Bhimashankara is one of the twelve jyotirlingas which I had not visited so when the opportunity came to go to Pune, the first place I thought of was Bhimashankara. But the fact is that once you decide to go on a pilgrimage, the deity concerned takes over everything and as mentioned before I was meant to visit Harihareshwara first.

After returning from Harihareshwara we made a one day trip to Bhimashankara. Again we were told that it would take only 2 hours from Pune but needless to say it took over 4. But the whole countryside was so beautiful, rolling hills and jungles that we didn’t feel the tediousness of the drive. The road too was better than the one to Harihareshwara.


Before going any further let me first explain what a jyotirlinga is. Once it is said that Brahma and Vishnu were vying for supremacy over creation and in order to humble their pride, Shiva took on the form of a huge pillar of light (jyotirlingam). Neither Brahma nor Vishnu could see the beginning or the top of this huge blazing column of fire so Brahma decided to search for the top while Vishnu went down to the bowels of the earth. However neither could discover the start or the end of this amazing column and returned dejected. When Shiva asked them if their quest had been successful, Brahma lied and said that he had seen the top whereas Vishnu admitted defeat. Shiva cursed Brahma that he would never be worshiped anywhere and that Vishnu would be worshiped till the end of eternity!

The jyotirlingas are thus the places where Shiva appeared as fiery columns of effulgence. Originally there were supposed to have been sixty-four of them. Of these only twelve are considered to be especially important.  In all these sites the presiding form is that of the lingam which shows the formless and endless nature of the Supreme in the form of Shiva and His infinite nature. The twelve jyotirlingas are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswara in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwara in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnatha in the Himalayas, Bhimashankara in Maharashtra, Viswanatha in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Tryambakareshwara in Maharashtra, Vaidyanatha in Deogarh, Jharkhand, Nageswara in Dwaraka, Gujarat, Rameshwara at Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, and Grishneswara at Aurangabad . Most of the lingams in the twelve sites are supposed to be swayambhu or self created.


Bhimashankara is the place where Shiva is supposed to have defeated the three asuric brothers who had huge cities known as Tripuras and who used to fly from place to place and commit havoc in all the three worlds.

He also defeated and killed the demon known as Bhima at this spot. Bhima was the son of Kumbakarna, the gigantic brother of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Bhima was furious with Rama for having killed his father and swore vengeance on all the devotees of Vishnu (Rama was an incarnation of Vishnu).

His first target was the king of Kamarupa and his wife who he captured and threw into a dungeon. The couple installed a lingam and started an intense worship of Shiva. When Bhima heard of this he rushed to the dungeon which was in a cave and raised his sword to behead the king. Just at that moment Shiva split open the lingam and jumped out and beheaded the asura. The royal couple now begged the Lord to stay on there and protect the people of that region. He agreed to do so and took on the name of the asura and came to be known as Bhimashankara.

As is the case with most of the Shiva lingams in this area there was a long, long flight of steps leading down to the temple. The steps passed through lovely jungle and people were selling flower garlands from a type of ever lasting flower which grew in the jungle and which they claimed would remain bright and new for a year. Of course I bought one for Shiva and one for Vanamali who loves garlands.
There was a bit of a queue but apparently it was nothing much as people assured us and we reached the sanctum very soon. Here again it was a cave structure and priests were keeping on chanting the Rudri (the famous hymn to Shiva) while doing abhishekam (ceremonial pouring of water over the idol). It is a special feature of the jyotirlingams that one is allowed to go right into the sanctum sanctorum and do the abhishekam oneself as well as offer flowers and so on. I did my usual trick of effacing myself into the shadows in a corner so that I could finish my chanting of all the Shiva mantras before being herded out by the officers in charge.


It was only after coming outside that we had time to admire the beauty of the architecture of the temple which was supposed to be done in the Nagara style. Even though the lingam cannot be dated, the present temple structure is supposed to have been built in the 13th century. The great Mahratta leader, Shivaji is supposed to have come and worshiped here.

Chimaji Appa, the Mahratta leader who won the war against the Portuguese, gifted the huge bell in the front of the temple which was apparently Roman in origin. The river Bhimarathi has its source above the temple in the Sahyadri hills surrounding the temple and joins the Krishna River later on.

By the time we finished our darshana, it was getting quite hot even though the trek up the steps was still cool, thanks to the trees on either side. Had I not visited Harihareshwara first I feel I might have enjoyed Bhimashankara much more but after having had such special, solitary darshans in Harihareswara and enjoyed the peace and tranquility of that place I did not feel as exalted as I would normally have done. However I was happy to have ticked off one more jyotirlingam from my list.
Aum Namashivaaya.


Bhimashankar Temple:
             The Bhimashankar temple is a composite of old and the new structures and is built in the Nagara style of architecture. It is a modest temple yet graceful temple and it dates back to mid 18th century. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is also said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate the carrying out, of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.

Although the structure here is fairly new, the shrine Bhimashankaram (and the Bhimarathi river) have been referred to in literature dating back to the 13th century CE. Saint Jnaneshwar is said to have visited Tryambakeshwar and Bhimashankar.

This temple in the Nagara style is an old and not a very large structure. The jyotir Lingam is situated on top of the Sahyadri hill temple. Lord Siva is considered to be taking rest here after the Trpurantaka samharam. The sweat drops of Lord Siva were converted as steam & is running as Bhimarati. New structures have been added. There are two idols of Nandideva. One idol is old, while the other is of fairly recent addition. There is a theertham & a well behind the temple structure. The Bhimashankarar Lingam measures around one and a half feet & quite narrow. The Goddess is worshipped as Kamalaja.

Legend :
             There was a demon Tripurasura who did penance in the jungle of Bhimashankar very long ago i.e. in Tretayug, to please Lord Shiva in order to achieve the gift of immortality. Lord shiva, who is specially known for his kindness towards his devotees, was pleased with Tripurasura's commitment towards him. So as usual, he blessed him with the power of immortality with a condition that, "He should strive in the best interest of people, or he may be sued permanently for violating the condition."

With the flow of time, Tripurasura forgot the condition to which he was abided, and eventually started harassing people as well as other deities. There was a chaos for which all the deities approached Lord Shiva for remedy.

Thus in order to sue Tripurasura, Lord Shiv prayed to Goddess Parvati (Kamalaja Mata) in order to help him to accomplish this task. Accordingly Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati underwent a new form which is popularly known as "Ardha-Narya-Nateshwar" and killed Tripurasura on Kartik Pournima which is known as "Tripurari Pornima".

After the death of Tripurasura his wives (Dakini and Shakini) went to Lord Shiva with a question of their existence without Tripurasura. Thus Lord Shiva blessed both of them, with the power of immortality which he did to Tripurasura. Henceforth the realm Bhimashankar is known as "Dakinyam Bhimashankaram".

How to reach :-
By Air - The nearest airport is the Pune Airport which is at a distance of 95 kilometres from Bhimashankar.

By Rail - The nearest Railhead is the Pune which is at a distance of 95 kilometres from Bhimashankar.

By Road - Bhimashankar is situated around 260 kms from Mumbai via Pune. From Pune You have to take the road that goes to Wada to reach Bhimashankar. 

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