The ancient and sacred Bhimashankar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is located among the lush green forests of the Bhimashankar reserve near Pune in Maharashtra. The Temple is also the source of river Bhima. The Bhimashankar Temple is considered to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology.
The Temple is one of the five Jyotirlinga Temples located in Maharashtra, the other four being – Sri Vaidyanath in Parli, Sri Nageshwar in Aundha, Sri Grishneshwar near Aurangabad and Sri Tryambakeshwar in Nasik.
The Bhimashankar Temple complex is small but the simple structure with numerous sculptures depicting Gods and Goddesses impart a calm and soothing feeling to the pilgrims. The architecture of the Temple follows the Nagara style and the Hemadpanthi style of construction. The Temple consists of Garbhagriha, Sabhamandap, and the Kurmamandap.
The main door of the Bhimashankar Temple constains solid wood with figures of several gods and goddesses. A huge bell is there at the entrance of the temple. Chimaji Appa, brother of Bajirao Peshwa I gifted this bell. Two large Nandis are also there in the Temple. The one in the front of the sanctum is very old and the other one is new. One can also visit the shrines of Lord Shani, Nandi, Lord Ram and Dutta.
History of Bhimashankar Temple
The original Bhimashankar Temple or the Sanctum dates back to the 13th century. But during several different time periods, renovations and additions improved the temple complex.
According to the belief, in the 13th century, a woodcutter named Bhatirao Lakhadhara discovered the Jyotirlinga when his axe fell hit the tree, the ground started bleeding. The villagers gathered there and offered milk to the tree which stopped the bleeding. The people of the village built a small temple at the site and named it as the Bhimashankar Temple.
Several notable figures like Chhatrapati Shivaji, Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, and Raghunath Peshwa also regularly visited the shrine and carried out Poojas and renovations. The Diwan of the Peshwas, Nana Phadnavis built the Shikhar of the Bhimashankar Temple.
The legend of Tripurasura
As per one legend mentioned in the Matsya Puranam and the Shiva Puranam, three demons by the names of Vidyunmali, Tarakaksha, and Viryavana, together known as the Tripurasura demons performed Tapasya and obtained a boon from Lord Brahma. The boon was that the Gods will construct three beautiful cities, each made of Gold, Iron and Silver for demons. All the three forts together will be Tripura. However, the prophecy said that only a single arrow can destroy the city.
Then demons from all over the world came and resided at the palaces. After the initial self-enjoyment, they eventually started troubling the people of the realm. They even misbehaved with Rishis and Maharishis, terrorized the common folk and eventually challenged the Gods. Therefore, Lord Indra accompanied by other Gods went to Lord Brahma to put an end to the Tripura, but Lord Brahma could not help and asked them to request Lord Shiva. Shiva obliged and the war between the Gods and the demons began. He also requested the help of Goddess Parvati and both of them took the form of “Ardha-Narya-Nateshwar” and descended to the Earth.
To destroy the Tripura, Lord Shiva asked Vishwakarma to build a chariot. The chariot had special features. The Goddess Earth (Prithvi) became the chariot, Sun and Moon became the wheels, Lord Brahma became the Sarathi, Mount Meru became the bow, Serpent Vasuki was the bow-string and Lord Vishnu became the arrow. Just as the three cities aligned, Lord Shiva burned them to the ground. Then the Gods requested Lord Shiva to take rest there and make the place his home. Lord Shiva turned himself into a Linga and made the Bhimashankar mountains his home.
Significance of Bhimashankar Temple
The Linga of Lord Shiva is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in the Hindu mythology. The Jyotirlingas are self-manifested images of Lord Shiva, unlike the Lingas that are installed by humans.
The Bhimashankar Linga occurs at a lower level compared to the ground in the main sanctum. The top of the Linga is divided by a narrow groove in the Linga. Each half of the Linga signifies Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The Lord appears as “Ardhanareeshwara” in the Bhimashankar Temple.
According to beliefs, water flows continuously from the Linga since time immemorial.
The River Bhima is considered sacred by the people because it is believed that the river is actually the perspiration of Lord Shankara (Shiva) after he defeated the demon Tripurasura. A holy dip in the river is believed to relieve ones of their sins.
The Mokshakumd, located behind the Bhimashankar Temple is believed to be the place where the Maharishi Kaushik (another name for the Brahmarishi Vishwamitra) performed penance or Tapasya to please the Gods.
The Temple administration allows pilgrims to conduct Abhishekam and Poojas to the Jyotirlinga by themselves with Marigold and Bilva leaves.
Bhimashankar Temple Timings
Darshan Timings: 4:30 AM to 3:15 PM, 4 PM to 9:30 PM.
The Morning Aarti or the Kakad Aarti starts at 4:30 AM. The Nijarup Darshan (Darshan of the real Jyotirlinga) begins at 5 AM till 5:30 AM. The priest performs regular Poojas and Abhishekams between 5:15 AM to 11:50 PM. The Shringar darshan starts at 4 PM. Then the evening Aarti occurs at 7:30 PM
The Bhimashankar Temple administration as such has not imposed any dress code on the pilgrims. However, we recommend you to wear decent clothes during the Temple visit. You should also carry an umbrella as mountains surround the Temple and the rainfall is erratic. Moreover, wear strong and comfortable shoes, preferably flats as one has to descend some 200 steps to reach the Temple. The Bhimashankar Temple is surrounded by places where one can trek a lot.
Festivals celebrated at Bhimashankar Temple
Maha Shivaratri – A huge fair is organized for five days in late February or early March as a mark of their respect for Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is believed that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on this day. The day is famous for rigorous Poojas, Bhajans, and Abhishekams. Thousands of people descend on the small town to visit the glorious festival.
Karthik Poornima – The day falls in November – December and comes with great pomp and fare. On this day, Lord Shiva actually destroyed the demon kingdom of Tripura in all the three realms.
Ganesh Chaturthi – The festival comes in August – September with great enthusiasm and cheers. This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Deepawali – The festival comes in October – November. People decorate the whole Temple with Deepams or Lamps and priests perform special Poojas for Lord Shiva throughout the day.
Bhimashankar Temple Sevas and Poojas
Rudrabhishek – The Pooja is for Lord Shiva who the devotees worship as fire or Rudra. The puja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences. The Mondays of the month as well as the Pradosham days are ideal for performing the Pooja.
Laghurudra Pooja – This Abhishek is done to resolve issues related to health and wealth. It also removes the bad effects of planets in the horoscope.
The yearly Poojas or Sevas include Prati Somvar, Prati Pradosh, Prati Shivaratri, Prati Amavasya, Mahashivaratri, Shravan Maas Pratidin. Devotees can perform the Rudrabhishekam and Mahapuja on every Monday, every Amavasya, every Pradosham day, and in the month of Shravan at a reasonable price.
Besides the above Poojas, a Shashvat Pooja can also be performed at the Temple. One can perform these poojas for 1 day every year for a period of 20 years. The Poojas are – Rudrabhishek, Mahapuja, Mahapuja with MahaNaivedyam, Laghurudra, Shravan Somvar and Mahashivaratri, and Laghurudra with Brahman Bhojan.
How to reach Bhimashankar Temple
By Air- The nearest airport is the Pune Airport. Regular buses are available from Pune to the Temple between 5:30 AM and 4 PM.
By Train – The nearest well-connected railway station is Pune which is 120 km away from the Temple. One can avail the private Taxi services or the Bus services from the Pune Bus Stand to the Bhimashankar Temple.
By Road – Regular buses are available from Pune from 5:30 AM to 4 PM. A bus also from Kalyan starts at 9 AM and one from Ghatkopar or Kurla at 11 AM. We recommend the route through the town of Manchar for people who are coming on their own.
Bhimashankar Temple Accommodation
Limited options are availabe for staying at the Bhimashankar Temple and the villages as the area is not easily accessible. The Temple administration runs a Guesthouse named Jeevan Guest House that provides the basic facilities only. However, nearby towns have options like the Blue Mormon Jungle Holiday Resort, Ecogreens Sankalp Farms, and Holiday Maiyaan Karjat.
Where to eat
Several small restaurants are present near the Temple premises such as the Shivshakti and Shankar Vishranti. The Cuisine available is a mix of both North Indian and South Indian food items. The items available here are predominantly vegetarian.
Gupt Bhimashankar – A small trekking path from the Bhimashankar Temple will lead you to the place of discovery of Jyotirlinga. The Linga is on the banks of a waterfall and has greenery around.
Sakshi Ganapati Temple – The Temple is 2 km away from the Bhimashankar Temple. The Ganapati here is “Sakshi” because he is the witness to the visit of the pilgrims to the Jyotirlinga. Therefore, he keeps the attendance of whoever visits the Bhimashankar shrine. The Pilgrims visit the Temple to show their presence to the Lord Ganapati and Lord Shiva.
Kamalaja Devi Temple – The Temple is for Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. She helped the Lord in his battle against the demons. Also, She sits on the Lotus in this Temple.