Lord Ganesha’s Ashta-Vinayak Legends
Lord Ganesha is popularly known as Vighneshwara – the Lord of obstacles. For those on the spiritual path, Lord Ganesha represents a perfect wisdom to remove all obstacles that comes in the way of attaining God. But to those who need a empirical proof of God, the legends of Lord Ganesha’s eight temples in Maharashta collectively called Ashta-Vinayak temples offer much mysticism.
No Hindu ritual or auspicious act happens without invoking Lord Ganesha first. ‘Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah’ is the first mantra that is chanted before beginning meditation, prayer, starting new enterprises or undertaking any new initiative.
Seekers who have a subtle intellect invoke a formless Lord Ganesha by
“Ajam nirvikalpam nirakaramakam niranandam anandam advaitapoornam |
param nirgunam nirvishesham nireeham para-brahmaroopam ganesham bhaje-ma ||
which translates as
“O Lord, You are unborn, formless and absolute; You are beyond bliss and again bliss itself – the One and the Infinite. You are the Supreme, without attributes, differentiation and desire. You are verily the Supreme Brahman. To You, O Lord, do we offer our worship.”
Says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar about Lord Ganesha:
“Ganeshji is not somewhere outside of us, but the very centre of our life. But this is very subtle knowledge. Not everybody can perceive the formless without the form. Our ancient Rishis and Munis knew this; so they created the form for the benefit and understanding of people at all levels.”
But for those who need a form for invocation, Lord Ganesha’s forms are many as we can see in his sacred temples – especially the eight temples of dedicated to Lord Ganesha all in the state of Maharashtra. These temples relate to various events mentioned in the ancient Puranas and other legends are collectively called Ashta-Vinayak. All the eight Ashta Vinayak temples are Swayambhu (self-originated).
In each of these eight sacred temples in Maharashtra, Lord Ganesha is called by a different name derived from a legend. Here are the names, place and legends associated with each of Lord Ganesha’s temples.
Shri Mayureshwar at Morgaon
Lord Ganesha defeated and liberated a demon called Sindhu. He fought the battle riding a peacock (Mayur is peacock in Sanskrit) and hence became known as Lord Mayureshwar or Moreshwar in Marathi. A 14th century saint called Morya Gosavi is also known to be associated with this temple.
Shri MahaGanapati at Ranjangaon
The MahaGanapati temple is said to be the most powerful representation of Lord Ganesha. This is the place where Lord Shiva invoked Lord Ganesha in a Maha Ganapati form with 20 trunks, 10 hands and vanquished the demon Tripurasur.
Shri Chintamani at Theur
The legend goes – A greedy warrior King Ganasura snatched a wish fulfilling diamond called Chintamani from Rishi Kapila. Kapila Rishi invoked Lord Ganesha who destroyed Ganasura and got back the diamond. Rishi Kapila in his devotion to Lord Ganesha requested him to stay back, completely dropping his desire for the wish fulfilling diamond. Lord Ganesha took up the name of this diamond Chintamani and remained under a Kadamba tree and came to be known as Chintamani Vinayak.
Shri Girijatmaj at Lenyadri
Once Parvati (also known as Girija) asked Lord Shiva who he was mediating on. He said he was mediating on Ganesha “the supporter of the entire universe” and initiated Parvati with “Gam” the powerful Ganesha Mantra. Desiring to have a son, Parvati underwent austerities meditating on Ganesha for twelve years at Lenyadri. Pleased by her penance, Ganesha blessed her with the boon that he will be born as her son. And so he incarnated. Shiva granted a boon that whosoever remembers Lord Ganesha before starting any tasks will successfully complete that task. For 15 years Lord Ganesha grew up at Lenyadri and since he was born to Girija came to be known as Shri Girijatmaj
Shri Vighneshwar at Ojhar
Lord Ganesha is known as Vigneshwara or the remover of all obstacles, this he achieved by vanquishing the demon Vighnasur. The place where the battle was fought was Ojhar and Lord Ganesha came to be known as Vighneshwara Vinayaka – the conqueror of Vighnasur.
Shri SiddhiVinayak at Siddhatek
According to the Mudgala Purana, Lord Vishnu invokes and gets blessings and siddhis (powers) from Lord Ganesha to fight and slay two demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Sages like Maharishi Vyaas, Morya Gosavi and Narayan Maharaj performed austerities and obtained siddhis in Siddhatek. The Lord is called Siddhi Vinayak (one who bestows Siddhis).
Shri Ballaleshwar at Pali
Among Ganesha temples, Ballaleshwar is the only name of Ganesha that is known by his devotee’s name. A merchant didn’t like his young son named Ballal worshipping Lord Ganesha neglecting his business. While in a deep state of contemplation on Lord Ganesha in the forest, Ballal was beaten, tied him to a tree in the forest by his father and went home. Lord Ganesha took form of a learned man, freed Ballal and healed all wounds. Ballal intuitively recognised the true form of Lord Ganesha and pleased by his devotion asked to what boon he wanted. Ballal requested the Lord to stay there permanently in the forest. Lord Ganesha disappeared and a black rock with Ganesha’s carved form appeared. This idol came to be known as Shri Ballaleshwar.
Shri Varad Vinayak at Mahad
Vachaknav Rishi was visited by a ruler by name Rukmangad, and during the visit the rishipatni got infatuated on the king, but he King turned her down. Indra, the king of the Devas took the form of the King Rukmangad and procreated an illegitimate son Grudsamad. The son, learning of the story of his birth got stricken by grief, and prayed to Lord Ganesha. His prayer was granted and was given a boon (var) due to which he became a renowned Rishi. Since a boon (var) was given at this place, Lord Ganesha came to be known by VaradaVinayak.
GANAPATI BAPPA MORYA
Ram Lingam blogs his insights on India and Indian culture at www.indiasutra.co.nz