Come Visit the Lenyadri – The Land of Devotees
Lenyadri, also known as the Ganesha Lena, is a 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave, situated at a distance of about 5km north of Junnar in Pune district in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Other caves surrounding the Junnar city are: Manmodicaves, Shivneri caves and Tulja caves.
One of the caves which originally happened to be a Buddhist Vihara has been adapted on a later stage as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Ganesha. It is one of the Ashtavinayak shrines located at Western Maharashtra. There lie exactly twenty-six of the caves which are individually numbered. The caves face the south and are numbered serially from east to west. Of the many caves present, 9 of them are Chaitya-grihas or chapels, while the rest are viharas or monasteries. The latter is in the form of dwellings and cells. There are also several rock-cut water cisterns out of which two of them have inscriptions. The caves can be dated from between the 1st and 3rd century AD while the Ganesha shrine belongs to the 1st century AD.
Architecture of Lenyadri
The Asthavinayaka shrine is one of the largest excavations of Junnar, of about 100 feet which is approximately30 m above the sea-level. In design, it is an unpillared hall with 20 rooms approximately of different dimensions. The hall is large, can be entered by a central door, under a veranda supported only with pillars with 2 windows on either side of the entrance. The hall, in recent days, is treated as the sabha-mandapa or the “assembly hall” of the Ganesha temple. 283 steps built in stone masonry over eight flights lead to the entrance. The steps are believed to represent sensual pleasures, which the god Ganesha has overcome. The veranda of the said vihara has six pillars and two pilasters (half-pillars), to support an architrave from which projects eaves relieved with a railing resting on beams and rafters.
Much later, the two central cells of the rear wall have been joined together by breaking the partition in between to place the Ganesha image. The old narrow entrance was widened during the conversion of the cells to the Ganesha temple. Two other smaller entrances to the hall is also an eye-catcher. All the entrances bear marks of sockets for fixing wooden doors during the conversion, and still, they do have doors. The paintings depicted Ganesha’s childhood, marriage preparations, battle with demons and much more. Some of the cells which were used for storage were locked with wooden doors. Nine memorials resembling Sati were added on the left wall during the construction, each in the shape of a long pillar with an arched top, and to the right of each pillar, a hand raised above the elbow, with an open palm, signifying Sati’s blessing. While three panels were plain, the rest was sculpted to make memorials.
Lenyadri is one of the sets of eight Ganesha temples collectively called Ashtavinayaka.
The temple along with the caves lies under the authority of the archaeological survey of India. Sardar Deshpande is the head-priest and is in charge of the temple’s activities. He does not stay in Lenyadri.