This was an impromptu last minute pilgrimage and we are so glad it turned out the way it did.
“Ashta” means the number eight and “Vinayak” is the name of Lord Ganesha. Ashtavinyak essentially means Eight Ganesha temples spread across Maharashtra. Each of these temples signifies one quality/avatar of Lord Ganesha. This holy pilgrimage includes visiting all these eight temples together and it is said that if you vow for something it even comes true! “Navas” in marathi means a wish/vow and many people have come back and once again completed the entire Ashtavinayak trip as a gesture of eternal gratefulness to Lord Ganesha for granting their vow.
It is not just for the navas that people travel, it is also for seeking blessing for a blessed future. Pilgrims have been travelling for Ashtavinayk over centuries! Many of these temples were even made by our ancestors like Shivaji Maharaj and Peshwas back in the time.
As per shastra, the chronology to Ashtavinayk pilgrimage is as follows:-
- Shree Mayureshwar/Moreshwar, Morgaon
- Shree Siddhivinayak, Siddhtek
- Shree Ballaleshwar, Pali
- Shree Varad Vinayak, Mahad
- Shree Chintamani, Theur
- Shree Girijatmaj, Lenyadri
- Shree Vighneshwar, Ozhar and
- Shree Mahaganpati, Ranjangaon
A lot of history, sanctity, cosmic power, faith, belief and power bigger than human kind has lead to creation of these temples. Now let’s explore Ashtavinayak pilgrimage with me –
- Duration – 2 Nights 3 Days (Weekend)
- Mode of travel – Tour A/C Bus
- Tour operator – Vineghwar Tours
- Accommodation – 3 Star Hotel A/C Twin-sharing Room
- Meals – Included (Vegetarian)
- Tour guide – Included
- Prasad, entry fee, shopping etc. excluded
- Senior Citizen Friendly – Yes
- Child/Children Friendly – Yes
- Time of travel – During Maghi Ganpati Janmotsav (February)
- Location – To and Fro Mumbai
- Weather – Pleasant over all, but chilled mornings!
Disclaimer: This post is NOT sponsored by Vigneshwar Tours/Vigneshwar Holidays. It is purely a personal travelogue.
Day 1 : Shree Varadvinayak – Mahad, Shree Ballaleshwar – Pali and Shree Mahaganpati – Ranjangaon
We started our trip at 5:30am in the morning from Dadar Mumbai. We did not follow the route as per shastra (as mentioned above), rather as per distance ie. nearest being first.
Shree Varadvinayak – Mahad
Our first temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Lord Ganesha is said to reside here in the form of Varada Vinayaka, the giver of bounty and success. It is in fact the only temple in which you can touch Lord Ganesha’s idol. As we reached early in the morning, the temple was not crowded. It was very systematic and nice. Our pooja also went very well. Peaceful darshan and blessed start to the day. We also performed aarti at the temple. There is also a holy lake adjacent to the temple, which has water 365 days of the year. No wonder the area in and around this temple is so rich and green.
We grabbed some quick snacks at a restaurant on the way to the temple and left for our next location.
Shree Ballaleshwar – Pali
Our second temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Ganesha is believed to have saved this boy-devotee, Ballala, who was beaten by local villagers and his father for his single-minded devotion to him. This is the only Ashtavinayak idol to be name after a Ganesha devotee.
We often visit multiple times to Pali Ganpati in a year. I find myself extremely attached to this temple. We got beautiful darshan as always and performed pooja too. There is a pond right outside the temple, and it is said to have full water 365 days of the year. I can attest to that. It is a glorious big temple and easily accessible by road. Same goes for Shree Varadvinayak – Mahad temple as well.
Tip: Every day there is a bhogh that is offered to God and then fed to people. You can really enjoy this satvic food for a fraction of a price which then goes in temple charity.
Tip: You get to shop these home made papadums in various flavours right outside the temple. You also get kurde/crackers made out of wheat or rice, the wheat one tends to be a bit tangy after being fried and the rice one is regular in taste. Both crispy and fun to eat. You should buy them when you get the chance too.
Tip: I believe you also get laal pohe also outside the temple, get your hands on this health super-food at extremely affordable prices.
It is here after that we left for lunch and had a delicious vegetarian thali at Hotel Chandralok, Lonavala (I highly recommend this place) and also bought some dry fruit chikkis from Maganlal. Even during our short halt, Lonavala felt so nice and chilled. The old homes with clay roofs, fresh vegetable produce from near by farms and also stumbling upon an on going Maharashtrian wedding too on the same day. Such lovely vibes!
Shree Mahaganpati – Ranjangaon
Our third temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Mahaganapati is the most powerful representation of Lord Ganesha. Mahaganapati is depicted as having eight, ten or twelve arms. It is after invoking this form of Ganpati that Shiva vanquished the demon Tripurasur and so he is also known as Tripurarivade Mahaganpati. Managanapati is potrayed, seated on a lotus, flanked by his consorts Siddhi and Ridhi. The idol of Lord Ganesh is also named as ‘Mahotkat’, and it is said that the idol has 10 trunks and 20 hands. Beautiful temple with intricate teak wood work on the inside of the temple. The surroundings of the temple are still under construction, however they’ve built a beautiful small park next to it. This was the last temple we were visiting for the day and we finished our darshan with an aarti. I have to say that this temple was a bit more crowded than the others, we had to queue for half an hour at least as it was early evening by then. However, it’s advisable to visit all Ashtavinayak temples in early mornings if possible.
After our wonderful darshan, we had a nice cup of chai from Yewale Amrutatulya for Rs.10 only. The perfect way to just refreshen at the end of a long day.
Tip: We got to see a lot of local vendors selling local vegetables, fruits, peanuts and more. You should give it a try while you are at it.
Review of Stay: This was the end of our long day. We were staying at Shipra Regency hotel in Pune for both the nights of our trip. Our dinner was here too. Average at best. The room was nice and comfortable. Hot water was not a problem on the first day, however on the next day we did not get hot water. Not high on my recommendation, but one can make do.
Day 2 : Shree Chintamani – Theur, Shree Siddhivinayak – Siddhatek, Shree Mayureshwar – Morgaon, Jejuri Khandoba, Shree Dattatray Temple, Narayanpur and Tirupati Balaji Temple (Narayanpur)
We woke up at 3:30 am today! Hehe! We had a very very early start to our day. Our trip started at 4:45am, all excited and looking forward to making most of day. It was pitch dark when we left and chilled morning with slight fog, but we were enthusiastic to commence our Day 2 of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage.
Shree Chintamani – Theur
Our fourth temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. We reached here before dawn and the temple so beautiful and serene in the morning. Ganesha is believed to have got back the precious Chinatamani 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. Thus the name Chintamani Vinayak. Such beautiful stories behind each temple.
Besides the Ganesha temple, you will also come across other Hindu deities temples too. It was a Saturday, so we went ahead and offered some sesame oil to Lord Hanuman on his favourite day with some other offerings.
Again a very pleasant and beautiful darshan. There was no crowd and a very systematic darshan. We also performed aarti and prayed to Lord Ganesha with all heart and proceeded to our next destination, post quick breakfast at a local restaurant.
Shree Siddhivinayak – Siddhatek
Our fifth temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. At Siddhatek Lord Ganesha gave darshan to Lord Vishnu.The temple is said to have been built by Lord Vishnu.The temple is along the Bhima River which flows southwards. One remarkable thing about the river is that however rapid its flow it does not make any sound while flowing. God Vishnu is supposed to have vanquished the asuras Madhu and Kaitabh after propitiating Ganesha here. This is the only idol of the eight Ashtavinayakas with the trunk pointing to the right. Such a glorious temple that one is just spellbound when you enter inside. It is said that the actual praikrama of the temple is 2 kms!
Our darshan was so pleasant, followed by aarti and some more vedic chants by the priest. You know, the presence of God can be felt by the energy in the air… it felt so calming and peaceful. Incomparable.
Shree Mayureshwar/Moreshwar – Morgaon
Our sixth temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Ideally, as per shastra, Shree Mayureshwar temple should be the first temple to visit on this pilgrimage. However, there is no problem if you can’t. Just make sure you visit all the eight temples together, that’s all.
According to the Ganesha Purana, Ganesha incarnated as Mayuresvara or Mayureshwar (Mayūreśvara), who has six arms and a white complexion. His mount is a peacock. He was born to Shiva and Parvati in the Tretayuga, for the purpose of killing the demon Sindhu. Lord Ganesha is the God of prosperity and good will and is the remover of all obstacles that is faced by humans in their life. Hence before beginning any new venture people worship Lord Ganesha.
Trivia: This is also where we found a temple of Morya Gosavi, a saint, ardent bhakt of Lord Ganesha. One day, he went to get Lord Ganesha’s darshan but the temple doors were shut. So he sat outside the temple, praying. Lord Ganesha was taken by his dedication and gave him darshan outside the temple for being his true bhakt. Lord Ganesha said, every time my name is chanted, your name will be chanted along side. Hence, Ganpati Bappa Morya!
We had such peaceful darshan and just in time. As always, we followed our darshan by an aarti. Right after darshan, we went ahead to enjoy some ghar-guti (home made) food at the temple’s care-taking family home. They graced us with some incredible home made food, in a very desi style dinning. It was so fulfilling and amazing. The best food through out our trip. They also shared with us history of the temple and their forefathers. They’ve been serving people and looking after Shree Mayureshwar/Moreshwar temple for over 5 generations! Incredible.
Our next temple on todays schedule. Not a part of the Ashtavinayak pilgrimage, however a fantastic addition to our pilgrimage. Folklore says Khandoba is a warrior king and a form (incarnation) of Lord Shiva. Some Sanskrit versions recognise him as Martanda Bhairava, a fusion of Bhairava (the fierce form of Lord Shiva) and Martanda, the solar deity. Though there are many versions of Khandobas tales,he is one of the prominent Gods worshipped in Maharashtra, North Karnataka and some parts of Andhra Pradesh. Apparently, this temple has also gained a lot of popularity because of a Marathi TV show called Jai Malhar. I haven’t watched it, therefore can’t say much about the show.
We had to climb almost 200+ steps to reach the temple. The steps are wide and steep. One does need good stamina to reach to the top, but to say the least it isn’t that difficult. The climb is tedious, but once you reach there you will be mind blown. This is a climb, don’t get me wrong. You need to be prepared for it (wrong footwear or clothing could put you in a jeopardy).
Only two main offerings are made in this temple – coconut and lots and lots and lots of tumeric! It’s like playing holi with the Lord and everyone else out there celebrating God. Playing holi, dancing, offering oil in the akhand jyoti at the temple and what not.
The temple was super crowded and there was a fast track line for a fee of Rs.50 per person, which we gladly went for. Otherwise, we would have taken almost 2 hours alone for darshan at Jejuri Khandoba. Regardless, we entered the temple and took darshan of Lord Khandoba. We also prayed to Lord Khandoba’s wives, danced a bit, took parikrama of the temple and soaked in the panoramic view of the valley from this great height and altitude.
I am not even remotely joking, I have never experienced a darshan like this. The sheer joy in the air and celebration of the Lord with turmeric being thrown in the air… the yellow colour of turmeric coating everyone in blessings and the happiness of being in God’s shelter just made it unreal. I have no words. The pictures should say it all.. .
After soaking in the beauty and serenity of it all, we walked down the stairs very carefully making way to our next location.
Tip: I would say take the Rs.50 ticket and take the darshan. Simply because it is far too crowded and it will be time consuming no matter what.
Tip: Stay close at this temple as one can get lost very easily. Also, stay away from all these pandits who try to urge you to do some pooja which you don’t necessarily have to do. But, it’s up to you. All in good faith of course!
Shree Dattatray Temple, Narayanpur and Tirupati Balaji Temple (Narayanpur)
We then visited Shree Dattatray Temple, Narayanpur. It was a beautiful and a very quaint temple. Not too crowded. We got quick darshan and left within a matter of 15 mins.
Following which, we visited Tirupati Balaji Temple (Narayanpur), which is a replica of the actual Tirupati Balaji Temple, Tirumala. A stunning temple, an ode to the God. Our darshan was very nice. We also witnessed a ceremony of sorts eg. a yatra of the Lord. I am unsure, what the occasion was but I couldn’t click any pictures as we were not allowed to carry our cellphones inside. However, it was interesting and beautiful.
After grabbing some tea outside the temple, we left for our hotel. Same hotel as before and dinner at the hotel too. This brought us to the end of Day 2 journey of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. An exhausting day indeed, but what a fabulous one!
Day 3 : Shree Vighneshwar – Ozar and Shree Girijatmaj Ganpati – Lenyadri
After our jam packed day, we were ready for our final day of the Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Today’s day included a bit of a trek, but we were ready for it. We woke up at 4:30 am and our trip started at 5:45am. Last day, enthusiasm at peak.
Shree Vighneshwar – Ozar
We reached in the morning and entered this glorious temple made out of black rocks. This was the seventh temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Stunning! When we entered inside the temple and you look up they’ve made an entire art work depicting the eight Ganesh avatars of Ashtavinayak in mirror work. Absolutely stunning. The history encompassing this Ganesh avatar states that Vighnasur, a demon was created by the King of Gods, Indra to destroy the prayer organized by King Abhinandan. However, the demon went a step further and destroyed all vedic, religious acts and to answer the people’s prayers for protection, Ganesh defeated him. The story goes on to say that on being conquered, the demon begged and pleaded with Ganesha to show a mercy. Ganesha then granted in his plea, but on the condition that demon should not go to the place where Ganesha worshipping is going on. In return the demon asked a favour that his name should be taken before Ganesha’s name, thus the name of Ganesha became Vighnahar or Vighneshwar.
“Vighna” means obstacles and Vighnaharta/Vighneshwar meanings the conqueror and remover of all obstacles. Lord Ganesha is Vighnaharta. We had beautiful darshan, followed by aarti. It was such an enriching experience. The early morning darshans have an absolutely different enegery to them. It’s pure, comfortable and wonderful.
Tip: Apparently there is a norm that people shop a lot outside. But quite frankly there is nothing to shop except some local pedas and souvenirs of course.
Following this we had our breakfast and moved towards our last destination, our final eight temple of Ashtavinayak pilgrimage.
Shree Girijatmaj Ganpati – Lenyadri
This was the eight and last temple of our Ashtavinayak pilgrimage. Ah oh boy! What a high it was!
It is believed that Parvati (Lord Shiva’s wife) performed penance to beget Ganesha at this point. This temple stands amidst a cave complex of 18 caves of Buddhist origin. Situated at an incredible height and after climbing more than 350 steps or so, pilgrims can reach the temple. It is definitely a trek, but with more comfortable steps to climb. Not as steep and difficult as Jejuri Khandoba. However, there is an entrance fee of Rs.25 to the temple. It is an Indian Archeological Site, as the temple is situated inside a cave which is thousands of years old.
Tip: If you think you are unable to climb so many stairs or have some health issues, there are these palki–walas who take you up and down for a sum of Rs.1000 I believe. Ideal for senior citizens and others.
Tip: BE WARE OF MONKEYS HERE! One took my bottle and the other hand her hands in my pocket after hearing the sound of a plastic bag. Scary, but these monkeys are harmless. They are just hungry and thirsty that all. Carry no bag. Carry nothing that can be taken away easily. We careful with kids.
Many senior citizens, even people with walking sticks claimed all these stairs and reached up to take Lord Ganesha’s darshan. I was so inspired by looking at this. Lord really takes care of you, if you let him.
Anyway, we had beautiful darshan and followed it by aarti. It just felt incredible. God is present in so many forms and so many ways spread across our world through history, that its unfathomable to even imagine to recreate all this in todays time. The temple was so simple and beautiful. The caves too were nice and all well maintained. The panoramic view between the clouds was just divine!
This brought us to the end of our entire three day trip. I honestly have no words to sum up this entire experience of Ashtavinayak, Jejuri Khandoba, Shree Dattatray Temple, Narayanpur and Tirupati Balaji Temple (Narayanpur). Spiritual, enlightening and so peaceful. More than the journey, the destinations what mattered. People have been doing Ashtavinayak trip for millenniums together and the faith that ties it all together is just unparalleled to anything.
We met people from all walks of life during our pilgrimage, from truck drivers to RBI employees to retired grand parents, to people travelling all the way from US, Manipur, Surat, Mumbai and more. People of all ages, some travelling solo, some with their partners and some with their family and friends. It’s hard to describe, but the beauty of it all you will only know once you experience it. This trip does test you in many ways but it’s worth it.
As far as our tour experience was concerned, it was great. I would give it 4 stars out of 5. The accommodation and pick up-drop service could have been better. However, the company was fun and joyful. Our tour guide, Rupesh made it even more worthwhile. He deserves a mention. It was a happy journey overall.
Interesting fact – My parents last Ashtavinayak pilgrimage was way before I was born even! Can you guess how many years?
Travelogue: Road Trip From Mumbai to Trimbakeshwar, Shirdi, Shani Shingnapur, Panchavati, Nashik to find out more.
Ganpati Bappa Morya!
Yalkot Yalkot Jai Malhar!
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