The name of this Ashtavinayak is derived from his mother Girija. Girija is the epithet of Parvati. Girija’s (Parvati’s) Atmaj which means son is Girijatmaj. Another distinct feature of this Ashtavinayak is that it is the only temple of the Ashtavinayak which is situated on a mountain and is set in a Buddhist cave-temple.
Location of the Temple – Lenyadri is located to the north of Pune, along the Kukdi River. The temple is located 12 km from Narayangaon, which is around 94 km from Pune, off the Pune-Nashik highway. The distance between Junnar and Lenyadri is around 5 km. The famous Shivaneri castle where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born is also situated quite nearby, approx 5 to 6 km from Junnar.
Legend of the Temple – It is said that goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva, performed penance at Lenyadri to beget Lord Ganesha. Goddess Parvati went through severe penance in the cave at the Lenyadri Mountain to become the mother of Lord Ganesha. For the worship, she created imaginary idol of Gajanan. Pleased by her penance, Lord Gajanan blessed her and promised that he would take birth as her son. Afterwards, on the Bhadrapada Shuddh Chaturthi, fourth day of the first half of Bhadrapad, Parvati created an idol from the dirt wiped from her body. Lord Gajanan entered in this idol. This child of Parvati got known as Ganesha, the one who has conquered all the senses. Consequently, Gajanan obtained Girijatmaja as the title for being the son of Parvati (Girija). Then Sage Gautam performed vratabandha of the child Girijatmaja. He killed many demons namely Balasura, Vyomasura, Shatamahisha, Kamalasura, Manchakasura who had created obstacles in the life of residents of this place.
Temple Architecture – The beauty of this temple is ethereal as the temple stands erect amid 18 caves belonging to a Buddhist cave complex. This temple is the 8th cave of that complex. These are called Ganesha Leni as well. Leni in local language gives the sense of cave. Since there are nearly 17 to 18 Buddhist caves on the Mountain, it is called as Lenyadri. Adri means mountain in Sanskrit. Hence, Lenyadri can be traced to mean a mountain of caves.
The whole temple including its 307 steps is constructed from a single stone hill. The temple has a wide hall with no supporting pillars like a typical Buddhist cave. The temple hall is spread stretching 53 feet; the hall is 51 feet in width and 7 feet in height. The Sabhamandap has 18 small rooms; in one of these rooms, the idol of Girijatmaj is installed. These small rooms are the features of Buddhist Viharas which were made for the Varshavasa (stay in the rainy season) of Buddhist monks in ancient time.
The temple faces south which is a rare attribute in Hindu temples. The lighting system of the temple resembles that of ancient days. In the edifice there is no electricity; however, its architectural style is such that no room remains without sunlight in the daytime.
To the west there is a beautiful Stupa like any other Buddhist cave complex. The Stupa is locally known as Bhima’s Gada (mace of Bhima, one of the Pandavas). On the top of the mountain there is a Shiva temple.
Idol of the deity – The temple is Dakshinabhimukh- facing the south. It has been carved out on one single rock. Hence, the Ganesh idol is attached to the wall and due to this one cannot circumnavigate Girijatmaj.
The idol is north facing with its trunk turned leftward; it is worshiped from its front end. The beauty of the idol lies in its simplicity and rusticity with which it is presented to the devotees, much unlike the other Ashtavinayak idols.
Festivals celebrated in the Temple – The Panchamrit puja is conducted every morning. The Bhadrapad and Magh Chaturthis are times when big celebrations are held in the temple. In the month of Magh, an Akhand Harinaam Saptah is also held. Bullock cart racing is also organized on this occasion.