Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 sacred Jyotirlingas of Hindu mythology. This jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva is far away from the tumult of urban life. Peeping through the white clouds, Bhimashankar can be termed a pilgrim’s paradise. It is located 127 km from Shivajinagar in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri Mountains.
Origin of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga
There are different legends regarding the origin of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.
According to one legend, a demon called Tripurasura performed penance in the Bhimashankar jungle to please Lord Shiva and ask him for the gift of immortality. Lord Shiva was pleased with his devotion and granted him immortality on the condition that he would use his power to help the local people. Tripurasura agreed with Him. However, over time, he forgot his promise and began to harass both humans and the gods. When the gods begged Lord Shiva to do something to stop the ensuing chaos, the Lord prayed to his consort Goddess Parvati. Both of them appeared as Ardhanari Nateshwara and killed Tripurasura, after which peace prevailed.
According to another legend, in the Dakini forests on the ranges of the Sahyadri Mountains lived an asura (demon) named Bhima with his mother Karkati. He was, in fact, the son of Kumbharkarna, the younger brother of King Ravana. When he learnt that Lord Vishnu had killed his father in his avatar as Rama, he was furious. He vowed revenge and performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma.
In return, Brahma blessed him with immense strength, which he used to terrorize the world. He imprisoned an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, Kamrupeshwar and demanded that he pray to him instead of Lord Shiva. When Kamrupeshwar refused to do so, Bhima raised his sword to destroy the Shivalinga. That is when Lord Shiva appeared before him and reduced him to ashes. The place where Lord Shiva manifested himself is the spot the Shivalinga is believed to be now.
The Bhimashankar temple is a composite of old and 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 while the sabhamandap was built in the 18th century by Nana Phadnavis. The shikhara was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj 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 has been referred to in literature dating back to the 13th century CE. Saint Jnaneshwar is said to have visited Trimbakeshwar and Bhimashankar. A unique bell (Roman style) can be seen in front of the temple. This bell has an idol of Mother Mary with Jesus. This large bell was presented by Chimaji Appa. On 16 May 1739, Chimaji Appa collected five large bells after he won a war against the Portuguese from the Vasai Fort. He offered one here at Bhimashankar and the others at Menavali near Wai in front of a Shiva Temple on the banks of the Krishna river, Banashankari temple, Omkareshwar Temple and Ramlinga temple.
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