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Monsoon has officially blessed the city! This is a perfect time for your family to head to Bhimashankar for a weekend road trip. That’s what my family did recently. Located at a distance of about 120 kms from Pune, Bhimashankar is popularly known for its Shiva temple, which is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. Apart from being a famous pilgrimage, what makes Bhimashankar an interesting place to visit for your children is that it is a wildlife sanctuary too. And, of course, there is the monsoon drenched landscape enroute to Bhimashankar to take your breath away.
If you are planning a same day return, I would advise you to hit the road early in the morning, around 6:00 am or so. That way, you can skip the peak city traffic and also take frequent pit stops on your way to Bhimashankar.
After you leave the city limits, your first stop should be at Rajgurunagar. Your children would be fascinated to know that this place is the birthplace of Shivaram Hari Rajguru who accompanied Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev in India’s struggle for freedom. You can think about playing a family quiz around Indian Independence or famous freedom fighters, while you take a chai – pani break here.
The drive on the scenic route after Rajgurunagar is an experience that you will cherish forever, and make your kids fall in love with nature. The crystal white waterfalls cascading from the verdant Sahyadri range draped in the green carpet with the sound of gurgling Bhima river reverberating in your ears – you would want to cuddle Mother Nature after every few kms during your journey. Your children can expect to put their colour vocabulary to test, as they come across every possible shade of green merged with the splashes of yellow and brown on the both sides of the road.
Before 5 kms stretch from Bhimashankar, you would drive on a bumpy, winding path, through the wild forests of Bhimashankar, and may get a chance to spot a rich variety of avifauna. After an hour or so, you will finally reach the Bhimashankar temple.
There is a very limited parking space outside the temple, so you might have to wait to find a decent spot for your vehicle. Now, what we had not expected at the main entrance of the temple was a flight of about 200 stairs to climb downwards! But honestly, it was kind of a fun mini trek, one that my five year old daughter enjoyed too. You would hardly feel tired because you would be too busy to stealing glances at the little shops on the either side of the steps, selling various puja offerings, toys, snacks, flowers, apparels and other knick knacks. Save your shopping for later, I would say.
Though the architecture of the temple is not something that would leave a tourist in awe, but the religious significance makes up for it. You would need to stand in a long queue, which surprisingly moves quite fast. Until and unless you are doing an elaborate ceremony, you would hardly be allowed a minute to seek the blessing of Lord Shiva.
A giant bell in front of the temple is a also a major highlight here. The historians believe that this bell symbolizes the victory of Peshwas over the Portuguese at Vasai Fort. A fact that your children could be encouraged to explore further from their history books!
On your way up through the stairs, you can shop for local handicrafts, exotic flowers and fruits or medicinal herbs. Since Bhimashankar is home to a rich biodiversity, you would notice some rare and beautiful species of flowers here. Another must do here is to indulge your taste buds in corn boiled on the knob, jamuns and roasted peanuts. Believe me, the earthy taste of these munchy snacks would make you ask for more or take them back home.
By 1:00 pm, we concluded our temple visit and decided to return to Pune, albeit after refueling our body with food. Surprisingly, there are hardly any decent restaurants or hotels within a radius of 7-8 kms of the temple. Thanks to the state government’s efforts to preserve the natural beauty of Bhimashankar and protect its wildlife, this tourist destination is still a far cry from commercialization.
The local residents recommended us to visit Blue Mormon Resort or Hotel Natraj to curb our hunger pangs. In case you want an overnight stay at Bhimashankar, it is advisable to do advance booking, as these two are the only prominent places here to seek accommodation and they mostly remain fully booked around this season.
More to see and do
Hanuman Lake: A family picnic spot.
Gupt Bhimashankar: A sight, where the original Shivalinga is believed to have been discovered.
Jungle Walk: To spot the state animal ‘Shekaru’, the Giant Indian Squirrel.
Nagphani: The highest point in Bhimashankar that resembles a cobra’s head.
Kid – friendly Travel Tips
1. The trip is ideal for 4+ years children.
2. Though the monsoon is the best time to visit Bhimashankar, avoid planning a trip during the heavy rains.
3. Carry enough water and ample snacks. In fact, it would be a good idea to pack a lunch box for the little ones as you wouldn’t come across many restaurants to stop by.
4. Wear sports shoes or comfortable footwear and carry along your raincoats and umbrellas.
5. An extra pair of clothes for every member, just in case you get drenched in the rains.