The Moreshwar temple, also known as the Mayureshwar temple, is the first temple in the Ashtavinayak Yatra pilgrimage route. It was built during the age of the Bahmani rulers, the dynasty founded by Alauddin Hasan. The Bahmani kingdom was founded by Alauddin Hasan in 1347. His title that the kingdom was made of black stone and located at the centre of Moreshwar, this temple looks like a mosque from a distance since it has four minarets on its four sides. It also has a 50-foot-tall wall around it for protection.
A unique feature of this Lord Ganesha temple is the statue of Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, which is to be found right in front of the entrance. Nandi is usually only found in Lord Shiva’s temples. This is perhaps the only Lord Ganesha temple with a Nandi statue, adorning the entrance way.
The main temple has Lord Ganesha’s idol mounted on a peacock. Hence it is true to the literal translation of its name Moreshwar/Mayureshwar as peacock is called “Mor” or “Mayur” in Hindi and Sanskrit. The idol is also protected by the Nagaraja or literally “Snake God”. It also has idols of Riddhi and Siddhi denoting success and prosperity respectively. Lord Ganesha is also called the “Siddhi-daata” or literally “the giver of success”. This temple is 55km from Pune, near the river Karha. According to legend, there were many peacocks during the ancient times in this area and so the name of the place Mayureshwar/ Moregaon.
The second temple on this tour is the Shri Siddhivanayak temple, in Siddhitek, on a small hillock. This temple is by far the most well-known and well-publicised temple of the Ashtavinayak as it is often mentioned in columns and popular shows.
The “garba griha” or the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, where the deity is kept, is 15 feet high and 10 feet wide. It is believed to have been constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. The Sidhivinayak temple has idols of Riddhi and Siddhi here too. These two idols rest on the thigh of Lord Ganesha.
For making one “pradakshina” or one circumambulation of the idol, one has to actually go around the hillock. This takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes at the most. The pradakshina path is made of stone. Devotees, believers and followers from across the world come to this temple to do the pradakshina in the hope that Lord Ganesha will be pleased with their toil and fulfill their wishes.
This temple is located on the Pune-Sholapur highway, 48 km from Srigonda. It is 18 km from the Daund railway station.
The third temple is the Ballaleshwar temple in Pali. The story behind this temple lies with the devotee of Lord Ganesha, Ballala, who was saved by Lord Ganesha, while being punished by the villagers who were against him for being a follower of Lord Ganesha.
It is believed that Ballala used to worship Lord Ganesha and this was not liked at all by his father, who in an immense fit of anger, even broke the idol Ballala would worship. Lord Ganesha saved his devotee Ballala and that idol was restored as Dhundi Vinayak. This legend ensures that devotees first go to Dhundi Vinayak before going to the main temple of Ballaleshwar.
This temple has two lakes on either side. It has the murti of Lord Ganesha with a “mushika” or mouse, his mythical mount, with a “modak”, his favourite sweet. The garba griha is supported by eight pillars, which have been beautifully hand-crafted.
The temple is made of stone. In winter, the sun’s rays fall directly on the idol at sunrise, making the idol look very beautiful. The idol has diamonds embedded in the facial area for eyes.Also, in this temple the “prasad”, or sweet given to devotees post prayer, offered here is besan laddu. This makes this temple distinct from other Lord Ganesh temples in the sense that they usually offer modak, the Lord’s favourite. Pali is located on the Mumbai-Pune highway, 30 km south west from Karjat railway station.
This is the fourth temple in the Ashtavinayak Yatra. Here Lord Ganesha is held as the giver of all success. This temple is at a place called Mahad.
Here, there are four elephant idols on the four sides of the temple. The dome here has been elaborately carved, with exquisite perfection. It also has designs of the cobra, somewhat unusual for a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
Another unusual factor is that here one does not need the guidance or assistance of the temple priests; people can come and worship the Lord personally without any restrictions.
This temple is only 3 km off the Mumbai-Pune highway and 6 km from Khopoli.
The fifth temple of the Yatra, the Chintamani temple is located at Theur.
According to the legend behind this temple, Lord Ganesha managed to retrieve a “chintamani” or jewel for the sage Kapila. Sage Kapila decided to put the jewel around Lord Ganesha’s neck and so the temple is called Chintamani Vinayak or literally “the bejewelled Ganesh”. There is also a lake close to the temple, called Kadambteertha.
This temple was the family deity of Peshwa Madhav Rao I, fourth Peshwa, or ruler, of the Maratha Empire. He died very young and probably at this very temple.
The temple is located 22 km from Pune and on the confluence of the three rivers of Mula, Mutha and Bhima.
This is the sixth temple in the circuit, built at Lenyadri. “Girija” is another name for the Goddess Parvati and “Atmaj” means son, referring to Lord Ganesha, her son according to legend.
This temple is not actually a temple per se. It is actually a cave complex consisting of 18 caves of Buddhist origin. The main temple is in the 8th cave. It has been carved out of a single mammoth-sized stone with no pillars to support it.
The idol in this temple is neither well-carved nor well-designed. Also, it does not have any provisions for electric bulbs. It is lit up only by the bright rays of the sun in the day time.
The temple is 94 km from Pune and 5 km from Shivneri fort, the fort associated with Shivaji, the famous Maratha ruler.
This temple is located at Ozar. In this temple, the Lord Ganesha idol has the statues of Riddhi and Siddhi on either side. “Vighna” means obstacle due to unforeseen causes. Vighnasur was a demon created to destroy prayers organized by King Abhinandan. The demon also started destroying otherVedic religious acts. Lord Ganesha defeated him and so was called the “Vighnahar” or “Vighneshwar”, hence leading to the name of the temple.
Built around 1785 C.E., the temple faces the east and is surrounded by high, thick stone walls. One can walk on the wall. The main hall of the temple is 20feet long and the inner hall is 10 feet long. The idol, facing east-ward, has its trunk towards the left and rubies for eyes. There is a diamond on the forehead and some jewel in the navel. Idols of Riddhi and Siddhi are placed on the either side of the Lord Ganesha idol. The temple pinnacle is made of gold.
This temple is located just off the Pune-Nashik Highway, in the town of Ozar. The temple is situated on the banks of river Kukadi. Ozar is 182 km via Mumbai-Thane-Kalyan-Bapsai-Saralgaon-Otur.
The 8th and final temple, the Mahaganapati temple at Ranjangaon is historically believed to have been visited by Peshwa Madhav Rao I who also built the stone garbha griha around the temple.
Here lord Ganesha is seated on a lotus with Riddhi and Siddhi on either side. The temple has a main entrance with two mythical guards or “yakshas”. Sunlight falls directly on the idol, illuminating it beautifully.
After visiting this this temple, devotees must return to the Moreshwar temple to complete the entire Yatra.
One can find accommodation in hotels in Pune but there are mainly only guest houses and dharamshalas near the temple sites. Alternatively, one can also travel back to the highway for convenient lodging.
Local food is available on the route. It is recommended that one carries mostly dry food, such as dry fruits or nuts as snacks. There are also many dhabas, or roadside eateries, and restaurants available that cater to devotees and other travellers. Ashtavinayak Veg Restaurant and Shree Balaji are amongst the popular eateries here.
There is a wide array of souvenirs, idols and other temple memorabilia of Lord Ganesha available near all temple sites, at the local markets. These are available at almost all times of the day.