ashtavinayakadarshan yatra once in their lives.

There are a number of travel companies taking pilgrims to Ashtavinayakas throughout the year. But one can go independently by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses, private luxury buses or private vehicles too. Except for the two steep ones -- Ozar and Lenyadri, the other temples are easy to reach.

Let's set out on the journey

Moreshwar at Morgaon

There are various routes to reach Morgaon from Pune but the most commonly taken one is Pune-Hadpsar-Saswad-Jejuri-Morgaon. Old-style construction marks the temple. With a silver cobra adorning its head, the Ganesh idol sparkles with radiant diamonds which make its eyes. Eight different statues of Ganesh, installed in eight directions attract attention in the temple compound. A huge mouse and a nandi bull (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) in metal catch your eye as they sit in front of the Ganesh idol.

Girijatmaj at Lenyadri

This is a tough one to climb. On Pune-Nashik highway, if one takes the Chakan-Rajgurunagar-Manchar-Narayangaon-Junnar route, Lenyadri mountain falls on the way. The 302 step climb is worth it. The cave temple and the stone statue are beautiful. But what's amazing about the place is that the cave which is 50 ft long and 60 ft wide does not have a single pillar! If this architectural wonder doesn't make you curious, there is a well on the mountain, storing chilled water which tastes good too!

Chintamani at Theoor

From Pune, when you take the Hadapsar route, 3 km away from Loni is the Theoor road. This temple is endowed with scenic beauty -- there is a river flowing behind the temple and the long temple passage is usually quiet in the evenings, making it a perfect place of worship. It's said that a saint called Morya Gosavi became enlightened here in the past. In the recent times, during the Peshwa rule, the temple was renovated as Madhavrao Peshwa was very fond of it. For Pune residents, the distance of 25 km is something that can be covered easily. As a result, the temple is always crowded.

Vighneshwar at Ozar

On the same route but a little before Lenyadri is Ozar. Situated on the banks of Kukdi river, this temple has been surrounded by a solid stone wall. The huge shrine and the attractive idol inside it create a sense of grandeur. Nearby is the fort of Shivneri where the Maratha king Shivaji was born. Pilgrims make it a point to visit the fort more because of its historical significance than its proximity to the Ozar or Lenyadri temple.

Ballaleshwar at Pali

This one falls in the Raigad district. The easier route is Mumbai-Panvel-Khopoli and Pali. Built in stone, this huge shrine has visitors throughout the year. But in the month of Magh, according to the Hindu calendar, there is a festival of Ganesh and many pilgrims from Mumbai, Pune make a beeline for the early morning darshan on Chaturthi (the fourth day). A huge metal bell at the entrance adds to the overall vastness of the structure.

Mahaganapati at Ranjangaon

    This one is close to Pune. On the Pune-Ahmednagar highway, one has to go via Pune-Koregaon-Shikrapur route. Ranjangaon is close to Shirur. The temple is built in such a way that when the Sun is in transition - moving from Uttarayan to Dakshinayan, its rays invariably fall on the idol.

It is said that the original statue which was found in the village was called Mahotkat and it had 10 trunks and 20 hands. But it has been preserved in the underground cell of the temple. The one which is kept for worship is different.

Varadavinayaka at Mahad

   One can take the same Mumbai-Panvel-Khopoli route since this one also comes in the Raigad district, except that 6 km before Khopoli, there is a turn which takes one to the Mahad temple. As such this temple looks like an old-fashioned residential structure. It has no grandeur that mark many other temples. But Varadvinayaka is supposed to be very jagrut (one who grants wishes, even gives darshan if worshipped sincerely). Another important feature of this temple is the lamp which has been burning here since 1892!

Siddhivinayak at Siddhatek

    In Ahmednagar district, on the Pune-Solapur highway, one has to take the Pune-Hadapsar-Loni-Yavat-Chaufula-Patas-Daund route. Cross River Bheema or take a longer route to make it to the temple. Legend goes that Lord Vishnu became enlightened here. Hence this place is supposed to be appropriate for attaining siddhi (divine powers).

For the devotees of Ganesh, the Ashtavinayaka pilgrimage is an experience that is satisfying in itself. That it can also ward off any evil or fulfil their wishes is actually the secondary advantage.   



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