Ganesha, Ganapati, Gajanana, Gananayaka – the lovable god with so many names has his birthday today. Yes, it is Ganesh Chaturthi today.
Celebration of Chaturthi and worship of Ganapathy is a very ancient practice especially in our country. It is understood that Rg Veda carries hymns in praise of Ganesha. Adi Shankaracharya is known to have classified the worshippers of various Hindu deities into six groups and codified the practices of worship for each of them. ‘Gaanaapatyam’ or worship of Ganesha is one of them.
And come Ganesh Chaturthi, one cannot help but think of the state of Maharashtra where this is celebrated as a full-fledged festival spread over ten days. The grand celebrations with Pandals, the vibrancy in the air, the excitement and joy of the all the people without any distinction whatsoever are all a separate class by itself. People treat Ganesha as their loving child or revered guest and take good care of Him while he is stationed in their houses as a ‘Murti’ for a full ten days or lesser as per the custom of each household. And the festival is not complete without the chants of Ganapati Bappa Moraya!
It is said that Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who was one of the early freedom fighters of the nineteenth century popularized the household festivities of Ganesha Pooja on Chaturthi day in Maharashtra into a social and community festival to forge unity and camaraderie among the public.
This Chaturthi, I am bringing to you the story of the saint Moraya Gosavi who was instrumental to a great extent in spreading the Bhakti movement of Ganesha in Maharashtra.
In the late thirteenth century, there lived a couple Vamanbhat and his wife Parvatibai in the village called Shaligram in Bidar district of Karnataka. They were devotees of Lord Ganesha. The couple were childless for a long time. So, they undertook a Yatra and reached Morgaon in Maharashtra, where Lord Ganesha was worshipped in the form of Mayureshwar with peacock as His vehicle. Morgaon is also said to have had plenty of peacocks due to which this name came about. The temple of Mayureshwar is on the banks of the River Karha there. It is one of the Ashta Vinayak temples of Maharashtra.
Vamanbhat and Parvatibai stayed on in Morgaon praying fervently for a child. One day Vamanbhat had an intuition that their wish would be granted. It was true and they were soon parents to a beautiful baby boy who they named Moraya after the Ganesh at Morgaon. Grateful to Lord Ganesha, they stayed back permanently at Morgaon.
Moraya was an intelligent child and was initiated to Vedic studies at the age of eight.
All was well but one day Moraya fell seriously ill. His parents took him to many Vaidyas (doctors) but it was of no avail. The high temperature would not subside and little Moraya could not even open his eyes. The parents were extremely worried. Their sole refuge was Ganesha as usual and they ardently prayed to Mayureshwar.
In a couple of days, a saint by name Nayan Bharti Gosavi came to Morgaon. He was also a worshipper of Ganesa. A worried Vamanbhat met the sage and expresses his anguish over his little son’s health. Nayan smiled and asked to be taken to their house. At their house, Nayan Bharti’s touch cured Moraya and Moraya was back to his cheerful bubbly self.
Moraya decided to take Nayan Bharti Gosavi as his Guru and learn all that was there to be learnt. With his parents and his Guru all being Ganesha devotees, Moraya was inclined to worship Ganesha naturally.
As days went by Moraya grew into a young man and now had an unending desire to see Lord Ganesha in person. He sought the advice of his Guru who advised him to do intense ‘tapasya’ at Theur.
Moraya went to the banks of the Mula Mutha river at Theur and meditated with single minded devotion. He had many obstacles hindering his mission. It is said that a tiger tried to attack him and when he sensed that, and opened his eyes, the tiger turned into a stone.
On the 42nd day of his penance, Shri Moraya got the vision of Bhagwan Chintamani Vinayak. Moraya was ecstatic. Vinayak blessed him with the eight powers called ‘Ashta Siddhis.’ He also told Shri Moraya to get married and lead the life of a householder. He further said that He (Ganesha) would be born as his son and He should be named ‘Chintamani’.
Shri Moraya started using his powers to help the needy and people in misery. He came to be referred to ‘Moraya Gosavi’. He also married a maiden named Uma and started living the life of a householder with his devotion to Lord Ganesha intact. The place where Moraya sat and meditated at Theur is known as ‘Moraya’s Asana’ and preserved till date.
With Moraya Gosavi gifted with all the Siddhis, there were numerous miraculous incidents wherever he was present. There was a milkman supplying milk to Moraya Gosavi’s household regularly. One day he had to go somewhere and therefore sent a girl who was blind, to deliver the milk. The girl came with the milk-pot to Shri Moraya’s place. As Shri Moraya went in to fetch a vessel, the girl trod on the place where he had stood a while back and lo and behold! The girl gained the capacity of sight.
This and other such happenings brought lot of crowds seeking solutions to their problems from Moraya Gosavi. It was becoming unmanageable and more importantly hindering his meditation practices. Therefore, he left Morgaon in search of a quiet spot and reached Chinchwad area near which there was a dense forest. However, the people of Chinchwad were so affectionate and would not allow him to go deep into the forest. They built a small hut facilitating him to stay there in Chinchwad and continue his spiritual activities.
Moraya Gosavi was however very attached to Mayureshwar and so every month on the first day after new moon, he used to walk to Morgaon to be there on the Chaturthi day and after darshan he would come back to Chinchwad.
In this journey of his, once the Karha river was in heavy spate due to incessant rains. As Shri Moraya was contemplating how to cross the river, it is said that Bhagwan Ganesha came in the form of a fisherman and helped him cross the river and have darshan.
In yet another instance, due to some reason, Shri Moraya was able to reach the temple at late night only. The doors had been shut and priests had gone home. But Bhagwan Ganesha could not bear to see the disappointment on the face of his dear devotee and the locks unbolted on their own. Shri Moraya went and performed worship to his heart’s content and after he came out, the locks bolted again. This incident came to light only when the priests went in the next day and saw different flowers offered that what had been left behind them at night.
Years passed and age was catching up with Moraya Gosavi. One day, when he was at Morgaon, sitting in deep meditation, Bhagwan Mayureshwar appeared to him in a vision along with his consorts Riddhi and Siddhi. Addressing Shri Moraya he said in the most majestic voice, “Moraya, I am pained to see you struggling to come here every month due to your advancing age. I cannot bear to see this anymore. So I have decided I will come with you to Chinchwad. Tomorrow when you bathe in the Ganesh Kund, you will find a radiant saffron rock. Know and accept it to be me and take it with you to Chinchwad. Bring Me in that form here, only on the Chaturthi days of the months of Jyeshta, Bhadrapada and Magha. I am in you always and we are one”
Moraya Gosavi was greatly pleased with this vision. The next day he was offering obeisance to the sun by cupping his hands and taking water from the Ganesh Kund where he was bathing. The third time when he put his hands in the water to take water, he found a huge luminous saffron rock and Shri Moraya realized that this was what Bhagwan Ganesha had told him in his vision the previous day.
Moraya Gosavi carried it ceremoniously to the sanctum of Mayureshwar and as he bent down to place the same in front of the god, the garland of Mayureshwar fell on the neck of Moraya Gosavi. Shri Moraya understood that Bhagwan Ganesha was signalling to him to take him to Chinchwad and took it as Ganesha’s Murti and reached Chinchwad. Thereafter, he built a temple, installed the divine rock and named him Mangalamurti. This was towards the end of the fourteenth century.
So from now on, Moraya Gosavi stayed back at Chinchwad worshipping Mangalamurti and taking him to Chinchwad only three times in a year as instructed by Lord Ganesha. (The practice continues till now). Gosavi saw Ganesha in helping the needy. He gave great importance to ‘Anna Daan’ (giving food to the hungry). So lot of ‘Anna Satras’ (places where free food was served) were built at Chinchwad. Yatras and Poojas were organized and Chinchwad was full of hustle-bustle with people from all places thronging to see Moraya Gosavi and Mangalamurti. According to him, in the worship of Ganesha there was no distinction between rich and poor, young and old, man and woman, caste or creed. This greatly influenced the devotion to Bhagwan Ganesha in the present state of Maharashtra.
After many years of serving thus, Moraya Gosavi wanted to attain oneness with his God Mayureshwar and prayed to him.
Then in the year 1561, (yes, he was a Siddha Purusha who lived more than a hundred years) Moraya Gosavi asked his son to construct a cave on the banks of the Pavana river where he would sit in meditation and attain Samadhi. His son, Chintamani, though very disturbed by this, could not help but obey his father and accordingly constructed the cave with stone. There were two platforms inside the cave and the Ganesha Purana was placed on one of them. Two oil lamps were lit.
Shri Moraya went from his house accompanied by his son and all the members of his household. He bathed in the river and wearing new clothes and entered the cave. All the people of Chinchwad were standing on the banks of the river teary-eyed. As he sat down on one platform, the family members worshipped him and the womenfolk performed Aarti and Shri Moraya slipped into deep meditation and Samadhi. The members came out and Chintamani place a huge boulder at the entrance of the cave and installed the Murtis of Lord Ganesha and his wives Siddhi and Buddhi.
The Samadhi is considered to be a “Jeeva Samadhi” and people still throng to the place to seek Shri Moraya’s blessings.
It is said that one of the reasons behind the phrase “Ganpati Bappa Moraya” is to remember this great Sadhu Moraya Gosavi while taking the name of Ganesha.
Now that we know about this saint let us also chant “Ganpati Bappa Moraya” on this auspicious day! Wishing all of you a very joyful Ganesh Chaturthi and pray Bhagwan Ganesha showers his blessings in abundance on all of us.
Ganpati Bappa Moraya!!