If the beautiful yet polluting Ganpati idols make you think twice, we suggest you follow the Ashtavinayaka trail. This route includes visits to eight temples in Maharashtra that are home to naturally created idols of this Hindu god.
The temple is located in a small village named Morgaon. 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 a cause of destruction. The name Mayureshwar refers to riding a peacock. Mayureshwar then killed Sindhu and legends say that his head fell in Morgaon. The temple was build in 14th century by Morya Gosavi. The Ashtavinayaka yatra begins with a trip to this temple.
Distance from Pune: 64km
An artist works on a 12-feet tall Ganesh Idol in Thane ahead of the 10-day Ganesh festival that begins on September 17. Pic/Rane Ashish
According to legends, 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 5,000 years in order to get hold of Madhu and Kaitaba but couldn’t. Lord Shiva then told Vishnu to worship Ganpati. Vishnu invoked Ganpati on Siddhatek hill, destroyed the demons successfully and consecrated the spot.
Distance from Pune: 95km
The temple is named after a devotee, Ballal. It is said that Ganesha revealed about himself to Ballal at this place and since then, it has become a sacred spot. The construction of the wooden temple is such that on the two equinoxes, the sun rays fall directly on the Ganpati’s idol.
Distance from Pune: 110km
The name means the bestower of blessings. A legend involving Gritsamada of Kaudinya is linked to the temple. Gritsamada, who wanted to do penance, retreated to the Pushpak forest (present Bhadraka) in search of peace. He prayed repeatedly to Ganesha to grant him inner peace. Pleased with his penance, Ganesha blessed him saying he would bear a son who would only be defeated by Shiva. Gritsamada urged Lord Ganesha to bless the forest and stay back there permanently. Gritsamada constructed a temple and installed the idol of Lord Ganesha.
Distance from Pune: 81km
Ganesha is believed to have got back the precious Chintamani 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.
Distance from Pune: 25km
Girijatmaj Vinayak refers to Ganesha as the son of Parvati. The temple is set in a Buddhist cave temple. One has to climb several not-so-easy stairs to reach the temple. Legends say that Parvati, wife of lord Shiva, wanted a son, so she worshipped Ganpati for 12 years, and was finally blessed with Ganpati himself as her son. It is believed that Ganapati’s thread ceremony took place here.
Distance from Pune: 96km
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. All the gods prayed to 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 Vigneshwar Ganpati.
Distance from Pune: 102km
Here Shiva is believed to have worshipped Ganesha before fighting the demon Tripurasura. 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.
Distance from Pune: 54km
Information courtesy: Sarita Nair, founder, www.spiritualyatra.co.in. It is a spiritual holiday portal that also offers the Ashtavinayaka Yatra.