Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Pilgrimage Part 3: Bhimashankar: A temple in the clouds

Bhimashankar is also a Jyotirlinga and the legend has it that a demon named Bhima lived here with his mother ages ago. Bhima was tormented as he didn't know about his father. After a lot of coaxing, his mother told him that he was a son of Kumbhkarna, brother of Ravana and his father was killed by Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu. Upon knowing this, Bhima got agitated and caused havoc in three worlds and started torturing sages and gods equally. The gods then beckoned Lord Shiva for rescue who then reduced the demon to ashes and thus ended his tyranny. After this, the holy sages requested Lord Shiva to make this place his abode and he manifested himself here as Bhimashankar Jyotirlingam.
Lush Greenery enroute

Unlimited stretches of fresh vegetation

As we wanted to avoid heavy rush at the temple, so we left real early from Shirdi so as to reach Bhimashankar before 8 am. The drive to Bhimashankar from Shirdi takes you on the Nashik - Pune road till Manchar, from where you take a right turn towards the ghats. From Manchar, its about 65 kilometers. The route is insanely scenic and is as important as the destination to be savored. Most of the route is through ghats with fresh green vegetation to keep you company. I stopped the car thrice just to get out and enjoy the brilliant atmosphere and fresh air. However, the best part comes when you are about 5 kms from the temple as you are literally traveling in the clouds. The atmosphere is full of mist and visibility reduces to less than 20 meters. This part of the journey is through dense forests and is to be covered only during day time. 
Stairs through the clouds
Misty road
Finally, one has to park the vehicle and climb down about 200 stairs to reach the main temple. Even these stairs are covered with mist all around the year. The temple is built with black sandstones which lends it a rustic and ancient feel. It is a modest yet graceful temple dating back to 13th century. A big bell in hemadpanthi structure is a feature of Bhimashankar. Apart from Bhimashankar mahadev temple, there is also a Ram temple besides it. 
Main Sanctum

This area is a reserve forest and hence attracts jungle lovers as much as pilgrims. Even trekkers flock to this area as there are many trek routes through lush green vegetation such as to Gupt Bhimashankar, Hanuman Lake and Bombay point. The forest is full of wildlife such as panthers, sambhar deers, wild boars etc. If one is lucky, you may spot Giant Indian Squirrel which is found only in this area. A trek through here is highly recommended with endless stretches of greenery mixed with gushing streams and beautiful waterfalls.


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