My Mom wanted to visit Shirdi for a long time and finally it all fell into place in month of September 2008. My dad suggested we add a few more on the itinerary as we were traveling a distance. That is how Shani shignapur ,Bhimashankar,Trimbakeshwar and Nashik got included in our trip.
Sugarcane juicer- The authentic way!
We took an overnight train to Kopargaon. Shirdi is about 14 kms from the station. This was one of the rare trips where we had not booked a hotel. We just walked into couple of them at walkable distance from the Mandir and narrowed upon one.
Shirdi has to be experienced and not just read about. If one has paid attention, Saburi and Shraddha are two words promptly displayed in all Sai temples. The cardinal principles of Sai path are patience and faith. Here we were in a line to get into the temple to seek blessings of a saint but I certainly did not see one of his principles being followed. Yes there was a lot of chanting and devotion around but no patience to wait calmly in line. I really don't understand why rituals are given so much prominence in Hinduism but not its principles. Let me know if you have an answer or disagree.
After Shirdi , we rented a car and set off towards Shani Shignapur and then to Bhimashankar. Bhimashankar temple is situated in the ghats of sahyadri hills and the drive was one the most scenic ones i have taken.We reached the destination at around noon but were greeted with cool temperature and misty surroundings.It took my breath away. Once again my cell phone came to rescue as i don't carry my camera on pilgrimages.
Parts of Bhimashankar temple was built in 18th century and it is one of the 12 Jyothirlings. I did'nt know that at few Jyothirlings, we can perform abhishekh for deity hands on. In the grabha griha we sit around jyothirling and follow instructions from the priest and perform all the rituals by ourselves. It took me some time for the whole thing to sink in as this was the first for me. Wow! Did i like the experience? Yes, i loved it. Does it contradict my earlier remark on rituals. No i don't think so. Rituals can be one of the paths to something infinite but it cannot be infinite itself.
The temple being in a valley, as we started climbing up to the parking lot, i came across something interesting. I saw stones/rocks of various sizes piled up one on top of the other to form a pyramid.I was curious as to why this was done. I got to know the stones pyramid represented the physical house that you desire. Did i have a desire to have my own house? Well i did put together my own little pyramid. Time will tell if does translate into realty or is it reality.
After a wonderful afternoon, we drove up to Trimbakeshwar. Though the journey was long, the good roads made it easy. We stayed at MTDC holiday resort, the only hotel available around this place. As with any government run hotels, this was just good enough to crash and head out the next morning.
The temple is one the 12 jyothrilings and breath taking in architecture set amid rolling hills. The work of constructing the present temple of Trimbakeshwar was begun by Shrimant Balaji Bajirao in 1755 and was completed in 1786. I have only one word to describe its architecture and the feeling associated with this temple- Amazing!
Our next stop over was at Nashik where i had an unforgettable experience. Nashik is by the banks of river Godavari and is supposed to be panchavati mentioned in Ramayan.As nashik does not allow outside taxis to ferry passenger, we hired an auto to take us around the place. we visited few temples like kalaram temple and many more. But the most interesting visit was to sita gumpha. As the name suggests a very very narrow staircase leads you down 1-2 floors below ground level. You are literally sliding horizontally down the staircase and not stepping down. At the end of the "stairs" you reach another small little cave about 4ft high where you can barely stand up.For the first time in my life i felt claustrophobic. really claustrophobic.I just could not wait to get back into the sunlight through the narrow staircase. I think that was one of the most uncomfortable experiences i have ever had in my life. With it behind us,we got back to Shirdi and the next day started back to Bangalore.
Even the journey back home was not usual.The 2 hour delay of our return train became 4 hours, and then 6 and finally after 8 hours of waiting in a small nondescript station we boarded our train.I have never had such an eventful pilgrimage.
Location: Shirdi, Shani Signapur, Bhimashankar, Trimbakeshwar, Nashik- Maharastra
Date of travel: September 2008
Tip: Always call ahead and check if the train/ plane/bus is on time.
Must do: All the temples!
First: Perform Abhishek at a temple !
The travel connection: Relook at your religion.