Bhimashankar Temple is a Jyotirlinga shrine located 50 km northwest of Khed, near Pune, in India. It is located 127 km from Shivaji Nagar (Pune) in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Bhimashankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur. The other Jyotirlinga shrines in Maharashtra are Vaidyanath near Parli Dist Beed, Trimbakeshwara near Nashik, Grishneshwar near Aurangabad and Aundha Nagnath Temple in Hingoli, Nagnaath in Aundh built by Pandav brothers in one night during their exile.
As per Shiv Mahapuran, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of saving) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity – each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Assam, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharastra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Nageshwar Temple, Dwarka|Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar in Maharashtra.
The Bhimashankara temple is a composite of old and the new structures in the Nagara style of architecture. It shows the excellency of the skills achieved by ancient Vishwakarma sculptors. It is a modest yet graceful temple and it dates back to the 13th century and the sabhamandap developed in the 18th century by Nana Phadnavis. The shikhara was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate 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 Jñāneshwar is said to have visited Tryambakeshwar and Bhimashankar. A unique bell (Roman style) can be seen in front of the temple which was presented by Chimaji Appa (Brother of Bajirao Peshwa I and uncle of Nanasaheb Peshwa). Chimaji Appa collected five large bells after he won in war against the Portuguese from Vasai Fort. He offered one here at Bhimashankar and the others at Menovali near Wai in front of a Shiva Temple on the banks of the Krishna river, Banshanker temple( Pune), Omkareshwar Temple( Pune) and Ramlinga temple ( Shirur).
There are Buddha style carvings of Amba-Ambika, Bhootling and Bhimashankar in the hills of Manmaad near Bhimashankar at a height of 1034 metres. A big bell in Hemadpanthi structure built by Nana Phadanavis is a feature of Bhimashankar. Places that can be visited in are Hanuman Lake, Gupt Bhimashankar, Origin of River Bhima, Nag Phani, Bombay Point, Sakshi Vinayak and a lot more. Bhimashankar is a reserved forest area of 130.78 km2 was declared as wildlife sanctuary in 1985.This sanctuary is a part of Western Ghat, so it is rich in floral and faunal diversity. A variety of birds, animals, insects, plants can be seen. A rare animal Malabar Giant squirrel locally called as ” Shekaru” can be found in deep woods. Bhimashankar is worth visiting for jungle lovers and trekkers as well as for pilgrims. This temple is very famous in Pune and people from all around the world come to visit this temple.
Bhimashankar is an ancient shrine, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. Far away from the tumult of the urban life, peeping through the white fleecy clouds, Bhimashankar can be termed a pilgrim paradise. The dense forests surrounding the high ranges are an abode for rare species of flora and fauna. Situated at the extreme end of the Sahyadri Ranges, this place gives a wonderful view of the world around the rivers, and hill stations.
Bhimashankar is the source of the Bhima River, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna River. With endless stretches of virgin forests, lofty peaks that seem to reach out to the heavens, and the whispering waters of the Bhima River, 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 Sahyadris. The serenity interrupted only by the silent murmuring of the cool breeze and the occasional chirping of birds, Bhimashankar is a trekker’s delight and a traveler’s sojourn.