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The Complete Story of Triambakeshwar Jyotirling and the Origin Story of Godavari

Updated: Apr 21

Triambakeshwar, one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas, is located in the Nashik District of Maharashtra. A puranic legend links the origin of this Jyotirlinga to that of the River Godavari. Here is the story that reminds us that true devotion and goodness always wins the Lord’s blessing.

Indian Temples Stories

The great sage Maharshi Gautama and his wife Ahilya lived in an ashram in the region of Nashik District in modern Maharashtra. Once a terrible drought occurred in this region lasting a hundred years. Distressed by the suffering of people, Rishi Gautama started worshipping God Varuna, the god of oceans and rain. Gautama’s penance pleased Lord Varuna, and he appeared to the sage, offering him a boon. The sage bowed in reverence and said, “Deva, it has not rained here for many years, causing terrible suffering to people and other beings. I request you to make it rain here.”

Though Varuna was pleased with Gautama, he could not grant his boon. Varuna said, “O Maharishi, I cannot make it rain here by going against the command of the gods. Ask for something else.” Maharshi Gautama, wanting to help the people, said, “O deva, you are the god of water. If you cannot make it rain here, please give me divine water that is everlasting and imperishable.” Lord Varuna agreed to Gautama’s request and filled up an arm deep hole with divine perennial water. Rishi Gautama started distributing the water to the local people and the region became prosperous again.

Many brahmans and rishis lived in the ashram of Maharshi Gautama. One day, these rishis became angry with Maharshi Gautama on the provocation of their wives. They started worshipping Lord Ganesha to harm Gautama. Pleased with their worship, Lord Ganesha appeared to them and offered a boon. The rishis replied that they wanted Lord Ganesha to enable them to humiliate Gautama and throw him out of the ashram. Their request did not please Lord Ganesha. He told them that what they were asking was evil. However, the brahmans were blinded by their fury and kept insisting. Ganesha was obligated to heed the prayers of his devotees. “What you have prayed and asked for, I will do. What is destined will happen,” Lord Ganesha said and disappeared.

Following this event, Lord Ganesha appeared in a field of Rishi Gautama in the form of a cow and started grazing on the field. When Gautama saw the cow eating the crops, he threw a bunch of grass at the cow, trying to shoo it away. The moment the grass touched the cow, it fell to the earth and died. Gautama was confused and dismayed that he had caused the death of a cow, which is a sin. The brahmans and their wives rushed out, shouting, “What have you done, Rishi Gautama!” They rebuked Rishi Gautama and Ahilya and asked them to leave the ashram. “With your sins, you can no longer pray to the gods,” said the Brahmans. Humiliated, sad and hurt, Rishi Gautama and his wife left that place.

Gautama and Ahilya went far away and built an ashram for themselves. However, the brahmans came there too and prohibited Gautama from doing any rituals. Rishi Gautama implored them for his purification and asked for forgiveness. Moved with his humble and ardent prayers, the brahmans said, “As an atonement for your sin, you must go around Brahmagiri mountain 11 times. Then get the sacred river Ganga here and take a bath in her water. Then, make one crore earthen shivalingas and worship Lord Shiva. Only then will you be purified and rid of your sins.”

Rishi Gautama agreed to the conditions set down by the rishis and went round Brahmagiri 11 times. Together with his wife, he made earthen shivalingas and worshipped Lord Shiva. Pleased with their worship, Lord Shiva appeared with his ganas and said, “I am pleased with your supreme devotion. Ask for whatever you want.” Overjoyed at the divine vision of the beautiful form of Lord Shiva, Gautam chanted a eulogy and requested Shiva to free him of his sin.

Lord shiva said, “O Rishi, you are sinless. The wicked and ungrateful rishis tricked you, and they will never achieve redemption for this.” Gautama was astonished to hear the words of Shiva and replied, “O Lord Maheshwar, those rishis did me a big favour. I had the divine vision of you only because of their wicked behaviour!” Lord Shiva, delighted with his reply, said, “O Maharishi! You are blessed! I am very pleased with you, ask me for a boon.” Gautam fell at the feet of Lord Shiva, and said, “If you are pleased with me, then bring Ganga here and thus benefit all the people, O Lord!”

Lord Shiva took out essence from earth and heaven and gave it to Gautama in the form of water. This water, River Ganga, assumed the form of a divine, beautiful woman, and appeared there. Rishi Gautama worshipped Devi Ganga with devotion. Shiva said to Ganga, “You have made all the three realms pure, now make Gautama pure. After that, instead of going back, stay here till Kali Yuga.” Devi Ganga said, “O Lord Maheshwar, I will live here on earth only if my glory is more than all other rivers and if you also remain here with Ambika and the ganas.” Lord Shiva replied, “O Ganga, you are blessed, and I am not separate from you. Nevertheless, I will do as you say and stay here.”

By this time, all the devatas and rishis arrived there. They sang eulogies and worshipped Lord Shiva and Devi Ganga and requested them to reside there forever. Accepting the pleas of the devotees, Lord Shiva and Devi Ganga stayed there eternally. Ganga became famous in this region by the name of Gautami, and later, Godavari. The luminous Jyotirlinga of Shiva, called Triambak, is enshrined in the Triambakeshwar Temple, which still stands on the bank of River Godavari.

Things to know about Triambakeshwar Jyotirling

Who constructed Triambakeshwar temple ?

The temple was constructed by third Peshwa Balaji Bajirao (1740-1760) on the site of an old temple. Trimbakeshwar Shivling Temple is maintained by Trimbakeshwar Temple Trust. The trust has also constructed a guest house Shivprasad Bhakta Niwas which has 24 rooms (2 bedded, 3 bedded, 5 bedded), conference hall, lift, hot water facilities.

How to reach Triambakeshwar temple ?

Closest city to the temple is Nashik which is around 28 km from the temple. Nashik is well connected to all major cities of India though rail, road and air networks

Why is Lord Shiva called Triambakeshwar ?

The main feature of Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is that the jyotirlinga has three faces representing 3 gods - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. They all exist within the hollow space within the Shivalinga giving Shiva the name of Triambakeshwar (three lords)

What is the best time to visit Triambakeshwar temple ?

October to Feb is the best time to visit the temple. Some people also like to visit the temple during the rainy season due to brilliant weather and greenery surrounding the temple

How to book online darshan for Triambakeshwar temple ?

Please visit the following link to book puja in the temple premesis and also for online darshan

Read origin stories of all 12 jyotirlings


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