Ashtavinayaka Temples refer to the eight Shrines of Lord Ganesha situated in Maharashtra state of India. Ganesh is the Hinduism/Hindu deity of unity, prosperity, learning, and removing obstacles. It is known as Siddhivinayaka because Bhagwan Vishnu acquired Siddhi (special powers) here. It is also believed that since the god fulfills every wish of his devotees, he is called the Siddhivinayaka.
The Ashtavinayaka Yatra is the pilgrimage covering these eight holy abodes of Ganesha in and around Pune District of Maharashtra. Out of these 8 Temples 6 are in Pune and 2 are in Raigad District. Each of these temples has its own individual legend and history, as distinct from each other as the murtis in each temple. The form of each murti of Ganesh and His trunk are distinct from one another. However, there are other temples of eight Ganesh in various other parts of Maharashtra; the ones around Pune are more well known than the former.
It is believed that to complete the Ashtavinayak Yatra, one must revisit the first Ganpati after visiting all the eight Ganpatis. According to Shastra, first you have to visit Moreshwar of Moregaon. Then visit Siddhatek, Pali, Mahad, Theur, Lenyandri, Ozar, Ranjangaon and then again Moregaon.
1. Moreshwar Temple, Morgaon
Shri Moreshwar or Mayureshwar Temple is situated at a distance of 55 km from Pune, next to the Karha River in the Morgaon village in the Baramati Taluka of Pune district in Maharashtra. This region is also known as the Bhuswananda. Moregaon Village is said to have received its name as once upon a time the shape of this place was like a peacock and there was an abundance of peacock birds in this region. Literally Moregoan means ‘Village of Peacocks’ and is a combination of two words (more which means Peacock and goan which means village). As per the legend Lord Ganesh riding a peacock in the form of Mayureshwara slew the demon Sindhu in response to pleas from the Gods. This is the first Temple to be visited during the Ashtavinayaka Temple Pilgrimage. It is the most important of all the eight Ashtavinayak temples and has four gates. This idol has its trunk turned to the left and a cobra poised over it to protect it.
2. Siddhivinayak Temple, Siddhatek
Siddhivinayak Temple of Siddhatek is one of the Ashtavinayaka and the only Ashtavinayaka shrine in Ahmednagar district. It is believed that it was here on the Siddhtek Mountain, that Vishnu acquired Siddhi. The temple is located just next to Bhima River. God Vishnu is supposed to have vanquished the asuras Madhu and Kaitabh after propitiating Ganesha here. This is the only murti of these eight with the trunk positioned to the right. This murti’s trunk is turning to the right. The right-sided-trunk Ganesha is supposed to be very strict for the devotees. To make one round (pradakshina) around the temple one has to make the round trip of the hillock. This takes about 30 minutes with moderate speed.
3. Ballaleshwar Temple, Pali
Ballaleshwar temple is one of the eight temples of Lord Ganesha and the only incarnation of Ganesha that is known by his devotee’s name. Ballaleshwar Pali temple is situated between fort Sarasgad and the river Amba,at a distance of 30 km from Karjat in the Raigad district. Like a few other murtis, this one has diamonds embedded in the eyes and navel, and with His trunk pointing to the left. One speciality of this temple is that the prasad offered to this Ganapati at Pali is Besan Laadu instead of Modak that is normally offered to other Ganapatis.
4. Varadavinayak Temple, Mahad
Ganesh as Varad Vinayak fulfills all the dreams and desires plus grants all the boons. This temple is located three kilometers off the Pune-Mumbai highway near Khopoli (80 km from Pune) and is thus closest to Mumbai city. The idol of this temple is known as Varada Vinayak and temple premises are on one side of a beautiful pond. The idol faces the east, has its trunk to the left and has been in the constant company of an oil lamp – said to be burning continuously since 1892. There are 4 elephant idols on 4 sides of the temple. The hall is 8feet by 8feet. The dome is 25feet high and is golden at the top. The dome has designs of cobra.
5. Chintamani Temple, Theur
The Chintamani Ganesh Temple of Theur is one of the larger and more famous of the Ashtavinayaka Ganesha temples. Ganesh as Chintamani is a god who brings peace of mind & drives away all the perplexities of the mind. Like other Ashtavinyaka icon, central icon of Ganesha is considered self-manifested. The temple is located 22 km from Pune, off the Pune-Solapur highway, and is hence the nearest from Pune. The village of Theur sits at the confluence of three major regional rivers—Mula, Mutha & Bhima.
6. Girijatmaj Temple, Lenyadri
Girijatmaj Vinayak refers to the Ganesh as the son of Parvati. This is the only Ashtavinayaka temple that is build on a mountain and is set in a Buddhist cave temple at Lekhan hills, at a distance of about 160 km from Pune. The idol faces north with its trunk to the left, and has to be worshiped from the rear of the temple. It is believed that Parvati (Shiva’s wife) performed penance to beget Ganesha at this point. Girija’s (Parvati’s) Atmaj (son) is Girijatmaj. This temple stands amidst a cave complex of 18 caves of Buddhist origin. This temple is the 8th cave. These are called Ganesh-leni as well.
7. Vighnahar Temple, Ozar
Lord Ganesha at Ozhar is known as Vigneshwara or the remover of all obstacles which he achieved by vanquishing the demon Vighnasura. Vighnahar Ganapati Temple is located about 85 km from Pune on the banks of Kukadi River. The Vigneshwara Temple Ganesha form worshipped here is called Vigneshwara, one of the eight revered shrines of Ganesha in Maharashtra. The temple faces east and is surrounded by a thick stone wall. One can walk on the wall. The main hall of the temple is 20 feet long and the inner hall is 10 feet long. This idol, facing the east, has its trunk towards the left and rubies in its eyes. There is a diamond on the forehead and some jewel in the navel. Idols of Riddhi and Siddhi are placed on the two sides of the Ganesha idol.
8. Mahaganapati Temple, Ranjangaon
Ranjangaon Ganpati Temple celebrating eight instances of legends related to Ganesha. The idol of these lord Ganesh is also named as Mahotkat, located at Rajangaon 21 km before Shirur and 50 km from Pune. Here Shiva is believed to have worshipped Ganesha before fighting the demon Tripurasura. It is the eighth and last Ganesh Temple to be visited during the Ashta Vinayaka Temple Pilgrimage. The idol faces the east, is seated in a cross-legged position with a broad forehead, with its trunk pointing to the left. It is said that the original idol is hidden in the basement, having 10 trunks and 20 hands and is called Mahotkat, however, the temple authorities deny existence of any such idol.