Hills, forest, waterfalls, trekking routes and an ancient Shiva temple, Bhimashankar, is a perfect union of spirituality in the wilderness. The sanctuary with an area of 131 square kms is part of the Western Ghat mountains. The sanctuary was established in 1984 enclosing nine tribal villages. The tribal communities of the Bhimashankar area, are also responsible for maintaining the natural sanctity of the place. There are some 14 sacred groves in the sanctuary, which are protected by the tribal community.
What To Experience At Bhimashankar?
The Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary is home to the state animal of Maharashtra the Indian Giant Squirrel. There are also reported spotting of leopards, panthers, hyena, jackal, wild boar, deer at the sanctuary. The Indian Pangolin is also said to be spotted here. There are numerous species of butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and insects that inhabit the forests of Bhimashankar. With its sacred groves, the sanctuary has a variety of plants and medicinal herbs, which are said to be growing since ancient times.
Bhimashankar is most famous for its Jyotirlinga Shiva Temple, which is nestled in the dense forests. The Bhimashankar Shiva temple is the 6th Jyotirlinga temple in the country and believed to be a must visit holy place for Hindus. The original temple is believed to have been built in 12th century CE and renovated in 16th century CE by the then local governing authority. The temple has been built in Nagara style or Indo-Aryan architecture. The temple gets many visitors during the Hindu month of Shravan (July-August) and on the festival of Maha Shivratri (February-March).
The Bhimashankar hill, which is at height of about 3,250 feet is also a famous place for trekkers. The steep green hills, with its rocky and curvaceous paths, are like paradise for adventurers. Many weekend treks are organized by adventure companies to Bhimashankar from Pune and Mumbai, throughout the year.
Bhimashankar is also a place where two rivers Bhima and Ghod flow down from. There is a forest interpretation centre with a library and nature-related literature, which can be quite educational for children and adults as well.
There is a picturesque Chas Kaman Dam, which is an important hydropower project in the state built over the Bhima river.
Since the sanctuary is located near the scenic Malshej Ghat, one can also explore some ancient Buddhist caves in Junnar, located two hours drive away.
When to visit?
Bhimashankar is an all-year-round open destination, but the winter months from October to February are very pleasant and enjoyable. Bhimashankar gets heavy rainfall, but if you love the rain dripped green forest cover, then visit the sanctuary from June till September. A lot of trekking activities takes place during the monsoon months. The summer months are quite hot and humid, so trekking during the months from March to May is not favorable. Nevertheless, one can always visit the temple and enjoy the peaceful jungles here. The forest reserve is open at all times but it is not advisable to visit after sunset.
How to reach and where to stay?
The nearest airport for visit to Bhimashankar is the Pune airport. For a train journey, Pune railway station is an ideal one. Bhimashankar is about 213 km from Mumbai and 110 kms from Pune by road. You can either hire a private taxi or there are many buses from Pune and Mumbai, which can take you to Bhimashankar. If you want to explore nearby places to Bhimashankar, then the best option is to hire a private cab for convenience.
Bhimashankar doesn’t have many fancy hotels or resorts, but there are some nice, clean budget-friendly hotels near Bhimashankar.
The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary with its animals, birds, natural elements and the ancient temple, is an ideal weekend holiday or 2-3-day trip. It has adventure, spirituality, and tranquillity – all in one location.