At a distance of 125 km from Pune by road, Bhimashankar is a beautiful place to move around. It is the source of Bhima of Bhimarathi River, which in a later stage merges into the river Krishna. The river Bhima is considered as holy as river Ganga, because the source of the holiness is the same-Lord Shiva. The river Ganga arrived from Lord Shiva’s jata (matted hair on head), whiles the river Bhima or popularly known as Bhimamayya is the form of Lord Shiva’s sweat. The place near the origin of river Bhima, where Lord Shiva stayed permanently in the form of Jyoti is known as Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.
The travel experience to Bhimashank r is enjoyable and exciting as last 30 kms witnesses’ hilly drive and dense forests on the Northern part of the Sahyadri hills. The journey is memorable due to scenic beauty in the protected area of Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary. Located at the height of 4000 feet above sea level, Bhimashankar is considered as sixth Jyotirlinga amongst the Hindu Dwadash Jyotirlinga circuit. The Bhimashankar sanctuary area is a home to wild boars, sambars and the occasional leopard. One can find the beauty at peak of this place during monsoon.
There are three different stories about Bhimashankar.The main story narrates the war between Lord Shiva and demon Tripurasur.According to the story, once demon Tripurasur performed penance of Lord Shiva. Pleased with this, Lord Shiva asked him for boon. The demon expressed his wish for immortality. Lord Shiva granted it but also added that only one who was half man and half woman could kill the demon. Overjoyed with Lord Shiva’s boon, Tripurasur thought such a creature did not exist and hence he began to terrorise the world.
The impact was terrific and therefore all gods prayed to Lord Shiva to free from this terror. Lord Shiva agreed and hence Goddess Parvati then entered Lord Shiva’s body and on the holy day of Kartik Ekadashi (11th day of new Hindu calendar year) the furious war between Lord Shiva and demon Tripurasur began. On Karta Purnima (15th day of new Hindu calendar year), Lord Shiva killed Tripurasur.At that all the gods and holy sages gathered and prayed Lord Shiva to make this place his permanent abode. Lord accepted this request and stayed as the form of Jyoti in Shivalinga, which is known as Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.
Meanwhile Lord Shiva was exhausted after completing the furious war. He stayed sometime for Sahyadri Hills to take rest. The scripture says that Lord Shiva’s sweat fell upon this site and it became the sacred Bhima River or Bhimamayya and Bhimashankar got it name. The complementary story also says that Dakini and Shakini, the widows of slain demon Tripurasur prayed to Lord Shiva and thus Lord granted them a boon that they can permanently stay in this forest without any threat and the devotees would chant their names first whenever they come to this place to offer worship to Lord Shiva. The area is also known as Dakini forest in the Hindu books.
According to Padmapuran, once a demon called Bhimasur with his mother Karkati was staying in this place. The demon was harassing and torturing the people. One day he came to know that his father was Kumbhakarna; the younger brother of King Ravana of Lanka.His mother also told that she met his father Kumbhakarna on some mountains nearby and after his birth; she continued to stay at this place. He also came to know that Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu killed his father.Bhimasur angered to hear this story and decided to take revenge against all gods.
He performed penance of Lord Brahma.Pleased with this, Lord Brahma granted him a boon that the demon would become very powerful. Getting such boon the demon terrorise the three worlds, captured the gods and kept them under his control.
The story says that the gods prayed to Lord Shiva to free themselves from the demon Bhimasur.Lord accepted the prayer. Meanwhile demon Bhimasur caught a king namely Kamarupeshwar, who was a great Shiva devotee. The demon imprisoned the king and asked the king to worship himself. The king refused to do so. Thus the demon attacked on Shivalinga, where the king was offering his worship. When the demon pulled his sword and tried to attack on Shivalinga, Lord Shiva appeared and the war began. In the end at the request of Narad, Lord Shiva blew a fire and burned the wicked demon to ashes. The gods were released from the clutches of demon. All the gods and sages prayed to Lord Shiva to stay at this place, which was granted by Lord. So the Shivalinga became known as Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.