Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bhimashankar Temple - Jyothirlingam

Bhimashankar temple is one of the 12 Jyothirlingas in India. The temple is situated is around 120 km away from Pune. It took 3.5 hours from Pune with a 15 minutes break at Godegaon for breakfast. We had planned a one day trip to Alibaug with our friend and family. But since it was raining non stop for the last few days, we decided to drop the plan. Since we were getting two consecutive days as holidays on account of Ramzan and Ganesh Chathurthi, we somehow wanted to make a trip. Last minute discussions led to Bhimashankar. On:  some googling, I understood monsoon is the best time to visit Bhimashankar. Made a note of few places to visit in Bhimashankar apart from the temple. We started at 6:30 in the morning. Luckily, there was no rain and after heavy downpour till the previous day, the weather was very pleasant. We took the Rajaguru nagar, Manchar, Godegaon, Bhimashankar route. After Rajguru nagar, there isn't much eating joints on the way. Manchar is a small town. In Godegaon there are some good hotels. We had taken some sandwich with us for breakfast.  Reached Godegaon at around 8:00 a.m. We had the packed sandwiches and had tea from a joint there.  Hotels were just warming up for the breakfast. 

The drive from Godegaon to Bhimashankar is splendid. You are greeted with various shades of green on both sides. At places there are few rocks which adds to the beauty of green. Its the best season to drive to Bhimashankar. I'm sure it must be more beautiful if it is raining. You will forget the passing of time while soaking in the nature's beauty. There was a small waterfall on the way. 

The month of Shravan and Shivarathiri are the two occasions which brings in more crowd at the temple. We saw few vehicles at the parking lot. The parking are was so dirty after the rains and was sad to note there is no cleaning work undertaken there, despite being a major tourist attraction. You have to walk some distance to the temple from the parking area. The way to the temple is well laid with stones and was surprisingly clean too.

The temple is not very huge. There is huge Nandhi statue in the front of the temple. As we walked into the temple, there were about 5 people in the queue. I was literally shocked and was doubtful if that was the main sanctorium. Here you are allowed inside the main garbha griha and one is allowed to do abhishekam and offer flowers to the lingam. Being from Kerala, where strict rules are followed inside the temple, I was not used to this practice of touching the idol. This was my first where I got such closest darshan. Since there was not much crowd, there was no one to hurry us up. So it was a very peaceful darshan, which we had not anticipated. After the darshan we moved out to see what is around.

There is nothing much to see around the temple. You can few few people selling pooja materials to be offered to the deity and few selling various roots and herbs from the forest.

The flowers looked like plastic ones..But there are fresh ones.

Of the few things I had noted down to see there, Gupt bhimashankar was the first that came to my mind. From what I read, I understood it as just behind the temple where there is a naturally formed Siva Linga. When we walked to the back side, it looked so dirty with plastic bottles, flowers, garlands etc littered every where along side the stream flowing. Husband refused to walk that way and told me we may be on the wrong path.

Around the temple, that was the only way to the forest behind. Confirmed it with the vendor there and we decided to walk. As we moved few steps ahead, an old man called out to us and asked where we were heading to. Hearing us, he replied in Marathi which we did not understand fully. But from his gestures we could infer that he is asking us not to go on our own and take a local with us. Me and my friend were not to give up easily though our respective husbands were ready to back out. We went and asked a girl selling the herbs if she can send a guide with us and after little bargaining, settled for Rs.100.

It was indeed a beautiful trek into the forest walking along side the stream. At times, had to walk across too. The forest is home to Giant Squirrel. And we were on the look out for it on the trees. At first, I just had a glimpse of one and by the time I had a clear look it hid under the leaves. And with in minutes, we spotted two close by. Generally they are very shy and hide quickly. This time, they both were nibbling something and was perched on the tree for few minutes. We had a close look and clicked few pictures too.

The pathway is clearly marked with sign boards on the trees in the forest. The board is  a small metal strip just enough to hold the words 'GUPT BHIMASHANKAR' inscribed on an arrow mark. At first I took it as numbers/names on the trees, as is generally seen in reserved forests. Only later when I had a close look at one, I realized those are sign marks. So I was confused why the old man held us back for going on our own.     Thinking that it might me a God sent sign, we walked ahead. There was a small temple of Lord Ganesha on the way.

It was a real joy to walk in side the forest. Very refreshing for the whole body and mind. For the entire trek, we were so absorbed in the sight, sound and smell of the forest, that no other thoughts crossed our mind. I felt it was kind of an effortless meditation. The naturally formed linga is below a water fall. There the water was in good flow and the guide helped us to cross and had to climb down the rocks to get near the linga.

While returning, we came by the other side and there is no stream on that side. After some steep climbs, it was plain. Only at those climbs, did we sweat and felt tired. Else it was very cool. After the two hours trek, every one was feeling thirsty and hungry. When we reached back the temple, there was huge queue of devotees waiting for Darshan. Our reaching early helped us in a quick darshan and enjoy the trek.

On the way back, we had plans to visit the Dimbhe dam. Our cab drive told us they have stopped allowing visitors over the dam due to some unfortuante incidents in the past.

We stopped at Godegaon at about 2:30 for lunch. That's the nearest town where some clean and good hotels are there. And then we headed to Pune with loads of photos and memories of the trip and with a decision to go there again during monsoon, next year. And now that we know what to expect there, will explore more around Bhimashankar.