The ancient and sacred Bhimashankar Temple is located amongst the lush green forests of the Bhimashankar reserve in the village of Bhavgiri among the Sahyadri hill range 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 Dharukavanam, Sri Grishneshwar in Devasarovar 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 is divided into the Garbhagriha, Sabhamandap, and the Kurmamandap. The main door of the Bhimashankar Temple is made of solid wood adorned with figures of several gods and goddesses. A huge bell is located at the entrance of the temple. It was gifted by Chimaji Appa, brother of Bajirao Peshwa I. Two large Nandis are present in the Temple. The one in the front of the sanctum is very old but the other one is new and recently installed. One can also visit the shrines of Lord Shani, Nandi, Lord Ram and Dutta.
History and Legend
- The original Bhimashankar Temple or the Sanctum is dated back to the 13th century. Later, during several different time periods, renovations and additions have been carried out to improve 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 regularly visited the shrine and carried out Poojas and renovations. The Diwan of the Peshwas, Nana Phadnavis built the Shikhar of the Bhimashankar Temple.
- Many legends have been associated with the Bhimashankar Temple beginnings and the occurrence of the Jyotirlinga. 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 three beautiful cities, each made of Gold, Iron and Silver will be constructed by the Gods for the demons with all the luxuries in them. The forts will be made in different worlds and will align once in every thousand years. All the three forts combined will be called Tripura. It was prophesized that only a single arrow can destroy the city.
- Lord Brahma ordered the Asura architect Maya to construct these cities. The city made of Iron was constructed on Earth, the city of Silver was constructed in the sky and the city of Gold was constructed in heaven. These cities rotated in such a way that they never aligned in a single line except for some moments every thousandth year.
- 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 misbehaved with Rishis and Maharishis, terrorized the common folk and eventually challenged the Gods. 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. Lord Shiva obliged and the war between the Gods and the demons began. The war raged on for several years without an end. Lord Shiva 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. 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.
- The wives of the Tripurasura demons, Shakini and Dakini came to Lord Shiva and inquired about their existence without their husbands. Since they had helped Lord Shiva in the war, they were granted immortality by Lord Shiva.
Significance of the Temple
- The Linga of Lord Shiva is considered as 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.
- It is believed that 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.
The Bhimashankar Temple Timings
- The Bhimashankar Temple opens at 4:30 AM and closes at 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 regular Poojas and Abhishekams are performed between 5:15 AM to 11:50 PM.
- The Darshan is stopped for 45 minutes from 3:15 PM to 4 PM.
- The Shringar darshan starts at 4 PM.
- The evening Aarti occurs at 7:30 PM
The Bhimashankar Temple administration as such has not imposed any dress code on the pilgrims. However, it is recommended that you wear decent clothes during the Temple visit. Carry an umbrella as the Temple is surrounded by mountains and rainfall is plenty but erratic. 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 the 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 marked with 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 is celebrated with great pomp and fare. It is believed that on this day, Lord Shiva actually destroyed the demon kingdom of Tripura in all the three realms.
- Ganesh Chaturthi – The festival is celebrated in August – September with great enthusiasm and cheers. The day is marked as the day Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati was born.
- Deepawali – The festival is celebrated in October – November. The whole Temple is decorated with Deepams or Lamps and special Poojas are performed for Lord Shiva throughout the day.
Poojas and Rituals
The Daily Poojas include –
- Rudrabhishek – The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped 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 considered as ideal for performing the Pooja.
- Laghurudra Pooja – This Abhishek is done to resolve issues related to health and wealth. It is also done to remove 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. The Rudrabhishekam and Mahapuja can be performed on every Monday, every Amavasya, every Pradosham day, and in the month of Shravan at a reasonable price. For more details, one can visit the link http://bhimashankar.in/index.htm?page=yearly.
- Besides the above Poojas, a Shashvat Pooja can also be performed at the Temple. These Poojas can be performed for 1 day every year for a period of 20 years. The Poojas that can be done are – Rudrabhishek, Mahapuja, Mahapuja with MahaNaivedyam, Laghurudra, Shravan Somvar and Mahashivaratri, and Laghurudra with Brahman Bhojan.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- 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 from Kalyan starts at 9 AM and one from Ghatkopar or Kurla at 11 AM. The route through the town of Manchar is the most recommended route for people who are coming on their own.
Where to stay
The staying options at the Bhimashankar Temple and the villages are limited 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 where the Jyotirlinga was originally found. The Linga is situated on the banks of a waterfall and is surrounded by lush greenery.
- Sakshi Ganapati Temple – The Temple is located 2 km away from the Bhimashankar Temple. The Ganapati here is called “Sakshi” because he is the witness to the visit of the pilgrims to the Jyotirlinga. It is believed that he keeps the attendance of who has visited 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 dedicated to Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. She helped the Lord in his battle against the demons. She is depicted as sitting on the Lotus in this Temple.