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Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga

Bhimashankar is the sixth Jyotirling in the series of Dwadasha Jyotirlingas. The temple is very old and surrounded by a scenic nature with green forest. The place is totally surrounded by dense forest which is also considered as the wild life sanctuary by Indian Government. This hill region is called Sahyadri and situated at a distance of 125Kms from Pune. This forest is also called Khed. The temple is located at Dakini hill (Shikharam). Nana Padnis of Peshwa kingdom has improved this place to a great extent and built the beautiful temple.


History
According to the legends, once a demon called Bhima lived with his mother Karkati in the dense forests of Dakini, on the lofty ranges of the Sahaydris. It is said that Bhima was so cruel that every one was scared of him. But what tormented Bhima was his curiosity regarding his own existence. One day, Bhima urged his mother to tell him who his father was and why had he abandoned them in the wilderness of the forest. His mother revealed that he was the son of Kumbhakarna, the younger brother of the mighty King Ravana - the King of Lanka. Bhima’s mother Kartaki also told him that Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Lord Rama annihilated Kumbhakarna. This infuriated Bhima and he vowed to avenge Lord Vishnu.
Bhima performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma. The compassionate creator was pleased by the dedicated devotee and granted him immense prowess. With so much power, Bhima began to cause havoc in the three worlds. He defeated King Indra and conquered the heavens. He also defeated a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva - Kamrupeshwar and put him in the dungeons. All this angered the Gods and they along with Lord Brahma beseeched Lord Shiva to come for their rescue to which Lord Shiva agreed.
Tyrant Bhima asked Kamrupeshwar to worship him instead of Lord Shiva. When Kamrupeshwar refused, Bhima raised his sword to strike the Shiva Linga. But as soon as he raised his sword, Lord Shiva appeared before him in full magnificence. Then the terrible war began. Holy sage Narad appeared and requested Lord Shiva to put an end to this war. It was then that Lord Shiva reduced the evil demon to ashes and thus concluded the saga of tyranny. All the Gods and the holy sages present there requested Lord Shiva to make this place his abode. Lord Shiva thus manifested himself in the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the sweat that poured forth from Lord Shiva’s body after the battle formed the Bhimarathi River.

Architecture
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.
Far away from the tumult of the urban life, peeping through the white fleecy clouds, Bhimashankar, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, can certainly be termed as a Pilgrim Paradise. The dense forests surrounding the high ranges also play an abode to the rare species of flora and fauna. Situated at the extreme end of the Sahayadri Ranges, this place gives a wonderful view of the world around you, the forts, the rivers and the hill stations around. Bhimashankar is also the source of the River Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the river Krishna. Endless stretches of virgin forests, lofty peaks that seems to reach out to the heavens and the whispering waters of the River Bhima, Bhimashankar is definitely one of God’s choicest creations. It seems as if Lord Shiva is keeping a silent vigil over the majestic ranges of the Sahayadris. The serenity interrupted only by the silent murmuring of the cool breeze and the occasional chirping of birds, Bhimashankar is definitely a pilgrim’s paradise, a trekker’s delight and a traveller’s sojourn. In some classics like Shiva Leelamrit, Gurucharitra, Stotraratnakar etc., BheemaShankara is described as a woman. Gangadhar Pandit, Ramdas, Sridhar swamy, narahari Malo, Gnaneshwar, and other saints describe BheemaShankara as JyotirLinga.
Historical figures like Chatrapati Shivaji and Rajaram Maharaj were known to visit this shrine. This was a favourite palce for Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath and Raghunath, Raghunath Peswa had a well dug up here. The Diwan of the Peshwar, Nana Phadanvis renovated this temple. A court hall was built by a Pune trader or Sahukar by the name Chimanji Antaji Nayik Bhinde in 1437 AD.
The temple of Bhima Shankara is built in Hemadpanthi style. It is decorated with the Dashavatar statues. These are very beautiful to look at. The Nandi temple is close to the main temple. A huge bell weighing 5 mans(1 man=40 seens) is located close to the temple. It has 1721 AD inscribed on it. When this bell is rung, the entire temple echoes with its sound. 
The worship of BhimaShankar is done, with Rudrabhishek, Panchamrit snan, everyday. The Lord is praised in rich words. On Mondays as well as other days, lot of devotees flock here for Darshan. A big fair (mela) takes place on Maha Shivaratri festival. The natural scenic beauty of this place is wonderful to look at.
The Temple can be divided into three parts-Sabhamandap, Kurmamandap and Garbhagriha. The Sabhamandap is spacious and has counters of puja/abhishek registrations. Here one can see purohits explaining about different pujas to devotees. The present Sabhamandap was built in the year 1960.The main temple and its shikhar has intricate stone carving, which makes ornamentation of the mandap quite dull. There are independent temples of Shani Maharaj and Nandi idols adjoining to main temple. The main Bhimashankar temple is surrounded by Shri Ram, Dutta, Vitthal and Mataji temples. From Dutta temple one can see beautiful kalash and shikhar of main Bhimashankar temple.
Garbhagriha - 25 to 30 people can be in the garbhgriha at the same time. Swayambhu Jyotirlinga is in an underground chamber that glows in the lamp light. It is the only Jyotirlinga, where people offer marigold with bilva to Lord Shiva. Devotees circumambulate the Jyotirlinga adding to the heap of scared bilva leaves and marigold that cover it. The yoni is clad in etched silver.
Darshan Protocols - In the main temple one sees Nandi idol followed by goddess Parvati and before entering garbhagriha. After puja/abhishek to the Jyotirlinga one comes out from the same route. In the premises is temple of Shanimaharaj and Nandi temple followed by a place of akhand dhuni. The Dhun of Guru Gorakhnath is maintained by the Nath Sampradaya even today.
Then come temples of Shri Ram, Dutta, Vitthal and Mataji and also visits the holy kund. Next the main temple is Shri Ram temple. The present temple was built in a memory of a lady Taibai Arnaji Konkane. The devotees also offer peda (a sweet) to Bhimashankar.

Temple Timings
Bhimashankar temple daily opens at 4:30 am. Arti is performed thrice a day-4:30 am, 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The Garbhagriha is closed after 3:00 pm except on Mondays and during special tithis(days).Mahapuja is performed at 12:30 pm. The temple closes at 9:30 pm. A devotee can himself perform puja/abhishek in Garbhagriha. Mahashivaratri is the occasion for a grand three day fair, Special Aarti and Mahashringar of the Garbhagriha and Sabhamandap. Kartik purnima is also a day when the special pujas are performed.

Other Place Near By
Bhimashankar area is an excellent place to move around, enjoy scenic beauty and a visitor can also have a trekking experience in the Sahyadri range of Hills. Gupta Bhim - Gupta means hidden. It is the place of origin of river Bhima. Situated at 3 km South West from Bhimashankar Temple, Gupta Bhim is a place of river Bhima, which swirls with terrifying force over a linga that has been placed on a stone ledge. It’s a paradise for the trekkers. It is about three hour journey. However, one has to take permission from the forest department.
It is said that there are 108 tirthas in Bhimashankar. The prominent ones inlude Sarvatirtha,Gyantirtha,Moksha tirtha, Papmochan tirtha, Krida Tirtha, Bhima Udgam Tirtha,Bhasha Tirtha, etc.
Moksha Kund - It is the first place to visit after having darshan at Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga and surrounding temples. The place is 500 meter away from main Bhimashankar temple. Here sage Kaushik had a long penance. Moksha means salvation. The story narrates that the ancestors of Ruchik, a disciple of sage Kaushik was bachelor and hence his forefathers couldn’t get salvation. Ruchik requested sage Kaushik to help him out. Sage Kaushik therefore created a kunda (pond with water from his kamandal (wooden water pot).To respect his penance, river Bhima emerged in the pond. Ancestors of Ruchik bathed in it and finally got salvation.
Other place of interest is sakshi (witness) Ganapati temple, which is 2 km from Bhimashankat temple.
Kamalajadevi Temple - Kamalajadevi Temple has goddess Kamalaja who played a vital role in battle between Lord Shiva and Tripurasur. It is said that Lord Brahma was also used to worship Kamalajadevi with offerings of lotus flowers.
Matheran Point - It is a place 500 meter away from from Bhimashankar and from here one can see the different parts of Maharastra like Matheran, Raigarh, and Thane Hanuman tale or Krida Tirtha is a place located 2 km from main temple. It was a sports ground of Lord Shiva and Parvati.It is also a place of sage Javali. There are temples of Hanuman and his mother Anjani at this place.

Other places of interest are Vanaspati Point, Mumbai Point, and Bhoragarh etc.

Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary - Tucked away in the Sahayadris, the Bhimashankar Sanctuary is home to a variety of endangered species of flora and fauna. The dominant species of flora are Mango, Hirda, Behda, various medicinal herbs, bamboo and fern. The Giant Indian Squirrel is one of the major attractions of the sanctuary. The other species found in the dense forests are Panther, Sambar, Mouse Deer, Hyena and the Wild boar.

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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