On the banks of the River Chandrabhaga (Bhima) on the expansive meadows, a large number of devotees (Varkari) can be seen dancing as if they are in a trance. This is a constant scene in Pandharpur. Bheemamayya (mother Bhima) is equated with Ganga-Bhagirathi and people take a holy dip in this river. In Pandharpur, river Bhima came to be known as Chandrabhaga, become it is here that Bhima curves towards Chandrakor.
River Ganga came jumping down from the Jata (Hair) of Lord Shankar, straight through Swarga (Heaven), to the earth. Bhimamayya is the perspiration of Lord Shankara, The origin of River Bhima is BhimaShankar, which is one of the twelve-JyotirLingas. In Maharashtra, in Pune District in the Tehsil of Rajguru Nagar (Khed) ahead of Ghodegaon, there is Sahyadri mountain range. Bhavargiri, Rathachal and Bhima Shankar mountains are located here. On the Bhima Shankar mountains, the holy shrine of Bhima Shankar is situated. Although it is a very windy place, one does not experience any cold winds here.
There are lions in the forests here. In these thick forests there is ether jungle life too. It is a treasure of various medicinal herbs. It is how quite easy to reach BhimaShankar. Direct and easy roadways are laid that take :he pilgrims right up to the shrine. Reaching- here from Kokanpradesh is a ittle difficult because of the mountain terrain.
Many years ago, Shakini and Dakini used to live in these forests. The settlements were far and few in between But on the festival of Shivaratri, there is a huge gathering of crowds, which brightens up the entire area. The devotees reach here in time and take a Darshan of Lord BhimaShankar. A lot of improvements made here 1 here is a Government guest-house also. It is said that the lions from these forests come to the shrine every night to get a Darshan of the Lord. Here are some of the stories attached to the JyotirLinga here:
In the ancient times a demon by the name Tripurasura become drunk with power. He harassed every resident of Swarg (Heavens), Narak (Hell) and Patal (Nether world).The gods were very scared. I hon Lord Mahadev himseif came to destroy Tiripurasur. Lord Shankar assumed colossal proportions. Tripurasur feared when he saw this Rudravatar. The dual went on for several days. In the end, Lord Shiva killed the wicked demon and set the three worlds, Tribhuvan, free. Lord Shankar in the form of a huge hunk (Virat) was very tired. In order to get some rest, he settled here on the high area of the Sahyadri mountains sweat started pouring down from his huge body in thousands of streams. It all joined together and collected in a pond or Kund. The river that started from there is known as Bhima, which can be seen even today Devotees then prayed to Bhimakaya Rudra thus: “In order to save the good people, reside here forever”. Bholenath listened to his devotees and stayed there as a JyotirLinga forever.
There was once a demon called Bhima, whose parents were Kumbhakarna and Karkati. Demon Bhima was harassing and torturing one and all. He was hell bent in the path of destruction of Dharma. Once he asked his mother about the details of his father. His mother told him that his father Kumbhakaran is the younger brother of Rawana, The king of Lanka, who was slain by Sri Ramachandra.
“I have yet to see Lanka; I met your father on some mountains hear by, and after you were born, I continued to stay here itself. After my husband was killed, only my parental place became a refuge of sorts for me. My parents are Pushkagi and Karkat. When they went to eat up Agastya the saint, he burned them to ashes with the power of his meditation and Tapas”
When he heard the story, he was at once eager to take revenge against all the Gods along with Hari. He began a severe penance or Tapas, and a pleased Brahma granted him the boon of becoming a very strong man. With this new strength, he captured all the gods including Vishnu and Indra. They were in his control. After this he won a victory over the great Shiva devotee Kamarupeshwar and captured every thing of his. He imprisoned him= Kamarupeshwar did not stop his worship of Shiva even when in prison. He performed the Puja with the same devotion, observing all the procedures his wife also joined him in this.
On the other hand, Brahma and Vishnu along with all the other gods started praying to Shankara and asking for deliverance from the wicked Demon King. Shiva assured the gods and sent them home after pacifying them.
Bheema learnt from someone that Kamarupeshwar was making preparations to kill him. On hearing about this, he went strength to the prison and started inquiring into the process and aim of his worship. When he learnt the truth from the king, the wicked Demon cailed Lord Shiva names and insulted Him and ordered the king to worship Bheema himself instead. When Kamarupeshwar resisted, Bheema attached the Linga with his sword. Before he could strike, Shiva appeared there. Asevere fight ensued in which bows, arrows, swords, axe, the disc and trident etc. were used. In the end, at the request of Narada, Lord Shankar blew a fire and burned the wicked Demon Bheema to ashes. Thus the Devas were released from their sorrows. After this, the Gods who were present there, and the saints together pleaded with Lord Shankara to remain there. In view of the welfare of the world, Shiva decided to stay there in the incarnation of Bheema Shankar JyotirLinga.
Self-emanating Mahadeva, in the shape of a chariot, the mountains have become the abode of Bhimashamar. It is also known as Rathachala. One Bhatirao Lakadhara. (wood-cutter) used to live here. Once he was cutting some wood. Just as he struck the tree with his axe, blood started to flow from the earth. Bhatirao got scared and ran away. Soon, a crowd had gathered there. Someone brought a milk cow and made it stand there. The milk that came from the cow’s udders stopped the bleeding of the earth. Surprising everyone, a glowing JyotirLinga of Shankara, emanated from the earth. People built a Temple there and installed the JyotirLinga in the Temple. This temple eventually came to be known as Bhima Shankara Temple.
In some classics like Shiva Leelamrit, Gurucharitra, Stotraratnakar etc., BheemaShankara is described as a woman. Gangadhar Pandit, Ramdas, Sridhar Swamy, Narahari Maio, Gnaneshwar, and other saints ‘describe BheemaShankara as JyotirLingas.
Historical figures like Chatrapati Shivaji and Rajaram Maharaj were !known to visit this shrine. This was a favourite place for Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath and Raghunath, Raghunath Peswa had a well dug up here. The Diwan of the Peshwar, Nana Phadanvis renovated this temple. A court hall was built by a Pune trader or Sahukar by the name Chimanji Antaji Nayik Bhindein 1437 AD.
The Temple of Bhima Shankara is built in Hemadpanthi style. It is decorated with the Dashavatar statues. These are very beautiful to look at. The Nandi temple is close to the main temple. Ahuge bell weighing 5 mans (1 man=40 seens) is located close to the temple. It has 1721 AD inscribed on it. When this bell is rung, the entire area echoes with its sound.
The. worship of BhimaShankara is done, with Rudrabhishok, Panchamrit Snan, every day. The Lord is praised in rich words. On Monday:, as well as other days, lots of devotees flock here for Darshan. A big fete (mela) takes place on Maha Shivaratri festival. The natural scenic beauty of this place is wonderful to look at.
There are many places of tourist interest near BhimaShankar temple Among these are Mokshakund, Gyankund, Gupta Bhumeshwar, SarvaTeerth Papanasini, AkhyaTeerth, Vyaghrapada Teerth, Sakshi Vinayaka, Gorakhnath Ashram, Daityasamharini Kamalaja Devis’s place, Kamalaja lake, Hanuman lake, etc are worth seeing. The Kokan Kagar or Nagphan is a very dangerous place located at a height or approximately three thousand feet, from here the entire Talahati Kokan area can be seen. It feels like we are being nir-borne. It is very difficult to see this “Kokan kagar” standing. One has to lie down on the ground, near Kagar and then only it can be seen. A person who is seeing this in a prostrate position has to be kept steady by holding his feet firmly. While watching this frightening, yet beautiful scene one has to chant “Jaya Bheema Shankar! Jaya Bheema Shankar”.