The state of Maharashtra, known as the land of the Marathas, the Peshwas and the Shindes is also known for its various shrines. One such shrine is ‘Dakinyam Bhimashankaram’ or the Bhimashankar temple. Located 50 km northwest of Khed in the mountain ranges of the Sahyadri hills, about 127 km from Pune, Bhimashankar is believed to be the only Jyotirling (The Radiant sign of Lord Shiva); of the twelve well known Jyotilings, that is a manifestation of Lord Shiva with his better half, Goddess Parvati, in the form of ‘ardha-narishwar’ or ‘ardha-narya-nateshwar’.
The legend has it that a demon named Tripusura wandered the jungle of Bhimashankar seeking penance and the gift of immortality. Pleased with his perseverance Lord Shiva granted him the power of immortality with a condition that he must not misuse the same. As time passed, Tripusura forgot the condition and started harassing people and the other deities. To rid people of evils of Tripusura, Lord Shiva prayed to Kamalaja Mata (Goddess Parvati). As a result Lord Shiva and Godess Parvati transformed into ‘Ardha-Narya-Nateshwar’ and killed Tripusura on what is now called the ‘Tripurari Purnima’. After the death of their husband the wives of Tripusura; Dakini and Shakini, approached Lord Shiva questioning their existence as his widows. Known for his kindness, Lord Shiva blessed them with the same power of immortality as their husband. That is how the shrine got its name ‘Dakinyam Bhimashankaram’.
The temple remains open between 4:30 am and 9:30 pm with a total of three worship services (aartis) offered every day. There are other forms of darshans for the devotees at different times the day. A variety of worship ceremonies (Poojas) include ‘Abhishek’, ‘Rudrabhishek’, ‘Mahapuja’, ‘Mahapuja- Maha Naivedya’, ‘Laghurudra’, ‘Laghurudra Maha Naivedya’ and ‘Laghurudra Maha Naivedya Brahman Bhojan’. Mahashivratri is a season of great festivity at the shrine.
Situated over 3000 ft above sea level and being the origin of the river Bhima, Bhimashankar has become a popular tourist attraction after it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1985. A reserved forest area it’s a favorite of trekkers and bird watchers for its diversely rich flora and fauna. The majestic ranges of the Sahyadris look scenic during the winter and the monsoon covered in a thick canopy of the greens. A rare Malabar giant squirrel locally called as “Shekharu” can be found deep in the woods. Other nearby places to visit are the shrine of Kamalaja, the Mokshakund tirtha, the Sarvatirtha, the Kusharanya tirtha and the Jyanakund.
The easiest form of transportation is via road. The MSRTC and state buses ply every half hour between Shivajinagar in Pune and Bhimashankar via Manchar. When traveling from Mumbai the Manchar route is accessible via NH 4 or the Expressway. All those traveling from Nashik could take the Manchar route as well. It is also possible to drive along the Pune-Nashik highway up to the road leading to the temple and climb up the remaining distance. The winter and the monsoon are the best times to visit the temple.
So, for all those travel enthusiasts the Bhimashankar temple isn’t a mere shrine but a tourist attraction with very interesting history behind its existence. The spectacular Sahyadri hills, where it is located make for a very enjoyable excursion for the trekkers and nature lovers alike!