Dashvinayak 2012 – A Bullet Yatra

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Ping……my mobile alert went off n woke me up. Who could it be? I groped around in the dark for my mobile and glanced at the nearby clock. It was 3.30 AM and still 50 minutes for me to get up. The bright light of the BB lit up the interiors of my brain and kicked out the last vestiges of sleep. It was a message from the Front. (sound of bugles please) Gurinder Singh, waker-of-the dead, had mailed me with a very inspiring ‘good morning’ message. I realized later on that it was a disguised morning alarm. For the first time, the ride started from my side of town and I could legally sleep for 50 minutes more. However, the excitement made me get up. Feeling the tremors, my wife gently threatened me to go back to sleep. Fade out.

Fade in: 5.45 AM

Assembly point: the back road of Siddhivinayak, Prabhadevi.

Riders for Dashvinayak:

  • Gurinder Singh & First Lady
  • Co-Captains of the ride: Signals & Manny
  • Ashish Das
  • Chetan Kotian
  • Despo
  • Magic Eye
  • Bail Singh &  Jayashree
  • Lord  & Mrs. FuseBox (even fuseboxes  marry????)

After darshan at Siddhivinayak, Mumbai

There were Anand and Shwetha who had come to meet everyone and take Lord’s blessings with everyone else. Vinod too came along to meet everyone and have darshan and so did Dr. Ravindra Magdum who watched over the bikes while we prayed to the Lord to watch over us.

A not so serpentine queue helped us to complete our sleep patterns. We reached the darshan in a rushed group and prayed together for the first time this ride.

The second, a short prayer specially prepared by Father Sheldon was read out by Manny and Paaji. Most ominously it started to rain and  as the rain began to pour, we scrambled for our bikes and kick-started to Panvel. The rain added to the sluggishness that I was feeling on my bike. I soon realised why.

Priti will you marry me? (at the end of a 43 minute presentation)

Uh…I think so

And less than six months later I married Priti. At that time, I didn’t own a car, a bike, bicycle, skates, dinky cars….just the B.E.S.T and the sub-train. Even in my wildest dreams (this happens a lot), I would never imagine that Priti and I would still be compatible enough to share a bike for four days over 1200 kms of highway and still have the same mission, in pursuit of Truth, Simplicity and Love. That’s quite a journey. Thank you Priti.

At Panvel post tea, revised ride positions were handed out. I missed the holy orientation that the-keeper-of-the-axe gave, in our previous birth. I guess four days were enough to get the orientation for one lifetime! We rode to Shree Vardavinayak off Khopoli in Mahad. A quaint temple gave us faith and parking and we got off to bow to the 1st of the Ashtavinayaks.

At Sai Snacks, Panvel

The handsome Prince Rukmangad refused sage Vachaknavi’s wife Mukunda’s illicit call, and was cursed to suffer from leprosy. Mukunda was satisfied by Indra who deceived her as Rukmangad and she bore a child by name Grutsamad. When Grutsamad came to know about the real story he cursed his mother Mukunda to become the tree of Bori and she in turn cursed him to bore a demon son named Tripurasur, the one who was defeated by Shiva after praying to the Ranjangaon Ganesha. Grutsamad after getting cursed went to the forest of Pushpak and worshipped Ganesha. Sage Grutsamad is famous for the mantra GaNanaN Tva. He founded the temple and called this Ganesha: Varada-Vinayak. Ganesha is said to reside here in the form of Varada Vinayaka, the giver of bounty and success. The idol was found in the adjoining lake (to Mr. Dhondu Paudkar in 1690AD), in an immersed position and hence its weathered look. In 1725AD the then Kalyan subhedar, Mr. Ramji Mahadev Biwalkar built the Varadavinayak temple and the village of Mahad. 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 8 feet by 8 feet. The dome is 25 feet high and is golden at the top. The dome has designs of cobra. This is the only temple where devotees are allowed to personally pay their homage and respects to the idol. They are allowed in the immediate vicinity of this idol to perform their prayers.

In search of a loo, we stumbled on the extended temple site and found Lord Dattatreya, Lord Rahu, Lord Ketu and Lord Shani. We prayed for salvation and rode on.

The road to Pali was picturesque and emerald green.

Ganesha is believed to have saved this boy-devotee, Ballala, who was beaten by local villagers and his father (Kalyani-seth) for his single-minded devotion to him. The original wooden temple was reconstructed in to a stone temple by Nana Phadanavis in 1760. There are two small lakes constructed on two sides of the temple. One of them is reserved for the puja (worship) of the Deity. This Temple faces the east and has two sanctums. The inner one houses the murti and has a Mushika (Ganesha’s mouse vahana) with modaka in his forepaws in front of it. The hall, supported by eight exquisitely carved pillars demands as much attention as the idol, sitting on throne carved like a Cyprus tree. The eight pillars depict the eight directions. Inner sanctum is 15 feet tall and outer one is 12 feet tall. The temple is constructed in such a way that after the winter (dakshinayan : southward movement of the sun) solstice, the sun rays fall on the Ganesha murti at sunrise. The temple is built with stones which are stuck together very tight using melted lead. 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. The shape of the idol itself bears a striking semblance with the mountain which forms the backdrop of this temple. This is more prominently felt if one views the photograph of the mountain and then sees the idol.

A short ride brought us here and we stopped for lunch, which consisted of pakodas and vada-pao (seems our national food!), drowned in copious amounts of tea and some refreshing kokum sherbet. We spied an old man pissing on our bikes and the Captain went to investigate. The old-man said it was his way of blessing us; the Captain overlooked the acid-rain.

We rode on.

Bike electronics gave way and we had to stop at tea time well before Ganpati Phule. Guri’s headlight and my tail light gave way. Vineet rode as his wingman and we rode on into and evening that darkened quicker than usual. It didn’t rain. The road turned rough as we progressed and soon we were on an off-road-mode.  Riding at three I spied a pig rushing to cross the road and he, (no female would rush like that), hit Vineet’s bike. No harm done except some bent steel and a solid scare for it could have been disastrous, I guess Vineet, saved himself due to his experience in dealing with animals.

He has decided to never eat pork again…NOT!

The night blackened still and we were on flat land, just lit by our lamps and the light in our eyes.  Dusty roads and tired energies. The town of Ganpati Phule was a welcome sight which culminated in a sumptuous fare at Hotel Durvankar where Captain Vineet-Signals-Rajan showcased the ‘nice’ things in life. The dash from plate to pillow was of Olympic standard.

The Nice things…”I Don’t Do Nice”. One of the many birthday gifts Signals got from Manny.

We slept after over 500 kms.

Coconut water for everyone…Sorry, everyone’s coconut water

Refreshed from a good sleep and a hot bath, we had breakfast during which Manny performed Jack n Jill for us! The poem took a new dimension. We had a lovely darshan of Ganpati-by-the-sea. General added that once a year at a particular high tide the waves reach the steps of the temple which are hugging the shoreline, almost washing the steps! After narial pani we rode on to Kumbharli Ghats. Enroute we stopped at Chiplun for repairs and maintainence at a small one-man-garage. The neighbouring kids gave us prasad and water and even opened their loo for us. Divine support, God bless them! From here some of us went back home. Despo, Chetan, Jayshree, Sameer, and First Lady went back to Mumbai. It was a sad parting.

We rode on to Kumbharli and lunched at Bison Lodge. A clear day, Lord Parshuram blessed us with his Divine Look forever. I remembered the previous trip where I was anointed as a Bison! I missed my friends who were with me on that trip.

Lunch at Kumbharli..always a spectacle

We rode silently to Moregaon and reached the Hotel at night. A hot bath and the Bisons were ready to whatever.

This is the most important temple on this tour. The temple, built from black-stone during the Bahamani reign, has four gates (It is supposed to have been built by one of the knights named Mr. Gole, from the court of Bidar’s Sultan). The temple is situated in the centre of the village. The temple is covered from all sides by four Minarets and gives feeling of a mosque if seen from a distance. This was done to prevent attacks on the temple during Mughal periods. The temple has 50 feet tall wall around it. There is a Nandi (Shiva’s bull mount) sitting in front of this temple entrance, which is unique, as Nandi is normally in front of only Shiva temples. However, the story says that this statue was being carried to some Shivamandir during which the vehicle carrying it broke down and the Nandi statue could not be removed from its current place. The murti of Lord Ganesha, riding a peacock, in the form of Mayureshwara is believed to have slain the demon Sindhu at this spot. The idol, with its trunk turned to the left, has a cobra (Nagaraja) poised over it protecting it. This form of Ganesha also has two other murtis of Siddhi (Capability) and Riddhi (Intelligence). However, this is not the original murti -which is said to have been consecrated twice by Brahma, once before and once after being destroyed by the asura Sindhurasur. The original murti, smaller in size and made of atoms of sand, iron, and diamonds, was supposedly enclosed in a copper sheet by the Pandavas and placed behind the one that is currently worshiped. The temple is situated at a distance of 55 km from Pune, next to the river Karha in the village of ] Moregaon. The village derives its name from the Marathi name of the bird Peacock – also the national bird of India; there used to be a lot of peacocks in this village in the ancient time, and the village is also set out in the shape of a peacock.

This was the breezee-ist hotel. Clean rooms with hot water externally provided; they even had a canteen type restaurant where we had a sumptuous meal. Noteworthy was the karela powder. It was tasty. My wife told me later it was something else. I told her so is life. Something else. She didn’t approve of my thinking, I didn’t bother about hers. See, that’s why we are compatible.  Anyways, we closed the meal with Shrikhand. Delicious. At the post-darshan-herd-gathering, the two new comers presented themselves. Deepak Amembal and Priti Kapoor.  The others remembered their own personal presentations and hence clapped loudly when completed. We slept peacefully.

Kicking at 9, we rode on to Siddhatek.

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. It is believed that the two saints Shri Morya Gosavi and Shri Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon received their enlightenment here. The temple is North-facing and is on a small hillock. The main road towards the temple was believed to be built by Peshwa’s general Haripant Phadake. The inner sanctum, 15 feet high and 10 feet wide is built by Punyashloka Ahilyabai Holkar. The idol is 3feet tall and 2.5feet wide. The idol faces North-direction. The stomach of the murti is not wide, but Riddhi and Siddhi murtis are sitting on one thigh. 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. Peshwa general Haripant Phadake lost his General’s position and did 21 Pradakshina around the temple. On the 21st day Peshwa’s court-man came and took him to the court with royal honor. Haripant promised the God that he will bring the stones of the castle which he will win from the first war he will fight as the general. The stone pathway is built from the Badami-Castle which was attacked by Haripant soon after he became the general.

We shall remember this visit mostly by the bazaar that surrounded the temple. A sugarcane juice seller won the lottery by catering to us. We drank fields of sugarcane in just one kick. Some of us bought leather stuff. It was of real good quality. I bought a leather collar for BabyBlue, she purred.

Lord Fuse Box, getting his groove on. He must have got a good deal at Siddhatek

As the temples rolled on we were all overwhelmed by the religiosity of it. People were praying, beseeching, begging, askance from the Lord. It numbed the senses. We became quieter km by km. Clear skies prevailed. The Lord had rained in Mumbai. He kept the roads dry after that. We were grateful.

Theur by the back roads, not too far away, in a bustling town, just short of Pune, was a very well known temple. I remembered visiting here in 1975, the first time and then there was just the wooden structure and bare necessities.

Ganesha is believed to have got back the precious Chinatamani jewel from the greedy Guna for sageKapila at this spot. However, after bringing back the jewel, sage Kapila put it in Vinayaka’s (Ganesha’s) neck. Thus the name Chintamani Vinayak. This happened under the Kadamb tree, therefore Theur is known as Kadambanagar in old times. The lake behind the temple is called Kadambteertha. The temple entrance is North facing. The outer wooden hall was built by Peshwas. The main temple is supposed to have been built by Dharanidhar Maharaj Dev from the family-lineage of Shri Moraya Gosavi. He must have built this around 100 years before Senior Shrimant Madhavrao Peshwa built the outer wooden hall. This idol also has a left trunk, with carbuncle and diamonds as its eyes. The idol faces the East side. Theur’s Chintamani was the family deity of Shrimant Madhavrao I Peshwa. He suffered from tuberculosis and died at a very young age (~27years). He is supposed to have died in this temple. His wife, Ramabai committed Sati with him on 18 November 1772.

We rode on to Ranjangaon and reached well in the day. Stopped by the side of a real good mechanic and got our bikes fixed up. Paaji gave us a demo of how to remove the rear wheel and made me put it back. Edu-as-u-go!

Mr and Mrs Fuse Box relaxing at the lodge in Ranjangaon

The Lodge was serenely placed in the middle of a field. We got to see our lodging in the daytime. It was a heart-warming site. All sprawled on the few chairs outside the lodge and kept quiet. Hot water came from a wood fired boiler that sent memories of another era. We bathed and went for darshan.

The temple was bathed in colorful lights and looked spruced up. This revived us completely.

Shiva is believed to have worshipped Ganesha before fighting the demon Tripurasura here. The temple was built by Shiva where he worshipped Ganesha, and the town he set up was called Manipur which is now known as Ranjangaon. 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. Constructed so that the rays of the sun fall directly on the idol (during the Southward movement of the sun), the temple bears a distinct resemblance to the architecture reminiscent of the 9th and 10th Centuries and faces the east. Shrimant Madhavrao Peshwa used to visit this temple very often and built the stone sanctum around the idol and in 1790AD Mr. Anyaba Dev was authorised to worship the idol. Ranjangaoncha Mahaganapati is considered to be one of the Ashta Vinayak shrines of Maharashtra, celebrating eight instances of legends related to Ganesha. Legend has it that a demon by name Tripurasura built three powerful citadels (the evil Tripuram forts); with a boon of invincibility granted to him by Shiva he caused suffering to all beings in the heavens and on earth. Upon hearing the fervent appeals of the Gods, Shiva intervened, and realized that he could not defeat the demon. It was upon hearing Narada Muni’s advice that Shiva saluted Ganesha and then shot a single arrow that pierced through the citadels, bringing an end to the demon. Shiva, the slayer of the Tripura citadels is enshrined at Bhimashankaram nearby. A variation of this legend is commonly known in South India. Ganesha is said to have caused the axle in Shiva’s chariot to break, as the latter headed to battle the demon without saluting Ganesha before he set out. Upon realizing his act of omission, Shiva saluted his son Ganesha, and then proceeded victoriously to a short battle against the powerful demon. (See Acharapakkam – an ancient temple in Tamil Nadu glorified by the 1st millennium Tamil hymns enshrining Shiva associated with this legend, as well as Tiruvirkolam and Tiruvatikai – both over 1200 years old, associated with the legend of Tripurasamhaaram). (The Tamil lines of 15th century saint poet Arunagirinathar: ‘Muppuram eri seida, Acchivan urai ratham, acchadu podi seida athi deera’ where he describes Ganesha as the valiant hero, who caused the axle of Shiva’s chariot to crumble to dust, as Shiva headed out to destroy Tripurasura, narrate this legend.) The Temple: Mahaganapati is portrayed, seated on a lotus, flanked by his consorts Siddhi and Ridhi. The temple dates back to the period of Peshwa Madhav Rao. The temple of Maha Ganpati is very close to the centre of the town Ranjangaon. The temple was erected during the rule of the Peshwas. Peshwa Madhavrao had constructed the Garbhagriha, the sanctum to house the swayambhoo statue. The temple faces east. It has an imposing main gate which is guarded by two statues of Jay and Vijay. The temple is designed in such away that during Dakshinayan[ the apparent movement of the son to the south] the rays of the sun fall directly on the deity. The deity is seated and flanked on both sides by Riddhi and Siddhi. The trunk of the deity turns to the left. There is a local belief that the real statue of Mahaganpati is hidden in some vault and this statue has ten trunks and twenty arms. But there is nothing to substantiate this belief.

After a lovely darshan, we went to their Prasad hall and a meal of dal, rice and halwa. It was simply filling. The way life should be. We trekked out and sought a restaurant and sat down to chat and chill. Really, there wasn’t much to talk about at this point. Back at the lodge we still chilled around and here Paaji gave a corner-sermon. We listened and it certainly helped me on Malshej Ghat.

Manny enjoying some Dal at the Prasadalaya in Ranjangaon

All up from 6 onwards, we had ketli chai in the morning rays. Priti heard partridges and peacocks,  that must have been in the foliage. Too many dogs around restricted their performance, sadly.

We left at sharp 08:00 hours.

Ozhar was two hours away and came by blissfully. We had breakfast here, which consisted of poha, missal, and dry bhel mix. This was purified by mixtures of chilly gunpowder. Along with us for the darshan came 11 buses of school and college girls. We were almost the only males around.

The history encompassing this idol 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 in Sanskrit means a sudden interruption in the ongoing work due to some unforeseen, unwarranted event or cause). The Ganesha here is called Shri Vighneshwar Vinayak. 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 20feet long and the inner hall is 10feet 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. The temple top is Golden and is possibly built by Chimaji Appa after defeating the Portuguese rulers of Vasai and Sashti. The temple is probably built around 1785AD.

A wasp stung Manny on her right foot. While we gave her anti-allergies, the wasp was of import quality and the pain prevailed.

We rode on to nearby Lenyadri to complete the yatra. We parked at the base and looked up to see Buddhist caves carved in the hills above.

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. The temple is carved out of a single stone hill, which has 307 steps. The temple features a wide hall with no supporting pillars. The temple hall is 53feet long, 51feet wide and 7feet in height. The idol faces north with its trunk to the left, and has to be worshipped from the rear of the temple. The temple faces south. This idol seems to be little different from the rest of the Ashtavinayak idols in a sense that it appears to be not very well designed or carved like the other idols. This idol can be worshipped by anyone. There is no electric bulb in the temple. The temple is constructed such that during the day it is always lighted up by the sun-rays!

Glimpses from Lenyadri

We climbed 300+ steps slow n steady. The climb made me reflect on the riders………….

Vineet helped Manny, who was in pain by now. But then that’s togetherness. Pain, despair, insecurity is what brings people together. Manny and Vineet looked so cute and young. The way Vineet fussed around Manny it looked like the wasp stung him as well. I guess he felt responsible. That’s companionship. Manny…..aaah…she’s another story. May I elaborate…if Clint Eastwood is the fastest gun in the west then Manny is the fastest poser in the East! She can sense a camera cover opening. Her lasertek beam centres on the lens and her neck follows like a gun and she looks squarely centre. Then she smiles. I guess that’s why Vineet got stung too. The food and arrangement was highly functional and even more so was not expensive. Vineet out-thought each moment and rolled it out. They climbed together. He is a Tamilian and she a Marwari.

Deepak Amembal is at a stage when he wants to do what he wants to do and when he has gotta do that he will do exactly that. Done with life as most people know and have still to experience, Deepak rides to no real destination. Quiet and unassuming, his years in the service industry have steeled him for a life of adventure. Quick to pull out his mobile camera, his disdain for expensive photography is well justified when he proves that his angles look the best anyways. He reached up and rested while we trudged on. He is a Goud Brahmin.

Ashish Das is a handsome looking Bengali. More adventurous than his ilk. Fit as a fiddle, all throughout the ride, Ashish kept his smile on. I guess he believes in this-too-shall-pass. The only place I saw him reactive was when he looked at chilly food. His soft nature was no place to stuff gunpowder; although when he had it, I saw a light shining out of his eyes. He is a pure Bengali.

Priti Kapoor, climbed alongwith Deepak and Vineet. She looked like a new person. Always adventurous, still for Priti this would be an extreme sport. She never grumbled once. I barely knew she was pillion and I learnt later on, that she took pics-on-the-fly! She is a nature’s child and the ride provided her with natural abundance. I felt complete riding with her. She greeted us smilingly when we reached up later. She is a Kathiawari Rajput.

When Moses led his tribe to Israel, what did he look like. Charleton Heston is one bet, Gurinder Singh, Leader of Bisons Ride Hard, is another. Slow to smoulder quick to point out, Paaji is a winning leader, who leads without the other knowing he is being led. For him this was his 11th such trip, that’s 110 temples of just one Deity. Some man! He is Sikh.

Aditya Raj Kapoor. Noooo, you don’t want to know..u insist?..ok…

Most of my youth was spent in doing some fine yatras’. This was with my Guruji and then with the family. With my Guruji, the yatra was more real-istic rather than expensive. Community living etc., much similar to what we went through in Dashvinayak. I never really thought I would relive that path of my youth again. I am blessed cause I feel the Lord has given me my youth when I can enjoy it more qualitatively. I am a Sikh/Pathan

A gentle sprinkle of chilling water sprayed from the rocks above us, as we assembled outside the cave. Refreshed we strode in with dozens of monkeys around waiting for the Prasad. The empty chamber carved out of sheer rock, rough and edged, was smoothed by years of spirituality. We entered the cave and bowed to Girija-atmaj Ganpathi. The silence of the cave was deafening. We sat down in the hall and immersed ourselves in contemplation.

As we looked up…..we met the eyes of The Eighth Lord of the Ashtvinayaka and the Tenth Lord of our Dashvinayak 2012 Yatra, who gazed upon us with sheer benevolence, love and affection and welcomed us into his arms to bless us forever.

We broke down.

And then we rode back home…in silence

Written by Aditya Raj Kapoor aka Lord Fuse Box

Sources: Legend/history and pictures of the Ashtavinayak have been sourced from Wikipedia

Pictures by Magic Eye, Manny and Priti

Note: Dashavinayak consists of the Ashtavinayak, Ganpati Pule and Shree Siddhivinayak, Mumbai