My uncle had visited us last night. He came to Pune for some official work, and took a day off to meet us. And he was feeling particularly pious the next morning, and told us that we should visit a temple after all these days of enjoyment. We groaned in protest. Then, as if struck by lightning, he turned towards us with a manic gleam in his eye and said, ‘Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati Temple! You’ve never been there, have you?’ he asked, turning towards me. I made a face and replied that no, I hadn’t indeed.
‘Great!’ he exclaimed, practically rubbing his hands with glee. I looked at my cousin for help, but before she could offer any, my uncle took the lead and continued, ‘It is very famous! Did you know, the Ganapathi statue is insured for 10 million USD?’
I stopped. ‘Ah! Caught your attention, didn’t it?’ he smiled. ‘Alright, let’s do this!’ I exclaimed, running for my towel to go take a shower.
We made it to the temple around 11 a.m. Even at that hour, the temple thronged with people. And not just Indians were coming to offer their devotion to the deity, but foreigners too; many having been allured by the fame of the origin of the temple, if not by the idol of the deity itself.
As we moved with the crowd, my uncle told us the story behind the origin of the temple in such a crowded marketplace, which was quite unusual for a place of worship. Apparently, the Dagadusheth Halwai was a Lingayat Karnataka trader who had settled in Pune. He was a renowned sweet maker (hence the ‘Halwai’), and was a righteous and religious man.
Unfortunately for him though, he lost his son to an outbreak of plague. As a consequence, both he and his wife were quite depressed. His religious adviser told him to build two idols, one of Lord Ganesha and one of Datta Maharaj and worship them, for these would bring his prosperity.
And it turns out that it is this very Ganesha idol that is worshipped at the Dagadusheth temple, and it appears indeed to have brought him and his family prosperity!