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The collective name given to members of bhakti sects who worship Gaṇeśa as the accessible embodiment of brahman (neut.), and so view him alone as the supreme deity. By the 10th century ce a number of such groups were sufficiently distinct from their Śaiva parentage to have established their own (Śaiva-derived) ritual practices and iconographies. Evidence of the sects' continued development can be found in the Gaṇeśa and Mudgala Purāṇas (12th and 14th centuries respectively), which, with the Vedas, became the canonical texts of the later tradition. The modern Gāṇapatya cult has its origins in 17th-century Maharashtra, thanks to the influence of the South Indian teacher, Morayā Gosāvi. As the result of a series of visions of Gaṇeśa at Morogoan near Pune, he came to believe that he himself, and those following in his lineage, would become vehicles for the incarnation of the god. Subsequently, Morayā underwent jīvansamādhi—‘living entombment’—in the village of Cincvad (also near Pune), which thereafter became the headquarters for the sect. Under the patronage of the local rulers, the Marāṭhās, the Gāṇapatya sect (which now also worshipped Morayā Gosāvi and his successors) continued to flourish among the higher caste Hindus of Maharashtra and South India into the 19th century. After a period of quiescence under British rule, its activities have revived. This is particularly evident in the numbers of devotees undertaking the pilgrimage to the āṣṭavināyakas, the ‘eight Gaṇeśas’—forms of the deity established in eight temples in the Pune area. These include Gaṇeśa as Mayureśvara (‘lord of peacocks’) at the Morogoan shrine, which is also the twice-yearly destination of the Cicvad Gaṇeśa image, carried there in a processional pilgrimage by its priests and devotees.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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