Lenyadri / Ganesa Lena / Ganesh Pahar Caves / Suleman Caves, Ashtavinayaka Ganpati located in Junnar
Shri Girijatmaj Lenyadri Ganapati is the only Ganesh Temple which is carved in caves. Lenyadri carries an ancient myth which says that when the great Pandavas were living in agyatvas during their 13th year of exile, they sculptured these caves in just one night. There are 28 caves here, stretching from east to west. The temple occupies the complete 7th cave which gives a broad look to the temple. It is said that in this particular cave Devi Parvati performed tapascharya for twelve long years for the gain of a son. After this long tapascharya, Lord Ganesh himself came before her.
The name of the idol ‘Girijatmaj’ comes as ‘Girija’ meaning Devi Parvati and ‘Aatmaj’ meaning Son. The caves meaning ‘Leni’ in Marathi derive the name Lenyadri to the caves. So the name ‘Girijatmaj Lenyadri Ganapati’. The temple faces the southern direction. In front of the temple rest two water tanks. Similarly, 21st first cave also houses a water tank. The speciality of these tanks is that they have water in them throughout the year. Also the water is clean and is naturally cool. The waters satisfy every thirsty pilgrim who climbs 338 stairs to reach the caved temple.
In front of the huge entry gates of Shri Girijatmaj Ganesh temple are enormous pillars with pictures of elephants horses lions nd various other animals carved on them. Similarly there are pillars with different carvings in front of every other cave. The Sabhamandap of the temple is 60 feet wide with exactly 18 rooms of 7×10 feet2 area. These rooms, it is said, were used by saints for tapascharya. The neighbouring 6th cave and 14th cave have Buddha-pillars in them commonly known as Bouddha-Stupa. These caves are made into shape of hemisphere interiorly. That is why, echoes can be easily heard. That is why, these Stupas are also referred as the ‘Gol-Ghumat’s. The caves have carved pillars also alongwith the Stupas.
The Sabhamandap of Shri Girijatmaj Ganesh temple is 60 feet wide. The speciality of this Sabhamandap is that it is not supported by any pillar. It is in the form of a very large room. Outside the Gabhara (sanctum) of the temple rest carved pillars. The sanctorum (Garbhagraha) of the temple show-offs a wide range of astonishing art in the form of devotional paintings of Shri Guru Dattatray, Lord ganesh resting on Shiv-Parvati’s lap, Bal Ganesh playing ancient game like ludo made using natural colours.
It was rumored earlier that the idol is being worshipped at the back. But it is not so. In fact, the early times the idol used to be worshipped by everyone individually. The application of oil and shendur. With passing time, the cluster of the shendur fell off and the real idol shape was once again to be seen. This explains the false rumor. The idol of Lord Ganesh has gems as its eyes. The trunk of Lord Ganesh is towards the left side.
The tank outside the temple has cool waters throughout the year. Similarly there is a water tank in the 21st cave. Actual view of every cave remains a mystery for pilgrims because of the difficult rocky path. Daily, pilgrims climb a rocky staircase of 338 stairs to receive Lord Ganesh’s blessings. It is said that these stairs were built by pilgrims to fulfil promise done to God in sequence of 5,7,11,21…
The earlier stairs are a bit higher to climb. As these stairs cannot be climbed by elders and disabled people, arrangement of human carriages ‘palkhi’ is done. This service has provided employment to locals. Also this arrangement has made the darshan possible for everyone.
The temple and the neighbouring caves are in possession of The Archaeology Department of India. Hence it s not possible to make any changes or developments in the structure without the consent of the concerned department. This temple is preserved as it was carved in the early times.
The Archaeology Department of India is in charge of all caves including the temple. That is why the darshan fee is charged as Rs. 5 for the pilgrims. Although the Devasthan Trust performs daily aartis and abhisheks, the trust has no relation with the darshan charges.