When Sreedhar, my husband, said, let’s take a short vacation, when in Pune…..I was not very keen. I just wanted to chill in Pune’s cold winter and return to the warmth of hot and humid Singapura. So much so that I never bothered to enquire or google about the nearby Temples and places to explore.
Little did I know what a splendid spiritual experience was to unfold when I hopped into the rear seat along with Yash, my son with our most enthusiastic vacationer in the driver’s seat. A three-hour-long drive on a relatively well maintained Thane-Kalyan state highway road lined by well-irrigated agricultural farms was a breeze. We reached our destination, a small boutique resort called “Saj by the Lake,” at the starting of Malshej Ghat, just around when the sun was dipping into the nearby lake surrounded by the rugged Sahyandri mountain range.
We checked into the “Not so impressive dimly lit, not so well maintained” resort room with a small sit-out overlooking the picturesque lake and the mountain range.
Having come without any great expectations, I was pleasantly surprised when the receptionist mentioned Lenyadri cha Girijatamaj, Shivaneri fort (birthplace of my favorite king Raja Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj), among a few other things, upon asking.
Lenyadri cha Girijatamaj is one of the Ashtavinayak Temples situated in different districts of Maharashtra State. A pilgrimage covering all the 8 Ganesha temples in a single tour is known to bestow unlimited divine grace to the devotee. Have heard so many beautiful stories from my Mom….
Obviously, the mention of Ganapati Bappa and Maharaj got me excited for the first time in the entire trip, and we decided to start our next day by taking of darshan of my Bappa…. adored, revered by one and all.
And, off we went to the foothills of Lenyadri, by taking an almost non-existent narrow muddy road. All along the way, Sreedhar kept reminding me about the 200 plus steps one needs to climb to have darshan and suggested that I take a doli. And even I was a bit skeptical about my ability to do it but was sure not to take any help and try to do it independently.
A group of school children gave me company and helped me by shooing away the menacing monkeys. With four small shortstops, I reached the hilltop, which has a total of 26 carved caves. Built initially as Buddhist Chaitya Grahas and Viharas, the seventh cave houses the Swayambhu Ganapati Idol.
One completely forgets the strain of climbing all those steps the moment one sees Bappa. The cave provides a soothing solace to the exhausted devotee, and our beloved Bappa gives the ever-assuring loving glance.
Once inside the cave temple, I chanted Ganapati Ashtotram and few more Ganesha Shlokas. This habit of chanting loudly was nurtured by my Papa…..a truly exhilarating and humbling experience.
In addition to being a spiritual treat, it was also a small fitness test for me…. Considering the attention I give to my physical upkeep and well-being. I’m all thankful for being able to climb those steps with ease.
For I remember Sadhguru’s advice….” Every once in a while, one should scale a hillock or a mountain. It teaches you many things…it humbles you when you stand in front of it by its sheer size and majesty. At the same time, you will have a sense of achievement when you conquer it”. It’s almost therapeutic!! This must be one of the reasons why so many Hindu Temples are on mountaintops…
For me, this is a new beginning, albeit a small one….Feeling happy and blessed.
Ganapati Bappa Morya !!🙏
Kalyani Sreedhar Kakade