It was during the summer days of May, when we had gone for a short single day detour to Mahad, that the idea of ‘Temple Run’ came into our minds. On our way to Mahad, we had visited Shivthar Ghal, a very renowned place. It was here that Samarth Ramdas Swami dictated Dasbodh to Kalyan Swami and it was this very place where the first meeting between Shivaji Maharaj and Samarth Ramdas Swami took place. So visiting this holy place initiated us into making an another religious tour. And the very such trip that came to our minds was the Tour of Ashtavinayak. So we gave it an interesting name ‘Temple Run’.
Ashtavinayak (Marathi: अष्टविनायक) literally means “eight Ganeshas” in Sanskrit. Ganesh is the Hinduism/Hindu deity of unity, prosperity & learning and removes obstacles. The term refers to eight Ganeshas. Ashtavinayaka yatra trip refers to a pilgrimage to the eight Hindu temples in Maharashtra state of India that house eight distinct idols of Ganesh, in a pre-ascertained sequence. The Ashtavinayak yatra or pilgrimage covers the eight ancient holy temples of Ganesh which are situated around Pune. Each of these temples has its own individual legend and history, as distinct from each other as the idols in each temple. The form of each idol of Ganesh and His trunk are distinct from one another. However, there are other temples of eight Ganesh in various other parts of Maharashtra; the ones around Pune are more well-known than the former.It is believed that for completion of Ashtavinayak Yatra, you have to visit the first Ganpati after visiting all the eight Ganesh Temples again, to complete the yatra.
The eight temples/idols of the Ashtavinayak in their religious sequence are:
On the Map:
The dates for the trip were chosen as 15,16,17th June. 15th being a holiday for all three of us. At the time of Mahad trip (not to be confused with the Ashtavinayak Temple at Mahad, there are two places with same name), Myself, CSK Sir and Anurag were there. Later on, we also pulled in Ganesh for this trip. So, we were in all 4 people.
Seeing the total kms to be clocked, it was decided that 2 days would be sufficient to complete the trip and so we had to choose any 2 dates out of the three. Myself and Ganesh being in the same company, he did not have holiday on 15th and our initial plan was to conduct the ride on the first 2 dates and take a rest on the third. He was asking to shift the dates to the last two, otherwise he was ready to join the trip in between. For the others there wasn’t any issue with the dates. Luckily, I had got some work on 15th at Pune and hence the last 2 days were decided as the trip dates. This decision gave Ganesh a relief as he could now start the trip with us from Pune. Pune was decided as the starting point. CSK Sir and Anurag were in Pune only. I came Pune on 14th night while Ganesh came on 15th night.
Myself and CSK Sir started from Sinhagad road, while Ganesh and Anurag were going to join us directly at Saswad Bus station. The meeting point were decided based on the convenience of all people. We started from Sinhagad road at around 7am and met Ganesh and Anurag at the bus station around 8:15am. On the way, myself and CSK Sir took photos as the weather was nice. We had prepared for the rainy season. We were not carrying much luggage for this trip and all our essentials were managed in a tank bag.
We headed towards our first temple located at Morgaon. It was 60kms from Saswad. For this trip, I had got printed a special sticker so that we could stick it on our bikes and revisit the memories whenever we glanced at it. The sun rays were peering down from behind the clouds. There was no sign of imminent rain and we cruised along.
The roads were good for some kms and as soon as we diverted from state highways, we could see the roads getting degraded. There wasn’t any much traffic on roads and we were able to reach the destination in a comfortable way. It was our usual time for breakfast but we decided to have it after we took the blessings from the first Ganesha.
We reached the parking spot and offloaded our luggage to carry it along with us. The pilgrims had just started to flow-in since, it being a first point of the yatra, we knew that in no time it was gonna get crowded here. We kept all our luggage at one of the shops and in turn took pooja material from him. There was a queue but, not big and in 5 mins we were out. Our first temple out of the eight was completed. We took a series of selfies in-front of the Temple entrance for the record and moved in the direction of restaurant.
We had a good Maharashtrian breakfast of Misal-Pav along with tea. Three of us had Misal while Anurag ate Utappa. We left the place after paying the bill and moved ahead towards our next destination, Siddhatek.
We joined the Pune-Solapur highway in a while and man, what a road it was! Perfect for Super-bikes. But, as I don’t go above 90, I was at the last. Even though I carry a 500cc, I still feel that it’s a bit risky to speed on Indian Roads. We were soon dis-appointed to see that we had to leave the beautiful highway and turn our bikes left towards the village roads. The roads were such like, they were a perfect example of how worst of the worst roads are. The weather was cloudy and also humid. We all were literally sweating along the way. We had expected the weather to be a bit breezy but it turned out reverse.
After a good amount of riding of almost 15-20kms we finally came to our second temple. We removed our gears in haste so that we could feel the fresh air of the outside. Every damn thing had become wet. The main part of the pilgrimage was to carry all the stuff on your shoulders until you find a decent shop where you can dump it, unlike the car guys where you could keep all your luggage inside and walk freely.
The temple was not crowded and we managed to get out without any hiccups. As usual, we clicked a series of selfies just as a reminder that the second temple was also completed and we were moving ahead. After a light refreshment of sugarcane juice we moved ahead. Along the way, we stopped by the bridge connecting the village to click some photos along the bank of the Bhima river. When we were satisfied with the clicks, we moved ahead. The third temple, Pali was 220kms from the second temple. This was gonna be the longest distance ever to be covered between 2 temples. It was gonna be tough since it was already 12:30pm and as per our original plan we had to cover first 4 on the same day.
We returned the same route as we came and then moved towards Hadapsar so that we could bypass the city. We had no choice but to follow Google Mata. The route was Kedagaon-Uruli Kanchan-Hadapasr-Dehu Road before we met the old Mumbai-Pune expressway. There wasn’t any much traffic except the area around Hadapsar. We gained speed once with hit the old highway. It was almost evening and we hadn’t even taken our lunch. It fact we had missed it purposefully so as to achieve the distance. Soon, rain greeted us in Lonavala and it being a weekend there was a heavy rush of people to watch the beautiful waterfalls and scenery around. There were long lines of vehicles piled up on the road and even though we were having a 2 wheeler, we were facing difficulty in maneuvering our bikes.
Exiting Lonavala, we stopped immediately at a road side dhaba to have a quick snack break. We were really hungry and had Vada-Pav and Tea amongst us. The weather was such that it demanded some hot snacks. The rain started pouring and we gazed it merrily thinking that this far is how we all had to come. We could not move our feet, since it was raining heavily. Seeing no signs of rain abating, we turned to our rain gears and moved on only to be given a goodbye by rain a few kms ahead.
We turned left from Khopoli towards Pali and the condition of the roads came back to square one. The roads were some how good till Imagica Water resort but after that it was really hell, filled with enormous number of potholes. We were literally playing evading games with them. Just as we were nearing our location, Ganesh had a minor fall. In a sudden moment, he applied the front discs not knowing that the road was bit slusshy. He got back on bike with minor bruises. We had to stop ahead to look for Ganesh’s medication in village. We utilized that time to re-hydrate ourselves as we were thirsty as a desert man. The temple was not really far from the place. We reached around 7:30pm at the temple premises. We followed the same ritual of handing all our luggage to shop keeper selling items required for ‘Pooja’. There was no any crowd since the day had almost ended. We took our blessings and then decided whether to move ahead or call it a day, since it was pitch dark by the time we came out of the temple. We were also exhausted by the day’s journey. Criss-crossing journey’s are more tiring than a straight line journeys. Moving from A to B is easy but criss-crossing between A,B,C,D is not.
Finally, we gathered some strength and moved on to our 4th Temple. Temple was not a problem but, energy was. Temple was located on our return route only, just 3 kms from khopoli. So driving on some new roads were out of question at this time of the hour. We now knew where those bloody pot holes were. It was a matter of mental strength over distance of 30kms.
We started and it was really a pain to see what lied ahead of our road. Due to single road and heavy incoming traffic lights, I could not see properly and had to open my visor often. Doing this led to other problem as insects were coming flying inside through the open visor. It was real struggle until we reached the destination. We reached the temple around 9:45pm in the night. We could still see some people having offerings at the temple. This indicated that the temple was still open. We hurriedly removed all our luggage and went inside for the blessings.
After enquiring with people nearby, it looked like the temple had a stay option for fellow pilgrims. This gave us a huge morale booster as we didn’t had to find any other accommodation especially at this point of time. The charge was very nominal. We got ourselves a single big room, enough to accommodate 4 of us. We immediately went to have dinner at the only place open that time. It was a walkable distance from the hotel. The good hot dinner refueled our energy level to max. It was time for a good night’s sleep. We could see by our movements that the body was tired. I had a cold bath and slept comfortably. Before dozing off, we set ourselves an alarm of 6am to start the second day. We were going to have only 6 hours of sleep.
We woke up to a rainy morning. All night it had rained heavily and we could feel it by the sounds. We quickly changed to our riding gear and checked out of the room. We didn’t even had tea and decided to have our breakfast on the way. As we started, it was still drizzling but just like yesterday by the time we hit the old Mumbai-Pune highway, it had gone. The time was around 7:15am and weather around Lonavala was worth capturing. The whole area was under fog. The visibility was very poor but we took that opportunity to click some snaps before moving ahead. We stopped in Lonavala to have our morning breakfast. It was too early for the tourists, and we enjoyed a calm and hassle free breakfast. The quietness of the atmosphere at Lonavala surprised us. I bought some chikki to be taken back home and with that we moved ahead.
Theur was around 70kms from Lonavala and we took the same route via Dehu road and towards Nagar Road. Being Sunday, we were greeted with heavy traffic on the Nagar road, its typical characteristic. We had to turn left from Nagar road and towards Theur. When we approached the area, there were pilgrims all over the place. We knew this would happen since it was Sunday and many people from nearby areas had come to pay a visit to the deity. After parking our bikes, we managed to drag ourselves amongst the crowd and into the temple premises. To our shock, we found ourselves to a huge line of queue. Already predicted, we joined the line just like all other people. The line was so long that it took almost an hour to get the blessings. All the time in between were utilized to gaze at the surroundings, talking, being live of FB and admiring the architecture of the temple. The whole time it didn’t rained but as soon as we exited the temple it started raining Cats and Dogs. We, as usual clicked selfies at the entrance and moved on. Completing the 5th, we moved to our 6th, which was Lenyadri.
Lenyadri was 107kms from Theur and we took the route of Rajgurunagar-Manchar. During this route the rain played on and off games with us. We also stopped for refueling. There was heavy traffic on these roads. After Narayangaon, there was heavy rain. Although, we were protected by the rainy layer from the inside, we got wet and our shoes were completely soaked. I could see water moving back and forth inside by shoes. Leynadri is a picturesque place and houses Shivneri fort, the birthplace of the great Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. We could see the fort up ahead but we had to turn right towards Lenyadri caves. We could also see some the bikers, who had come to visit this area. Don’t know whether they had come for the fort or the caves.
The rain only gave away when we parked our bikes and moved towards climbing up the mountain. This was the toughest temple since it was situated on a mountain and one had to trek for good amount of time to reach there. Seeing the climb to be done, we thought of putting something inside our stomachs first as we had not taken our lunch. We had a good Misal pav along with tea.
The time was around 3:30pm before we started the climb. It didn’t took us long and we were up in no time. On the journey up, we managed to click some photos of the surroundings. We knew it had to be done quickly as we had much ground to cover still. We went inside directly, took our blessings and after 3-4 shots with my DSLR camera started descending. By 4:45pm, we were back on our bikes and ready to move onto our 7th temple which was located at Ozar.
Ozar, gave us relief and mental strength that the end was near. Ozar was just 15kms from Leynadri and the roads were shit. Potholes everywhere. We had no choice at some locations but to take our bikes through them. But, the one thing that attracted us was the surrounding greenery of the lush farms on both the sides of the road. Admiring that, we soon reached to the spot and offloaded our luggage at the sugarcane juice Centre shop located at the entrance of the route towards the temple. We quickly marched in the direction of the temple. As usual, there was no crowd and we managed to come out easily and by 5:45pm, we were out and having our sugarcane juice at the center where we had kept our luggage. My phone was dead and so CSK sir took out his One Plus phone and managed to snap some good pics with beautiful sun setting behind. Actually, we wanted to click by the lake adjacent to the temple, but the tourists had flocked the area and it was impossible to capture frame without them ever coming into it.
Now, the last, the 8th and the final one, the temple at Ranjangaon, popularly known as the Maha Ganpati was just 65kms from the place. Excited as we all were to finish this trip once and for all, we moved on. I would say this was the most arduous journey of all, having potholes stretched in its entirety of 65kms, we just gave in to them and were riding at almost 75-80kmph over them. It looked like rally race on village roads. Just like World Rally Championship. At least, that’s what the villagers must have been thinking after watching us. I thought in my mind, they must have not seen such speeds were possible on their roads. I was literally laughing as I went over potholes and praying deep in my mind that my bike be safe. This was all possible as there was enough daylight. Finally, we managed to reach the temple just as it got dark. Offloading all the things, we again, were greeted with a long line of devotees.
Tomorrow, which was Monday was an office day. Earlier, I had planned to go by bike to Mumbai but, the condition in Mumbai was even worse, it was raining heavily as told to me by my Mom over phone. I decided to ditch the plan and instead, book a Bus. But, due to this natural calamity we could not book the tickets as the buses were full. We tried to book private but the timings didn’t match. Finally, a thought of my friend, who usually travels on car to his hometown in Satara on weekends came to my mind. He had me few times picked me up from Pune on the way to Mumbai on Monday morning. I told Ganesh to give it a shot and try calling him and check whether he has gone to his hometown that weekend. To our luck, he said yes and we both managed to successfully book our friend’s ride for tomorrow. Even if it didn’t rain in Mumbai, taking the bike would have been a huge task as we were literally out of energy to continue riding to Mumbai on Monday morning. It was just not going to be possible. In all this, we came at the entrance of the temple door and took our blessings and came out. Since, it was almost dinner time, we thought of taking the Temple ‘Prasad’ which was dinner offered to all devotees for no charge. We had a good lip smacking dinner of Rice and Dal along with sweet ‘Halva’. We came out in no time, since we had to again visit the 1st temple in order for the ride to complete. Since, we were doing it in religious sequence, it demanded us to return to the first temple again after completing all the 8. We all knew that this was going to be challenging task. It was 9pm when we left the area after having tea at the shop where we had kept our luggage. Now, turning our Headlamps and Fog lamps ON, we moved in the direction of the First Temple.
The first temple at Morgaon, was 70kms from the place. With the help of Google Maps, we marked the possible shortest route so that we could save time. After few kms, we tried to turn left at one end of the road which the google was telling us to take but, it happened that since that road was passing through some locality, they had blocked the road with the help of barricades. We then again had to reroute the map to reach the destination. The roads were completely deserted, with no light to be seen around. It were only 4 of us and the light from our bikes. The road was not good and we had to be careful not to bump into some big potholes. However closely we tried to avoid them, we fell into their trap. By the time we reached the temple, my handlebar was completely out. It has come loose and bent towards the fuel tank by almost 30-40deg. This didn’t happed during my Ladakh and Spiti trip! I was being particularly cautious now for I had to head back home safe and not with a loose handlebar. All credits goes to the potholes which my handlebar suffered for 2 straight days. By the time we reached the temple, it was almost 10:30pm and it was closed. We went till the temple door and offered our prayers from there itself. We thanked God for our successful but tough journey of 2 days. It is said that, God really tests you while you are on a pilgrimage. How much a pilgrim is willing to sacrifice just so that he meets his lord. Having taken a religious sequence to follow during the trip, it was the toughest journey of all. Even Ladakh and Spiti were easy as compared to this trip which was sea level.
Just as we started our return journey home, disaster struck. CSK Sir’s mobile fell somewhere along the way and we realized after going ahead for few kms. While driving, he tried to put his mobile phone inside the jacket pocket and in that event, it slipped and fell down somewhere. We lost almost an hour in finding it, tried calling but no one was picking up. Finally, during one call, someone cut the phone and we got to know for sure that someone has picked up the phone. Ganesh went all back to the starting point to start the trace and possible location where it could have been fell. Luckily, it was found with a small shop owner who was situated at the corner of the road from where the it led to the temple. Ganesh found out this as he was waiting at this location and tried enquired with the shop owner about any mobile phone fallen. We came to know later that the owner had picked up the fallen phone and since it was little modern he was unable to switch it off and in that moment he cut the call. Later after repeated pressing questions from Ganesh, the owner of the shop finally confessed that the phone was with him. We thanked him for having found the phone and moved on. It was almost 11:30pm now.
We moved ahead from there, and I refueled up since I was running low. After that we gained speed and headed straight. Just as when we were about to enter Pune city, Ganesh’s bike clutch cable broke and since he was little far behind we had to go back to get it fixed. He was having a spare clutch cable but in the dark night with limited visibility was unable to remove it. I think, it was his first time experience of changing the cable. CSK Sir helped him and then again we were on our way.
After reaching Hadapsar, we all parted after taking a group photo. We all reached home safely, I reaching home around 1am. I had a very limited time for sleep since I had to catch my friend’s car to Mumbai at 6am. Tired and exhausted, I dozed off.
The toughest trip of all time came to a successful end.