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Next morning we get up at 4 AM. It was raining heavily. As we were already in railway premises, rain was not a matter of cause for us. If we have stayed somewhere else then it would have become difficult for us to reach station. After completing daily routine and bathe we were ready by 4:45 AM. We left the hall and reached ticket counter and bought 4 tickets for Lonavla. As the train originates from here itself, it had already come to platform. We went to general compartment and took seats. Soon the compartment filled with passengers and train departed on its scheduled time at 5:40 AM.
It was still raining and weather was very pleasant. The train was passing through Western Ghats and many waterfalls and streams had come to live due to heavy rain. It’s not just the air and (relative) lack of pollution that was refreshing – there was a certain acceptance of quirkiness and eccentricity in the hills that is rarer in the lowlands.
The train stopped at Dadar, Thane, Kalyan and Karjat before reaching Lonavla. Maharashtra famous dish Vada Pav was available on each railway station and many vendors were selling these items in the train and every second passenger was enjoying Vada Pav. Finally, the train reached Lonavla at 8:00 AM. Rain had stopped till now. We came out of the train and decided to have breakfast as we had not eaten anything till now. Lonavla Station is small and only one stall was on the platform that too not having any eatables but only tea. We went to the right side towards market in search of breakfast. There we find one sweet shop and ask him if paranthas were available. The shopkeeper refused and offered us hot Vada Pav. As no other option was available we enjoyed hot Vada Pav with green chili and spicy sauce and later some sweets with hot tea.
After breakfast session we crossed railway station by over bridge to reach Lonavla Bus stand. Bus stand is situated on left side of railway station at walkable distance. We reached there in just five minutes. Our next target was to reach Manchar from where we can get Bhima Shankar bound buses coming from Pune. At bus stand, one bus was available for Manchar. We confirmed from the driver as sign board was written in Marathi. After confirmation we boarded the bus and started journey to Sanchar. Distance between Lonavla and Manchar is about 80 KM. Bus was running slow and it never crossed 40 KMPH. We were surprised to watch this speed as there was no hilly train. One thing we noticed that bus was entering in each and every Bus Stands in route and picking passengers from there, though they are quite away from the highway. In Haryana, it is just opposite, if you travel from Delhi to Chandigarh by bus, it will not enter any bus stand in route, picks passengers from the highway itself and average speed always is above 70 KMPH. Different states, different norms.
After passing through Talegaon and Chaken, it reached on Pune Nasik High way. Another surprise for us as the famous highway connecting to major cities of Pune and Nasik was of just two lanes and due to heavy traffic, bus speed further reduced. After the hectic bus journey of more than three hours we finally reached Manchar. Manchar is a charming town located on the way to Bhimashankar from Pune, in Maharashtra. It is a suitable halting base for those venturing to Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary and Dimbhe dam. Manchar is 60 km north of Pune and is about 70 km east of Bhimashankar.
From Manchar, Buses for Bhima Shankar are available at regular interval of 30-40 minutes and all of them came from Pune. Next available bus for Bhimashankar was 20 minutes later. We enjoyed some snacks and Juice here. Finally the bus arrived. We hurriedly entered the bus as the rush was increased and only few vacant seats were available. Bus conductor was a lady wearing khaki dress, again new experience.
Distance between Sanchar and Bhīma Shankar is 70 KM but once again bus speed was low and it was stopping at every village in route even at a distance of 1 KM. Adding woes, it started raining. As the time passed, it turns into heavy showers. Bus took three hours to reach Bhimashankar due to frequent stops, slow speed, hilly terrain and heavy rain. As the rain continued it became difficult for us to get down from bus. There is no shed at bus stand .Only small ground to turn buses. As no other option was available, we jumped from the bus and ran towards a shop. We stayed there for some time, kept our bags there and left for Shrine. Main temple is at downside and one has to descend approximate 100 stairs to reach there.
There was no rush only few people standing in a queue for darshan. After 10 minutes we reached in the Sanctorum. There was pitch dark inside due to power cut. There was no inverter backup. Someone had gone to turn on the generator but power not came till we remain there. We feel very embarrassed at this situation. We turn on our mobile battery and took darshan of lingam and came out of the Sanctorum. By seeing this I was very surprised why the tourism deptt. of the state govt. do not take care of the whole system which is totally mismanaged and unorganized.
We took few photographs of main temple and nearby places. Till now rain had stopped and dense fog (or clouds) has covered the all area. When we were climbing stairs, Temple was not visible due to this fog. We had not reached the bus stand when it again started raining heavily. We took shelter in one tea shop. Shop owner, a lady was frying hot Pakoras. We ordered 3 rounds of hot pakoras and 2 rounds of tea and kept waiting for rain to stop. Taste of pakoras with tea amidst heavy rain was just awesome. After half an hour, finally it stopped and we caught the bus and left for Manchar. This time bus took only two hrs. to reach Manchar. Surprisingly, there was no sign of rain at Manchar. After reaching Manchar, we decided to move further towards Nasik and at least reach Sangamner. We headed towards Sangamner by Nasik bound bus where we spent a night in hotel (name forget ) which was just opposite to bus stand to left early morning towards Nasik and Trimbakeshwar. Hotel rent was Rs. 900 for one room with three beds.
Bhima Shankar Legend:
Bhīma Shankar in Maharashtra is an ancient shrine, enshrining Bhimashankara one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. Bhimashankar is located in the village of Bhavagiri 50 km North West of Khed, near Pune in the ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Bhīma Shankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows south east and merges with the Krishna River near Raichur.
Bhimshankar is a carpet of greenery and legend has it that the dense jungles here served as a refuge for the Pandavas. In recent times it has gained tremendous significance since it was declared as "WILD LIFE SANCTUARY”. Nature enthusiasts would do well to explore the serene hidden depths of the Bhīma Shankar Wildlife Sanctuary, where the local biodiversity has been diligently protected for generations. It is also becoming one of the attractive and well known religious places in Maharashtra as well as in India.
The Temple: The Bhima Shankar temple is a composite of old and the new structures and is built in the Nagara style of architecture. It is a modest temple yet graceful temple and it dates back to mid-18th century. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is also said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate the carrying out, of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.
Other temples and shrines:
There is a shrine to Kamalaja near the Bhimashankara temple. Kamalaja is an incarnation of Parvati, who aided Shiva in his battle against Tripuraasura. Kamalaja was worshiped with offerings of lotus flowers by Brahma. The Mokshakund thirtha is behind the Bhimashankara temple, and it is associated with the rishi Kaushika. There are also the Sarvathirtha, the Kusharanya thirtha where the Bhima River begins to flow eastward, and the Jyanakund.
How to reach:
If coming from Mumbai, take Pune road. About 31 km from Deonar traffic junction lays the Mumbai Pune Expressway (NH-4) after crossing Navi Mumbai and Panvel. After 52 km from Panvel is Lonavala and 50 km from there is on NH-4 is Wadgaon. At Wadgaon, turn left on State Highway towards Chakan which is about 12 km. At Chakan, take NH 50 towards Manchar which is around 65 km to Bhīma Shankar. From Mumbai direct State Transport buses are available from Kurla Nehru Nagar and Kalyan. You can go by changing buses. The distance is about 280 km from Mumbai.
If starting from Pune, drive along the Pune-Nasik highway and turn off at the road leading to Bhīma Shankar. The mountain road is quite a steep climb. The distance is about 160 km from Pune.
From Pune -> Chakan -> Rajguru Nagar -> Chas Kaman Dam -> Wada -> Bhimashakar;
Or Pune -> Chakan -> Rajguru Nagar -> Manchar -> Ghodegoan -> Bhimashakar;
Government buses (non luxury) run from Pune to Bhīma Shankar every 30 minutes from 5:30 am till 4:00 pm. You can get State Transport buses from Shivaji Nagar, Pune. The fare is around 130 and it takes around 4-5 hours to reach there from Pune.
The local priests make arrangements for the lodging and boarding of pilgrims at a small cost. Visitors can accommodate in either temporary hutments or some arrangement by local shopkeepers but they are all in shabby conditions and have little facilities.
The only decent place to stay at Bhīma Shankar is Hotel Blue Mormon near Palkhewadi 10 Km. before Bhīma Shankar .It is a jungle resort. Please google for more detail of Hotel.
Three worship services are offered every day. Mahashivratri is a season of great festivity here.
Mandir open - 4:30 am
Aarti - 4:45 am to 5.00 am
Nijarup (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
To be continued ……Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlings darshan in next Post
|on the way to Bhimashankar|
|Carving on Temple dome|
|Carving on Temple dome|
|Bhimashankar Temple amidst thick fog|
|Bhimashankar Temple amidst thick fog|
|Bhimashankar Temple amidst thick fog|
|A sweet shop selling Parshad|
|Stairs going to Bus stand|
|My tour companions|
|Downstairs starts from here for temple|