Among the Ashtavinayaks, here Ganesha is believed in the form of Varadavinayaka, the giver of bounty and success.
Location of the Temple – In the mountainous region of Konkan, there lies a small and beautiful village, Mahad. In the ancient times, this region was known as Bhadrak or Madhak which is now a crucial part Raigarh district and the Khalapur Taluka of Maharashtra.
Legend of the Temple – A legend involving the son of King Bhima of Kaudinya is linked to the temple. Rukmangada was born to King Bhima and his wife due to the blessings of Sage Vishwamitra. Rukmangada grew up into an extremely handsome and virtuous prince.
One day, Rukmangada went for hunting and took halt at Rishi Vachaknavi’s abode. Upon seeing the handsome prince, Rishi’s wife, Mukunda, fell in love with him and requested him to fulfill her desires. However, Rukmangada was enormously virtuous and resisted any such illicit relation between the two of them. Meanwhile, King Indra realized Mukunda’s plight. He came disguised in the form of Rukmangada and fulfilled her physical desires. Mukunda also gave birth to a son Gritsamada from Indra.
When Gritsamada grew up, a serious episode of unfolding events took place during which both Mukunda and Gritsamada faced the truth of Gritsamada’s illegitimacy. Upon knowing the truth, Gritsamada anger knew no bounds, and he cursed his mother to turn into an ugly berry-bearing ‘Bhor’ plant; in turn, his mother also cursed him that he will father a demon as his child.
After the incident, penitent Gritsamada retreated to the Pushpak forest (present Bhadraka) in search of some tranquility and respite. He prayed repeatedly to Lord Ganesha to grant him inner peace. Lord Ganesha, pleased with Gritsamada’s penance, blessed him saying he would bear a virile son who would not be defeated by anyone on this earth except Lord Shiva. Gritsamada urged Lord Ganesha to bless the forest and stay back there permanently. Gritsamada constructed a temple and installed the idol of Lord Ganesha there, which began to be known as Varadavinayaka.
Temple Architecture – The Varadavinayaka Temple is Purvabhimukh, the one facing the east. The renovated version of Varadavinayaka is surrounded by beautiful elephant statues on its four sides. A Gomukh (cow’s face) is located on the northern side of the temple and holy water streams out from the Gomukh.
A nandadeep (a continuous lamp) has been burning in this Ashtavinayak temple incessantly since the year 1892.
Idol of the deity – The idol of Varadavinayaka was found in the adjoining lake by Mr. Dhondu Paudkar in 1690 AD. It was in an immersed position and hence was in weathered look. In 1725 AD, the then Subhedar of Kalyan, Mr. Ramji Mahadev Biwalkar, built the Varadavinayak temple in the village of Mahad.
At present, the idol of the deity is placed in the garbhagriha sanctum. The idol is in seated position, faces the east and has its trunk to the left. A constant oil lamp, burning in the sanctum since 1892, is one of its major attractions.
Since the devotees objected to casting away of the older idol of Lord Ganesha, both the old and the new ones are placed in the temple. The older one is now installed outside the temple while the new one is inside the main temple sanctum. Thus, the temple has two Ganesha idols, the one covered with sindoor and the other made up of marble. In the sanctum one also sees the idols of Riddhi and Siddhi alongside Lord Ganesha.
Festivals celebrated in the Temple – Varadavinayaka Temple is the only Ganesha temple where the devotees are allowed to pay their personal homage to the idol. After following the purification rituals, devotees get permission to offer obeisance by reaching the idol placed in the sanctum.
In the month of Bhadrapad Shuddh Pratipada to Panchami (from the first to the fifth) and in the month of Magh Shuddh till the Panchami (fifth day) there are major celebrations in the temple. There is a famous belief that those who intake coconut prasad, distributed at the temple during the Maghi Chaturthi, get blessed with a son.