CREDOS : Ganesh the pilot — III

J J Gordon

The anointing with sandalwood paste then starts all over again. I offered prayers to Lord Ganesha, circumambulated the sanctum and broke a coconut, the traditional offering. By comparison to South Indian temples, all those we encountered on the pilgrimage were relatively modest, and this one was vaguely reminiscent of Mogul architecture. Several more hours on country roads brought us to the banks of the Bhima River, whence we were to board a boat to the opposite shore to reach the village of Siddhatek and the Sri Siddhivinayaka Temple, second in the customary order. You can drive all the way to the temple, but the boat trip is a time-saving, if harrowing, shortcut. The boat was filled with people, animals and motorbikes. If we had been any lower in the water, well, we would have been in the water. But this was business-as-usual and the competent oarsman rowed us across safely.

The small temple is a short walk up a hill. The Ganesha here has His trunk turned to the right, a feature calling for extra care in worship, and as such, this is the one Ashtavinayaka temple where individuals cannot perform their own pujas. Circumambulation was possible, but I wasn’t prepared for a three-mile walk barefoot around the hill. Our trip back across the river was uneventful, even though our boat was even more packed. Our third stop — and the last of this first day — was the closest of the Ashtavinayakas to Pune, Sri Chintamani at Theur, the fifth temple. Ganesha here is heart-shaped, and decorated with diamonds in His eyes and navel. Chintamani means “Jewel of Consciousness,” and worship of Him is said to free one from all worries and calamities. —