Maharashtra: Ashtavinayaka Yatra Or Pilgrimage: Day 1
Ashtavinayaka means ‘eight Ganeshas’. Lord Ganesha is the Hindu deity for unity, prosperity, learning and removal of all obstacles or crisis. These eight Ganeshas are worshiped in eight ancient temples situated in different parts of Maharashtra—most of them around Pune. The Ashtavinayaka Yatra or pilgrimage covers all of these eight temples and the Ganesha idol in each of them has its own distinct local history and legend. It is believed that these idols are created and nourished by nature only and not made by human hands. According to Hindu scriptures one has to visit the eight temples in one go and in a particular sequence. Breaks in terms of stay in hotels are allowed, but one cannot return home in between. As for the sequence most tour packages are made on the basis of convenience of pilgrims and suitability of travel routes. This pilgrimage is considered to be very important in Maharashtra.
There are tours from both Mumbai and Pune. From Mumbai the tours take three days including two night halts near Pune and the sequence of visits is as per convenience. Pune tours are mostly based on the recommended sequence—the compulsory repeat visit to the first temple after the rounds is hardly available though, and Pune tours consist of two days with one night halt. These tour packages take care of everything including all meals and hotel accommodation. Being from Mumbai we opted for the local package and got picked up by a luxury bus around 6am on 24th January, 2014. We were straightaway guided to Mahad—the first temple on our Ashtavinayaka pilgrimage and the first darshan of Varadvinayaka.
Varadvinayaka Temple: It is situated in Mahad village in Raigad district, 146 km from Pune, nearer to Mumbai. The idol faces east and has his trunk turned to the left. The idol was found in the lake adjoining the temple and hence displays a weathered look. It is believed that wishes come true if prayers are offered at the village. An oil lamp, called Nandadeep, is believed to have been burning since 1892.
Ballaleshwar Temple: Our next stop was Ballaleshwar temple situated in Pali village in Raigad district about 120 km from Pune and just one hour’s drive from Mahad. It is believed that Ganesh appeared in front of his devotee named Ballal in the form of a Brahman. Shri Ballaleshwar is the only incarnation of Lord Ganesha which is known by a devotee’s name.
Mahaganpati Temple: Our last temple on Day—1 was Ranjangaon on the way to Ahmednagar situated in the village of Ranjan—home to the shrine of Mahaganapati, one of the richest Ganesha temples of Maharashtra. Though it just about 50 kilometers away from Pune it took more than three hours from Pali with the lunch break taking one extra hour. The Maha Ganpati at Ranjangaon is the most powerful representation of Lord Ganesha. It is believed that after invoking this form of Ganpati, Shiva vanquished the demon Tripurasur. The idol has ten trunks and twenty hands.
We reached the hotel at Chinchwad, near Pune, at around 9.30pm and were ordered by the bus guide to be ready by 6am promising breakfast after the first darshan. Buffet dinner was served at the hotel and we managed about 4 hours of sleep. With Lord Ganesha beckoning you hardly any reason to complain.
(To Be Continued…)