In the Indian state of Maharashtra, a tīrth yātra (pilgrimage) to visit eight ancient temples to Gaṇeśa (Aśṭa Vināyak) is mentioned in the puranas and considered very sacred. These eight temples, each with exquisitely beautiful Gaṇeśa murtīs, are in tiny villages, scattered around the mountainous terrain between Mumbai and Pune. After much procrastination, last February we were called on this short, beautiful and spiritually uplifting tīrth yātrā.
Omkārā tū, tū ādhināyak Form of Om you are, you are the foremost of the lords Chintāmaṇi tū siddhīvināyak All worries you erase, all success you bestow Maṇgaḷmurtī tū bhavatārak Of auspicious form, you ferry us across this river of life Sarva sākśi tū aśta vināyak Witness of all, you are the aśṭa vināyak ~ from a popular Marathi bhajan
We engaged with a small, local agency (Ajinkya Tours) in Dadar, Mumbai and with Meera in tow, embarked on this 3 day Aśṭa Vināyak yātrā. The tour was very inexpensive and included luxury bus travel from Dadar, freshly cooked vegetarian food and basic accommodations for two nights. Loved so many aspects of the organization. Since this was considered a “basic” tour, we did NOT have any spoiled brats or loud-mouthed phoren-return, NRI types. The bus was comfortable, but the journey through rural Maharashtra with bad roads, made it a bit tiring. Meera did not complain once during the 3-days and instantly made friends with everyone on the bus. The tour operators made arrangements at a few roadside eating places along the way, and we got simple, freshly prepared, delicious breakfast (upma, kichidi, idlis etc.), thali lunch and dinner. We also got to experience the bucolic rural Maharashtra. The rooms were very basic, which mattered less as we got back to our rooms around 10:00 pm, and needed to be up before 5 am for bed-tea and out. The bus picked us up near Plaza Cinema, Dadar around 6 am on a Friday morning and after the tour, dropped us off near Sion circle around 8 pm on Sunday. Overall, a very exciting and busy weekend. Meera had a wonderful time and we got to see these beautiful temples. Verily, he does not reside in fancy palaces, but in tiny simple temples scattered on dusty plains.
The itinerary of Ganapati temples in the order we visited:Day 1:
- Shri Varada Vināyak Devasthān, Mahāḍ
- Shri Ballāléshwar Devasthān, Pāli
- Shri Mahāgaṇapati Devasthān, Raṇzaṇgaon
- Shri Chintāmaṇi Devasthān, Théur (Chinchwaad district)
- Shri Siddhéshwar Devasthān, Siddhaṭék
- Shri Mayuréshwar Devasthān, Moregāon
- Shri Vighnaharā Devasthān, Ozhār
- Shri Girījātmajā Devasthan, Lenyādri
Other Tirth yatra (pilgrimages) I was fortunate to go on:
- Tirupati: A Walk Enlightens
- Kailash Parikrama: A Trek around Kailash
- Tirth Yatra: Temples of Tamil Nadu.
- Great Penance: Descent of Ganga.
- Mamallapuram: Krishna Mandap.
- Mamallapuram: Varaha Cave
- Varadaraja Perumal, Kanchipuram
- Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
- Kanchi Kamakshi
- Neelkanteshwar Mahadev Mandir, Panchavati