The Bhimashankar Temple is one of the Jyotirlingas, one of twelve Hindu temples of particularly special importance to the deity Shiva. It is traditionally the sixth temple of the list, though not necessarily in either importance or in order to be visited. Per the Jyotirlinga legend, Shiva appeared on the spot as a beam of light. The Bhimashankar Temple is one of the most popular of the Jyotirlingas, thanks in large part to its proximity to the city of Mumbai.
The story of the Jyotirlinga at Bhimashankar is one of the most gripping of ancient Hindu legends. Although the temple dates from the 13th century, the story is believed to be much older. It revolves around a demon named Bhima, who lived in the area with his mother, and whom inspired fear throughout the region.
According to the tale, Bhima discovers that his father, a powerful king, had been slain by the Lord Rama about the time that he (Bhima) was born. Seeking vengeance, he entreated Brahma the Creator for aid. Brahma, not realizing the extent of Bhima’s evil, granted him great powers, which the demon used in turn to wage war across the cosmos.
Finally, Shiva, at the behest of the other Gods, was obliged to step in. After having caused so much destruction, Bhima couls not stand up against Shiva, and was soon destroyed. Shiva was then asked to remain at Bhimashankar to protect it. He subsequently established the site as one of the Jyotirlingas.
The first Bhimashankar Temple was completed about eight centuries ago, and has been one of India’s most popular pilgrimage destinations ever since. It has since been rebuilt and expanded, in particular during the reign of the Marathas. In addition to the legend of Bhima, the temple also honors Shiva’s defeat of another powerful demon known as Tripuraasura.
The Bhimashankar Temple is almost as famous for its location as for its sanctity. It is located in what is now a wildlife sanctuary, and is ensconced in lush rainforest that abounds with activity. After a trek through the jungle, visitors emerge in Bhimashankar in the vicinity of its namesake temple. The temple is larger than many of the other Jyotirlinga shrines. Its pyramid dome, not one of the more ornate such structures, absolutely dominates the surrounding town and jungle.
The inner sanctuary under the dome honors Shiva and his defeat of the demon Tripuraasura. In addition, there are other smaller shrines dedicated Lord Mahatma and Siva Ganams. Just outside of the temple, prominently displayed and still in use, is a large bell, a centuries-old relic of the Portuguese colonial era.
The Bhimashankar Temple stands at the heart of the very small Bhimashankar village deep in the wilderness east of Mumbai. Although less than forty miles from this massive metropolis, access to Bhimashankar is extremely limited, with a drive of over a hundred miles over winding roads necessary. As of this writing no other visitor information was available. Web: www.bhimashankar.in (official website).
There are tother small temples in Bhimashankar worth visiting. The most important is the Kamalaja Temple, dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, who aided Shiva in his battles against the demon Tripuraasura.