This is an easy to execute trip planner to cover the 3 Jyotirlinga temples in Maharashtra with Shirdi as the base. My trip started from Bangalore. I was travelling in 1st week of Aug – midst of monsoon during the auspicious month of Shravan and was very lucky to get excellent Darshan with no rains in the 3 days of travel. Also my Sarthi (Rahul) was a valuable asset – driver cum guide, without him I could not have accomplished so much
- Plan your travel on weekdays – weekends can be very crowded
- Avoid visiting the Jyotirlinga’s on Monday – gets very crowded
- Avoid visiting Shirdi on Thursday – It is the busiest day
Rather than hopping across multiple hotels in different cities, I made Shirdi my base.
- 12627 Karnataka express leaves Bangalore at 7.20 PM and reaches Kopargaon (KPG) at 1.45 PM. 1st AC is very convenient. Fare is ~ 3000 Rs.
- I had booked a cab for the entire trip. The drive from Kopargaon to Shirdi is 15 Km – less than 30 min.
- The Bhagyalaxmi hotel which is a 2 min walk from the Shirdi temple was my base for the next 3 nights. It is a very comfortable hotel priced ~ 2200 / night.
Day – 1 : I had booked an evening Dhoop Aarti at 7 PM. the Aarti is from 7 – 7.30 PM – entry is from Gate 1 at 6 PM. Leave phones in your room. Only wallets are allowed inside. There are 4 Aartis every day starting with the Kakad Aarti early morning , followed by one at noon , the evening Dhoop Aarti and the last one at 9.30 PM. All Aartis need to be booked online on the Saibaba Sansthan Trust Website. This link provides full detail to plan your Shirdi temple visit. Shirdi Temple Details
Imp Point – As you exit the Samadhi Mandir look for the small Dattatreya Temple – most people miss this. Also at Sri Chawadi as you come out do not miss the granite slab on which Sainath used to sit.
Day -2 : I started for Nasik at 6.30 AM and was able to complete all the sights and was back by 6.30 PM. Shirdi to Nasik is about 110 Km – 3 Hr drive. Roads were not great
- You can stop at Gondeshwar temple in Sinnar – its 26 Km ahead of Nasik. Its one of the oldest temples of Maharastra – the cluster of temples is called Shiva Panchayatan. Built in the Hemadpanthi style of architecture by Hemadri Pandit a minister of the Yadav dynasty. This temple dates back to 12th century.
- Trimbakeshwar is about 28 Km from Nasik – I was lucky that there were no rains and the crowd was sparse – had an excellent darshan in less than 1 hr. Phones are allowed inside – photography is not. The temple has a unique Jyotirlinga that is embedded inside the Yoni and unlike most Lingas here there are 3 dedicated to the Trinity – hence the name Trimbakeshwar. Locals claim that the Godavari flows below the Shiva Linga and then emerges in the Kushvart Teertha / Pond near the temple. The history of this ancient temple is associated with sage Gautama and how his prayers to resurrect a cow he killed led to Lord Shiva bringing Ganga here in the form of Godavari
- Trimbakeshwar temple is surrounded by the Bhramagiri hills. This is the source of the Godavari – a 3 Hr trek (Down 2 hrs) can take you up the hill to the source. There are steps well laid out.
- Just opposite the Trimbakeshwar temple is the Gorakhnath Ashram – a nice place to spend 15 minutes.
- Saint Nivruttinath Samadhi is also in Trimbakeshwar – he was the elder brother and Guru of Sant Jnaneshwar.
- Locals claim that the birth place of Lord Hanuman is also in Trimbakeshwar.
- Overall on a good day you can budget 3 hrs for Trimbakeshwar if you are not doing the trek.
- On the way to Panchavati we stopped at another ancient Shiva temple on the banks of the Godavari – The Someshwara temple and then headed for lunch at Shagun.
- At Panchavati the driver drops you in front of Kala Ram temple and then an Auto takes you for a spin around the 10 most important spots associated with Ramayana. This was the place where Sita was abducted by Ravana and Lakshmana chopped off the nose of Shupankaha (Thats the origin of the name Nasik). This section can be covered in less than 1 hr – the most interesting part was Sita’s Gufa.
- There are a few more areas around Nasik like the Pandavleni Caves, Saptashrungi temple etc – which are 30 – 40 km away and you need more than a day to visit these places. Igatpuri the HQ of Goenka Ji’s Vipassna Centre is also 30 Km away.
- On the way back to Shirdi we made two more stops – The Samadhi of Upasini Maharaj (a disciple of Sainath) at Sakori . And the Kalpa Vriksha Tree in Rahata – where Baba used to spend time to meet friends. The tree is unique and rare – dont miss it. Both these places are 10 Km from Shirdi and set in a rural environment.
- Last stop for the day was Popat Vada Pav centre – a roadside eatery that serves the best Vada Pav in town.
- All of the above was achieved in 12 hrs from 6.30 AM – 6.30 PM
- Some rest, a quick shower and I headed out for a late evening darshan at Shirdi temple. It was a Thursday and thats the day when you can see the Palki that travels from Dwarka Mai to Samadhi Mandir.
Day – 3 : We head to Aurangabad.
- Roads are not good and it takes us over 3 hrs to reach Aurangabad. We started the day at 7.30 AM and were back at 6.30 PM.
- 1st Stop was just outside Shirdi at Sant Janardhan Swami Maharaj Samadhi. The samadhi site also has a beautiful and ancient Shiva temple.
- After a nice breakfast of Misal Pav and Poha we reached the Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga by 10.30 AM. This is the 12th Jyotirlinga and one of the smallest. Like in Kerala men have to remove their shirts and enter the temple bare bodied. You are allowed inside the Sanctum Sanctorum and can touch the Jyotirlinga
- Right next to the Jyotirlinga is a Teertha / Pond that is not well maintained. The famous Ellora Caves is right next to the Temple and is definitely worth a visit – it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Ajanta Caves is 110 Km from here and that is a full day trip. Aurangabad also has Aurangzeb’s tomb.
- From Aurangabad we headed to the village of Nevasa – 80 Km from Aurangabad. This is where the great Saint Jnaneshwar wrote the Jnaneshwari the Marathi Translation of the Gita. Its a beautiful temple very serene and calm – no crowd.
- On the way to Nevasa do stop by at the ancient Siddheswar temple at Toka and the Rameshwaram Temple at Kai Gaon Toka. There is also a beautiful Dattatreya temple in an Ashram / Samadhi at Devgarh (Guru Dev Dutt / Kisan Giri Baba)
- Aurangabad – Nevasa – Shirdi is like a triangle, we were back at Shirdi by 6.30 PM – and on the way we stopped for some delicious street food Pav Bhaji at Sai Prerna (It is right next next to the Vada Pav Stall)
Day – 4 : We head to Bhimashankar.
- There are two routes – one Via Shani Shingnapur – Ahmednagar highway and the other by the Nasik Pune Road. We took the Nasik Pune highway and zipped by at 100 + km. Its a 4 1/2 hr drive to cover the 250 + km from Pune to Bhimashankar that included a stop for authentic Marathi breakfast at Rajkamal Kolhapuri Misal. This route is very scenic
- The last section of the drive to Bhimashankar is thru the verdant W Ghats. There are no Hair pin bends – but the entire stretch is full of water bodies, misty hills – I was travelling in Aug the middle of Monsoon and it was beautiful. Very lucky that it was not raining.
- Given its proximity to Pune & Mumbai – Bhimashankar can be very crowded on weekends. This was the only mistake in my travel planning – I reached Bhimashankar on Saturday morning at 10.30 and was faced with huge crowds and a potential wait time of 3 hrs. Our Innova was stopped a few kms ahead and we had to take the bus to the main shrine. By the grace of Lord Shiva I got lucky and a local lad helped me with an excellent darshan in 10 min. Here also you are allowed to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum and touch the Shiva Lingam.
- The drive from Bhimashankar to Pune is 125 Km – once you reach the city outskirts you slow down. It took us nearly 4 hrs to reach Pune. A quick stop at my friends place where he treated me to some lovely local homemade snacks and then I headed out to the Airport for my 7 PM flight.
Other Points to plan your travel
- Arvind the proprietor of Sai Aditya Tours & travels helped me plan the trip. Making Shirdi the base was a great tip. My driver Rahul was amazing. If you book with Arvind insist on Rahul to be your driver. Arvind Ji – 99705 75677.
- When in Maharashtra eat local food. Dont try Idli / Dosa here – feast on Vada Pav, Misal Pav, Poha etc
- Network was excellent almost all through the trip – barring a few hrs from Bhimashankar to Pune.
- Thanks to my driver Rahul a few more future trip ideas opened up in Maharashtra
- Nav Nath temple tour – can be done in 1 day from Shirdi.
- Most Marathis claim that there are 5 Jyotirlinga’s in Maharastra – the other two being Nagnath in Aundh & Parli Baijnath. These are farther off from the 3 that I covered.
- The train to Kopargaon from Bangalore stops at Sholapur in the morning at 6.30 AM – this is the base for the Samadhi and Ashram of the great Saint Akallkot Maharaj – Swami Samarth
- Kolhapur Lakshmi temple is also a must visit – its about 220 Km from Pune.
- The Vittala temple at Pandharpur and the Dattatreya Temple in Gangapur can be covered together