During an internship period in Pune city, a goldmine of fantastic travel opportunities, we interns decided to cut loose. After some not-so-candid-and—lets-just-go discussions, we zeroed in on Bhimashankar Temple. Bhimashankar is a Jyotirling, a devotional symbol representing Lord Shiva. (One of the three major deities of Hinduism). India has 12 Jyotirling, Bhimashankar, in the Sahyadri Hills of Maharashtra district is one of them.
One may wonder why a group in early-twenties, voluntarily, spent a good chunk of weekend at a temple! Read on to figure it out.
Our journey of 108 km began from Shivaji Nagar Pune at around 9am. Using a popular self-drive car rental option Zoom car, we hired a Scorpio, we kicked start our trip. The route to Bhimashankar is spellbinding. Surrounded by natural waterfalls, green plateau regions and tiny lakes, we were set for picturesque journey. With some high tempo music, a daredevil driver (one of the guys) and easy laughs, the first 70 km. went by in a breeze. By this time, we crossed few water bodies on the left side. There lakes are usually peppered by some tourists having a splash and a cart or two, selling tea and some piping hot snack. After passing a few of them and contemplating the idea of taking a layover here, our driver put his foot down (literally!) and we went on to enjoy the water!
One of the best things about touring this region is that you will have plenty of opportunity to have small adventures on the way. In the monsoon season ( that’s when we visited) there are natural waterfalls to explore, lush greenery and unexplained fog! The joy of sipping hot tea while breathing it all in is a must. At our choice of stop, we had to do some armature rappelling ( read skidding like a boss ) to reach the lake. It was windy and beautiful. We played some in the lake, took amazing pictures, and managed to get back on the road in an hour!
We reached Bhimashankar Temple area at around 1. Now, do note that you will be told to park immediately and charged for it. The most popular con line is that this is the last parking lot and you won’t be allowed further. Do not fall for this unless you see barricades and a line of shops ahead. This lot is a good 2 km away from the main entrance. Unless you want to walk the entire way, many devotees do, drive ahead. We did fall for the con and parked immediately.
One peculiar site that will welcome you will be number of guys selling a plastic poncho for 20 Rs. Each. Smart thing is to buy it, unless you have your own umbrella! It rains erratically here and the poncho will at least keep your hair and head protected. Do not be over smart here and buy the poncho especially if you decide to walk the 2km.
As this temple is situated in Bhimashankar forest area, the 2 km trek was amazing. This forest was declared as a national sanctuary in 1985 and is the abode of many rare flora and fauna. The mountainous area, dense forest and monsoon made it a fun trip for all of us. However, the best time to visit are August to Feb. I am an adrenaline junkie and hence July was perfectly fine for me.
Into the temple.
It was 1-30 pm now and here we realized that the temple visiting timings are till 2-30 alone. After the 2 km trek, we entered the main temple region. This is a small road flanked by shops and eateries on both sides. We were in full trekking mode now, for we had to make it in time. Mind you, the sanctum is located below the ground level, requiring us to climb down seemingly endless flight of steps. Even this flight of rocky steps are flanked by shops selling local sweet delicacies, worship wares, local art and food of-course! The stairway is split in two sections, up to the village and down to the sanctum. The downward side is further split in proportion of 1/3rd to 2/3rd. If you want to have an up close and personal view of the jotirling, you need to take the 1/3rd section which has a waiting line, slower than a snail. Devotees wait for hours in this line, ensuring precious few minutes with their beloved deity. We didn’t take that route!
Even if it were from a distance, for anyone with a spiritual bend of mind, this is a must-have-experience. With legion of people, this place is silent and peaceful. We did make it before 2-30 and had our few minutes of tête-à-tête with the big guy. Apart from the Bhimashankar temple, there are few more temples in immediate vicinity. We visited the temple dedicated to Lord Rama, a shrine dedicated to Kalmaja, a goddess, and Mokshakund thirtha, behind Bhimashankar temple, associated with Rishi Kaushika. Each of them offers a serene experience to believers. If you are skeptical, do not worry. This place has a lot to offer in terms of rich history, beautiful architecture and mesmerizing art.
The Local Flavor
Much like every other tourist place in the country, the locals have developed a very symbiotic relationship with the tourists and visitors. Small shops and snack-shacks flourish here to cater to the visitors as and when they come. We bought some local delicacies, trinkets and Prasad to take back home. The stairs up way are brutal and left us gasping for air for a good minute as we finally reached the top. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at a shack just as it started to rain. The rain here isn’t like a drizzle, it’s more like a lashing. Everyone ducks away, letting the rain roll by. We headed back to the car adding another 2 km to the trek. Now the rain bought about some dense fog. The person 3 feet ahead became invisible. It was kind of spooky, watching people get swallowed up into the mist. We made our way back with indigenous version of Marco-polo.
A quick list as to why we chose this place:
- Monsoon makes it a trekker’s fun-land
- Rich natural surroundings.
- Photographers delight: rustic road trip, forest area, rich traditional setting.
- Local food!
- Hassel free day trip.
Ensure that you have a good adroit driver for the rain makes the parking lot, which is pretty much red-soil, very dicey. We did really expect the Scorpio to topple over but it didn’t! We left from Bhimashankar around 6pm. The return journey was peaceful and slow. We made it back by 8-30 pm and that was end of a lovely one day trip around Pune city.