Updated: Jul 11
Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, is enshrined in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri Hills, near Pune in Maharashtra. The panoramic hills, the grand architecture of the temple, and the gracefully divine atmosphere make this a magnificent Jyotirlinga pilgrimage. Know more about the story of the terrible battle related to the origin of this Jyotirlinga.
The story begins after Lord Rama had killed Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. In those times, a powerful rakshasa Bheem lived on the Sahya Mountains with his mother. This area is presently known as the Sahyadri Range, located in Maharashtra. One day, the strong and mighty Bheem asked his mother, Karkati, “O mother, who is my father and where is he? Why do you live here alone on these hills?” Karkati replied, “Son, your father was the great Kumbhakarna, the younger brother of the valiant King Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. Shri Rama killed your father and his brother Ravana. Before you were born, I had a husband whose name was Viradha, but he was also killed by Shri Rama.”
Bheem was enraged to hear the words of his mother. To him, it seemed that Shri Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, had caused his mother terrible misery and loss. Bheem thought about how he could avenge his father’s death by destroying Vishnu. With such a resolution in mind, Bheem left home to start a penance that would help him achieve his goal.
Bheem started a severe penance, praying to Lord Brahma. He stood on one foot, staring unblinkingly at the sun for a thousand years, till a blazing light emerged from his head that threatened to scorch the devatas. The devatas ran to Lord Brahma to avoid getting burnt down and requested him to grant Bheem whatever he was asking for, so that he would stop meditating with such intensity. Lord Brahma appeared to him to answer his prayers. He said, “O Bheem, I am pleased with your worship. You may ask for whatever you want.” Bheem bowed to Brahma and replied, “O Lord, if you are pleased with my devotion, then give me incomparable strength.” Brahma blessed him with the same and went back to his abode.
With his newly gained unmatched strength, Bheem started on a destructive rampage, wreaking havoc on the world. With his new indomitable strength, Bheem first conquered Indra and other gods and evicted them from their abodes. The gods went to Lord Vishnu, imploring him to save them from Bheem. Lord Vishnu started fighting with Bheem but could not overpower his might. With the defeat of Lord Vishnu, Bheem established his supremacy and control over Devalok (heaven).
But Bheem was not satisfied with the bloodshed he has caused. He started on a quest of conquering the earth (Prithvilok) and started by attacking Sudakshina, the valiant King of Kamarupa, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. A ferocious battle ensued between Bheem and King Sudakshina, but the boon obtained from Brahma had made Bheem undefeatable. Bheem defeated King Sudakshina, took over the whole kingdom of Kamarupa, and imprisoned the king in an underground dungeon. Even in the prison, King Sudakshina created a Shivalinga and started worshipping Lord Shiva.
After conquering Kamarupa, Bheem overpowered all the rishis (sages) and created more and more destruction around the world. The devatas and rishis created an earthen Shivalinga on the banks of River Mahakosi and started praying to Lord Shiva for saving them and putting an end to the rakshasa. Lord Shiva was pleased with their penance, and said, “O Vishnu, O Indra, O Devas, O Rishis and Mahamunis, I am pleased with you. What wish do you have that I can fulfil?” The devatas replied, “Oh supreme Lord, Bheem, the son of Kumbhakarna and Karkati has become powerful by the boon of Lord Brahma. He is destroying Swargalok and Prithvilok, torturing us devatas and rishis endlessly. We pray to you to destroy this evil Bheema rakshasa.”
Lord Shiva said, “The ruler of Kamarupa, King Sudakshina, is my greatest devotee. Give him a message from me, and your problem will be solved. Tell him he is a dear devotee of Shiva, and he must continue to pray to Shiva with devotion and love. Bheem has become arrogant because of the boon he got from Brahma, so he has humiliated you, but now I will kill him.” Then the rishis and devatas went to King Sudakshina and told him everything that Lord Shiva had said and returned to their ashramas. Lord Shiva came with his Ganas to where King Sudakshina was, and started living nearby, secretly. Ganas are the attendants of Shiva who live on Mount Kailash with him.
Word reached Bheem, when someone told him that the king was doing some worship in the dungeon for his destruction. Enraged, Bheema drew out his powerful sword and rushed to the prison to kill Sudakshina. He burst into the prison and lunged at the Shivalinga, striking it with his sword. But the sword could not even touch the Shivalinga; instead, Lord Shiva emerged from the Linga in his mighty form and said, “I have appeared here to protect my devotee!”
An intense battle ensued between Shiva and Bheema, which made the whole universe tremble. As the world tottered on the verge of complete destruction, Sage Narada arrived there and requested Shiva to not prolong the battle. “O Lord, why to stab a blade of grass with a dagger? Please kill the demon soon,” Narada pleaded. Lord Shiva let out a humkara (a humm sound) and immediately destroyed all the rakshasas in the world, reducing them to ashes.
The flames of Lord Shiva’s fury spread from forest to forest and the ashes of the rakshasas dispersed all over the world. With the end of evil, the entire world healed, the gods and rishis were relieved, and crops started growing anew. The gods and sages prayed to Lord Shiva to stay there forever for the benefit of humankind. “Your presence here will give happiness to people. Everyone will be graced with your Darshana (view). You will be famous as Bhimashankar and worshipping you will grant the wishes of your devotees. Your jyotirlinga will be eternally worshipped and will continue to remove the suffering and obstacles of all people,” they pleaded.
Granting the request of his devotees, Lord Shiva remained there as the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga. It is said that after the battle, the sweat from Lord Shiva’s body gave rise to the Bhima or Bhimarathi River that originates nearby. An interesting thing is that there is a shrine in the temple premises for Shaakini and Daakini, the two Shiva Ganas, who assisted Shiva in the battle.
Bhimashankar has been declared a wildlife sanctuary; it is a reserved forest area, and as it is part of the Western Ghats, it is rich in flora and fauna. The state animal of Maharashtra, the Malabar Giant Squirrel, is a rare animal found here.