Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
Originally to safeguard the natural habitat of the endemic species, Indian Giant Squirrel, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary has now become a major tourist attraction of Pune and Maharashtra on the whole. The densely forested area is spread over an area of 120 sq km on the Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri Ranges. The place is mainly famous for being a home to many endemic and pandemic animal and bird species including the Indian Giant Squirrel. It is so rich in flora and fauna that it is considered to be one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. The reserve is also known for being the home of 14 sacred groves which are said to be thousands of years old and responsible for the origin of many species.
If walking is not your forte, you can always opt for the safari car rides and have a glance at the wilderness in its true form from within the safety of the car. In case you are a spiritual person, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (major shrines of Lord Shiva) is situated within the large stretch of the jungle. There are areas of the forest that are ideal for a day’s picnic too. In short, Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect choice for a quick and eventful weekend trip.
Away from the tumult of city life, peeping from the quilt of white clouds, Bhimashankar Temple is a Hindu Shrine located 500 km northwest in Khed, near Pune, Maharashtra. Finding itself in the laps of Sahyadri Hills, the temple is a well-known Jyotirlinga among the twelve Jyotirlingas situated all over India. In the recent times, it has gained immense significance and has been declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary. The modest yet graceful temple dates back to the 13th century and is ornated with Buddha cravings as well. A trek to the Bhimashankar temple adds a pinch of adventure to your spiritual visit.
Three worship services are offered every day. Maha Shivratri is a season of great festivity here.
Mandir open – 4:30 am
Aarti – 4:45 am to 5.00 am
Nijrup (Original shivlinga)darshan – 5:00 am to 5.30 am
Normal Darshans and Abhishekam – 5:30 am to 2:30 pm.
No Abhishekam between – 12:00 pm to 12:30 pm.
Maha Puja (Naivedya Pooja) – 12.00 pm. to 12.30 pm
Aarti – 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Shringar Darshans – 3:30 am to 9:30 pm.
Aarti – 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm
(Except Pradosham on Monday or Amavasya or Grahan or Mahashivratri. Kartihik Month, Shravan Month — No Mukut and no Shringar Darshans).
The holy shrine of Bhimashankar is a work of Naga style of architecture. The temple brilliantly showcases the intelligent work of Vishwakarma sculptors of the ancient times. Situated atop the hills, the place is perfect for all nature lovers and trekkers. The forest nearby is said to be a treasure of medicinal herbs. The site is highly picturesque and gives mind-boggling views of the nearby locations. One must visit the place for fulfilling both religious and adventurous motifs.
History of Bhimashankar Temple
On the lofty ranges of the Sahaydris lived an evil Bhima in the forests of Dakini. During the Treta Yuga, compassion and kindness triggered in the presence of the asura. Raged by his father Kumbhakarana’s death at the hands of Lord Rama he soaked revenge. He indulged himself into performing penances in the name of Lord Brahma. Impressed by his devotion the creator, Lord Brahma blessed him with immense powers. As a result, he created havoc in all the three worlds. From defeating Lord Indra, making Kamaroopeshwar his hostage to troubling the sadhus, he walked entirely towards the path of destruction. Beseeched by the gods, Lord Shiva came to their rescue. Lord Shiva appeared before him in his magnificent avatar, and the war began. The great almighty Shiva defeated him and was requested by the gods to make the place his abode. Accepting their request, Shiva took a dwelling in the Bhima form. Furthermore, the sweat that poured forth from his body after the battle is believed to have formed the Bhimarathi river.
Architecture of Bhimashankar temple
Bhimashankara temple is a composite of both the old and the new structures in the Nagara Style of architecture. The work by Vishwakarma sculptors has given the temple a legendary look. Where the temple is a possession of 13th century, the sabha mandap was built by Nana Phadnavis in the 18th century. The Nana Phadnavis are also responsible for building the shikhara. The endowments of the ancient temple are believed to be made by the great Maratha ruler, Shivaji to facilitate the worshipping of Lord Shiva. The sanctum is constructed at a lower level.
A unique bell, made in Roman style is seen in front of the temple. It is a holy idol of Mother Mary with Jesus. Chimaji Appa presented the large bell as a token of his victory against the Portuguese on 16 May 1739.
Festivals celebrated at Bhimashankar Temple
Bhimashankar temple is a religious spot that holds vibrant celebrations for different festivals throughout the year. Here is a list of festivals which surely will help you plan your trip to Bhimashankar Temple.
- Kartik Poornima
Lord Shiva had killed Tripurasur on Kartika Poornima. Hence the festival is widely celebrated from Kartik Ekadashi to Poornima. Devotees from all over the country visit the temple and be a spectator of grand celebrations that take place at the shrine.
The day of Shiva, Mahashivratri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of the Magh month. It is the most significant festival during which the devotees massively flock the mountain. The beauty of temple is surely beyond any words. Fairs with tourist shops, food stalls, pandals, and other different activities are set. The mountain dips itself into the colours of festivities and enthusiasm. Visiting Bhimashankar temple during Mahashivratri will surely make your visit memorable.
- Ganesh Chaturthi
One of the greatest festivals in Maharashtra, Ganesh Chaturthi here, is celebrated with great zeal. The devotees show great passion towards the festival’s celebrations. It takes place anytime between August-September.
The occasion of Lord Rama’s return from 14 years of exile is celebrated with all faith and devotion. The temple is decorated in a way that it spreads the light of positivity and goodness among its visitors. The pompous festival encounters showers of devotion and happiness. Lakshmi pooja takes place at the hands of a local pandit.
Picnicking Near Hanuman Lake: Cut off from the density of the forests, the banks of Hanuman Lake offers lush green rolling plains for peace-loving families to conduct a small picnic, surrounded by the serene view of the lake, nestled within the wooded Sahyadri all around. If you are lucky, a squirrel or two might pay you a visit.
Sacred Groves: The forest has around 14 sacred groves of trees, which are believed to be the origin place and genetic pools of many species of flora and fauna. Thus, they provide a great place to conduct some ecological and biological study and research – for educational purposes or simply to witness patches of land which have witnessed times older than 1000 years.
Fireflies’ Festival: Every year, before the advent of monsoon, the Bhorgiri village comes alive with thousands and thousands of fireflies settled on the ground, hovering in the air or lighting up the trees around. It is a breathtaking sight to witness. The locals celebrate this miraculous incident ad a festival, as it only happens once every year.
Slightly difficult to reach, although worth the effort, the Hanuman Lake is a beautiful lake located in Bhimashankar. Lots of animals including squirrels and bids could also be spotted here.