A gorgeous and exciting tourist destination, Bhimashankar is a small town in Pune, Maharashtra popular for the Bhimashankar temple, nature, trekking and bird sanctuary. Situated in the lush and lofty ghat region of Sahaydari hills, it is a serene weekend getaway from the bustling cities of Mumbai and Pune.
A primaeval jyotirlinga shrine, it lies on the banks of the Bhima river 50 km northwest of Khed. The temple is a beautiful mélange of old and new graceful nagara style architecture skillfully built by the ancient Vishwakarma sculptors in the 13th century. The sabha mandap and the main shikhara of the temple were built in the 18th century by Nana Phadnavis and the unique huge Roman-style bell engraved with a cross in front of the temple was presented by Chimaji Appa as an award of his victory in the war against the Portuguese.
Legend has it that an evil, Bhima was creating havoc in the Trilok – hell, heaven and netherworld and all the Gods beseeched Lord Shiva to come to their rescue. Lord Shiva appeared before him and slayed Bhima ending his tyranny and the war. After the battle, while resting in the Sahyadri hills, the sweat trickling down from his body started forming the river Bhima. Lord Shiva was requested by the sages to make this place his dwelling and hence the jyotirlinga had manifested.
Owing to the presence of the sacred jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva, it is one of the most popular attractions and a pilgrimage site for Lord Shiva’s devotees. The timings of the temple are 4:30 am to 9:30 pm.
The surrounding panorama of the temple is stippled with Buddha style carvings of Amba-Ambika, Bhootling and Bhimashankar in the nearby hills of Manmaad at a height of 1034 metres
Bhimashankar spread over a dense forest area of over 120 square kilometres, was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1984 to preserve the highly rich diverse flora and fauna found in the Sahyadri ranges. From the rare Indian giant squirrel ‘Shekaru’ to leopards, hyena, boar, jackal, langur, deer and other various species of animals, insects and reptiles are found aplenty in this luscious green beautiful hills.
To enjoy the core of the forest, you can embark on a jungle safari and traverse through the dense luxurious evergreen vegetation and get a glimpse of the wildlife alongside. The safari rides are conducted from 6 am to 6 pm.
A paradise for bird lovers, the sanctuary is a haven for exotic and endangered species of birds such as Malabar Grey Hornbill, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Quaker Babbler, Black Eagle, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Malabar Pied Hornbill etc.
Trekking to Bhimashankar temple and sanctuary begins from a quaint village, Khandas. There are two trekking routes:
Ganesh Ghat – This ghat is named after the Ganesha temple that comes on the way. Less difficult, it is an 8 kms’ and 4 hours’ downhill trek through the Paddar Killa Rock Tower and Nagphani Peak – a snake hooded shaped peak.
Sidhi Ghat – Sidhi Ghat is named after the three ladders that are placed along some tricky sections on this trail to Bhimashankar. A more perfidious route, this uphill trek is shorter and takes 2 hours to complete and is more suitable for experienced trekkers. It is more steep, riskier and slippery as the ladders have long vertical steps with cracks and crevices in between. This trek covers Kondana caves – eight ancient Buddhist caves baroqued with carvings and sculptures and a majestic waterfall before merging with the Ganesh Ghat trail at the Chahacha Aamba.
The best time to visit Bhimashankar is from October to February during the winter season as the climate is pleasant and perfect for treks and exploration. During summers it gets unbearably hot and heavy rainfall is received during the monsoons making it unfavourable for trekking.
1. The architecture of the Bhimashankar temple brilliantly showcases the excellent skills of the ancient Vishwakarma sculptors.
2. Though tricky, it serves as an exotic location for trekkers as the route is embellished with luscious dense forest, rocky terrains, small rivulets of glistening water and ancient caves.
3. The dense, luscious rainforest, hills and waterfalls with breathtaking and awe-inspiring views and the rare and diverse species of flora, fauna and birds make Bhimashankar an excellent tourist spot for nature lovers and trekkers.
Interesting Facts About Bhimashankar
1. The temple has undergone several renovations that were carried out by the Peshwas
2. The forest has around 14 sacred groves of trees which are believed to be the origin place of many species of flora and fauna.
3. Every year, before the arrival of monsoon, the Bhorgiri village comes alive with thousands of fireflies settled on the ground, hovering in the air or lighting up the trees around. It is a truly stunning spectacle to witness.
A weekend getaway with family and friends
How to get to Bhimashankar
Air: The nearest airport is the Pune airport and then a two and a half hours’ drive from there to Bhimashankar
Train: The nearest railway station is the Pune station which is well linked with most of the cities in India. From there, Bhimashankar is nearly 100 kms’ drive.
Road: There are regular private and state bus services from Mumbai and Pune. Cabs and private cars can also be hired.