The Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is one of the Jyotirlingas, one of twelve Hindu temples of particularly special importance to the deity Shiva. It is traditionally the eighth 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 Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is one of only a few of theJyotirlingas where Lord Shiva is not the only deity primarily worshipped. Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra are also prominently honored here as well.
The Trimbakeshwar Temple traces its roots back many centuries. Its story is closely tied to that of the Godavari River, the source of which is the same mountain upon which the temple stands. The Godavari River, the second longest in India after the Ganges, splits the Subcontinent in two and is subsequently one of the most important and sacred in the country.
According to ancient legend, Trimbakeshwar was the sight of a minor showdown of sorts between several deities. The god Trivikram caused a drought in the region, though the reasons are a bit unclear. In response, the god Varun, favoring one Gautama, allowed rain to fall on Gautama’s fields, thereby providing food for the community. After twenty four years of this, the god Shankara ended the drought altogether. Because of Gautama’s piety, Shankara offered to let the Ganges pass through the town.
However, the Lord Ganges was not favorable to this idea, not wanting to leave the side of Shiva. Therefore the Godavari River was established here instead. Gautama, who had accidentally killed a sacred cow, bathed in the waters of the river and became cleansed of his sin. The site of the source of the Godavari subsequently became of great sacred importance.
Temples have stood on the spot for a very long time, but the current structure only dates to the 18th century. At one time, the temple housed the Nassak Diamond, one of the largest diamonds in the world. The diamond was seized by agents of the East India Company in 1817, and has been circulating outside of India ever since. Temple authorities continue to seek its return nearly two centuries later.
The Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is one of the largest and most magnificent of the Jyotirlinga shrines, and thanks to its relatively recent construction, one of the best preserved. Constructed of black stone, it resembles a giant turtle from several angles. The ‘head’ is an absolutely magnificent pyramidal dome, intricately carved and crowned with a golden spike. A massive gate provides entrance to the complex.
There are several prominent features of the interior of the shrine, including a pool in the courtyard which represents the beginning of the Godavari River. A large carved image features the three faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra dominates the shrine interior. The crown of these images, an artifact of gold and precious jewels of immense value, is displayed in public only periodically.
The Trimbakeshwar Temple can be found on the east side of the small city of Trimbak close to the headwaters of the Godavari, approximately 80 miles north of Mumbai. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.maharashtratourism.gov.in (official tourism website of Maharashtra).
The relatively small and isolated town of Trimbak is not home to any other major temples.