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Pali (Ashtavinayak) (Raigad)

Located in the Sudhagad taluka of Raigad district, Pali is one of the ‘ashtavinayakas’ (8 Ganeshas), visited in huge numbers by the devotees of Lord Ganesh. Here, Ganesha is known with the name of his devotee, Ballaleshvar. Pali’s temple is indeed beautiful with the rays of the rising sun enveloping the deity in a golden hue each morning.

According to a legend, in the age of ‘krutayuga’ a businessman called Kalyansheth and his wife, residents of Konkan’s Pali region, were blessed with a son who became a devotee of Ganesha at a very young age. Named Ballal, he would often go into the jungle with his friends to worship a large stone that he believed was Ganesha himself. So engrossed would they all be with prayers that they often forgot to even eat or drink. The parents of other children complained to Kalyansheth about his son’s extreme devotion and in a fit of rage Kalyansheth took a stick and went in search of the children. He saw them worshipping the stone in a state of complete meditation.

Kalyansheth then threw away the stone whereupon the other children fled, leaving Ballal alone. However, so deeply immersed was Ballal in his prayers that he did not react to anything, not even when his father beat him with the stick and blood began to drench his clothes. Enraged all the more, Kalyansheth tied his son to a tree and destroyed all the material used for the worship. He further taunted Ballal about whether his god would come and free him. Ballal slipped into an unconscious state but began chanting Ganesha’s name as soon as he regained his senses. Pleased with this utmost devotion of Ballal, Ganesha untied the knots and healed his wounds. Thereupon, Ballal requested Ganesha to stay in Pali forever. Ganesha agreed to do so and in fact took on the name of his disciple. And so the deity here is known as Balleshvar.

The temple of Ballaleshvar faces east and has been constructed out of stone. It has two sanctums with the inner sanctum being 15 feet high. The outer one, which is 12 feet high, has a stone mouse, the vehicle of Lord Ganesh. The main hall of the temple has eight pillars with a huge ‘nagarkhana’ in front. The temple contains a bell brought here by Chimaji Appa after his victory over the Portuguese in Vasai. The 3 feet high attractive image of Ballaleshvar is located in the sanctum and has diamonds for its eyes. Ganesha resides on a throne carved out of stone with a silver backrest. There is a temple of Dhundi Vinayaka just behind the main temple and the deity here is believed to be the same that was thrown away by Kalyansheth.

This, in fact, was the original temple built out of wood. The new temple was constructed by Shrimant Morobadada Phadanavis. The reverence for Ganesha at Pali reaches its peak during the festivals hosted in the Hindu months of Bhadrapad and Magh. Some of the traditional rituals observed here include ‘mahanaivedya’, ‘dahikala’ and ‘annsantarpan’ and a procession is carried out through the village during the festivals. There is a strong belief among the devotees that Ganesha himself attends the ‘mahaprasad’ at midnight on Bhadrapad Chaturthi.

Distance from Mumbai is 98 kms.