Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
Lord Parashurama ("Rama with the axe") is the 6th Avatar of Lord Vishnu. In Hindu mythology he is one of the Immortals, the others being Lord Hanumana, Bibhishana (the younger brother of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka), Ashwathama (the son of Dronacharya of the Mahabharata fame), Kripacharya (the teacher of the Pandavas and Kauravas) and King Mahabali. Two other personalities are also described as immortal, though they are not usually included in the list. They are Jambubana and Kak Bhushandi.
There are many stories about Lord Parashurama, the most widely known among those is that he single handedly killed the members of the Kshatriya clan 21 times.
He met Lord Rama in Treta Yuga and Lord Krishna in Dwapara Yuga.
He is also credited with recovering the elongated strip of land in between the sea and the Paschim Ghat mountains extending from Gokarna in the north to Kanyakumari in the south (which is known as "Parashurama Kshetra" - the land of Parashurama) from the sea.
Of the lesser known stories about Lord Parashurama, one is important. The story is about how he killed an evil demon called Tunga.
The place where he killed Tunga, and established a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva named Tungareshwar is situated in a densely forested 2177 feet high hill near the town of Vasai in Maharashtra. The place is also called Tungareshwar.
This article is on a trip to Tungareshwar.
Tungareshwar is located on on a hill or high plateau of the Paschim Ghat mountains in Palghar district of Maharashtra. It is about 3 km from Vasai "Fata" (crossing) on National Highway 48 (NH-48). Vasai is a town and railway station on the Western line of Mumbai suburban railway.
It is situated inside Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, among dense forest and undulating hills.
Its Geographical co-ordinates are 19 degrees 24'59.4'', 72 degrees 54'05''.
As already said, Lord Parashurama killed the demon Tunga here. He also meditated here, and it is a part of the Parashurama Kshetra.
It is said that Adi Shankaracharya visited this place and meditated at a place nearby now known as Sopara or Nalsopara.
There is the Ashram of a famous saint Balyogi Sadanand here.
Journey to Tungareshwar
The journey to Tungareshwar starts from the "Tungareshwar Gate" situated at Vasai "Fata" (road crossing). The gate is a big one, with inscription of the name Tungareshwar. From this point, the distance of Tungareshwar temple is about 3 km.
The road is partly metaled, partly unmetalled and muddy. It passes through dense forest of Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, and is motorable, though majority of visitors walk in this route.
There are two small rivulets en route which are mostly dry except in the rainy season. Even then cars and other vehicles can cross those, albeit with some difficulty unless the vehicle is a 4-wheel drive one.
Some distance from the gate, there is a Forest Office Checkpost, but that is of no concern to the ordinary visitors. Though it is written in some internet sites that an Entrance Fee of INR 53.00 is applicable to all except on Mondays when it is free, the author did not find anyone collecting the fees even when it was not a Monday.
The forest is dense with several varieties of trees with different hues of green. Though it is a Wildlife Sanctuary, I did not see any wildlife except some monkeys and few varieties of local birds.
The road ends near the Tungareshwar temple complex. There is a car parking area there. From this point the main temple dedicated to Tungareshwar Shiva is about 100 meters only, and one has to walk this path.
There is a beautiful garden with different varieties of flowering trees by the side of the path to the temple.
Tungareshwar temple complex
There are 3 temples in the complex, the largest and most important one being the temple dedicated to Lord Tungareshwar. The other two important temples are the "Khodiyar Mata" temple (a little distance from the Shiva temple) and "Jagmata" (Durga) temple at the top of the hill.
Tungareshwar Shiva temple
This is the main temple here, said to be established by Lord Parashurama himself after killing Tunga the demon. The tall colorful "Shikhara" (spire) of the temple with several flags and a trident on the top is visible from a distance.
The temple has an arched gate, beyond which a flight of stairs descends to a tall "Deepa-stambha" (lamp-stand), now colored blue. It has a large number of small shelve-like niches for placing the "Diya"-s or lamps, and it would surely be a majestic sight when all lamps are lighted.
Beyond this point again a short flight of stairs descends to the temple.
The temple is constructed in slightly modified North Indian style. There is a flat-roofed big hall ("Mandapa") with many decorated pillars. The ceiling is decorated with many paintings depicting floral designs and religious motifs. In the front part of the hall is the stone idol of Nandi the Bull, the "Vahana" or mount of Lord Shiva in the sitting posture facing the Shiva Lingam in the sanctum.
Several metallic bells hang from the ceiling of the hall.
Beyond the hall, there is a small ante-chamber which leads to the sanctum.
On either side of the entrance to the sanctum there are two idols, one of them is of Lord Vishnu, the other of Lord Hanumana.
The sanctum houses the Shiva Lingam, which is stone-built and rather small in size. A huge snake made of silver is coiled around the body of the Shiva Lingam.
The inside walls of the sanctum is decorated with thousands of pieces of glass and mirror like the decorations of Jain temples. There some pictures of Shiva-Parvati and Lord Ganesha on the wall.
There is a small temple near this which houses Shri Botuk Bhairava and Bhairavi Bhavani.
Khodiyar Mata temple
A little distance from the Shiva temple and halfway up the top of the hill there is a small temple dedicated to Khodiyar Mata, a folk goddess (whose Vahana or mount is a crocodile) who is highly revered in Rajasthan, Gujarat and adjoining areas.
The standing idol of Khodiyar Mata with a pleasing face is beautiful to look at.
Jagmata ("Mother of the Universe") is a form of Goddess Durga. The temple dedicated to Jagmata is situated at the top of the hill. There is a long flight of stairs to this temple.
One point of caution - there are many wild monkeys in this part of the area, who though docile mostly, are attracted by bags or packets in the hands of the visitors, and may try to snatch those items.
The temple of Jagmata is fairly big in size, with a large decorated "Mandapa" (hall) with a beautiful brass lion (the mount of the Goddess) sitting at the centre, and the sanctum housing two idols. The upper one is that of the 8-armed Goddess riding a lion. It is made of white marble, and presumably a new one. But an additional stone idol is placed on the floor. This idol is draped in clothes with only the face visible, and the face is decayed by age, thus making the identification difficult. Most probably this is the old idol of the Goddess.
Behind the temple, a number of stone slabs are kept along the boundary wall. Each of these slabs has figures, presumably of mythological characters, in relief. This is rather interesting as the slabs look very old. Are those from an earlier temple vanquished by Time?
There is an Ashrama belonging to the sages of "Panch Dashanaam Juna Akhara". There is the "Samadhi Mandir" (mausoleum) of one particular sage Shree Bihari Giriji Maharaj. The wooden slippers used by him is in display.
The word "Kund" means a small pool of water or pond which may be natural or man-made. On one side of the main temple, there is an artificial "Kund" named "Rama Kund" where the visitors can take a dip before entering the temple.
Unfortunately for me, that "Kund" was totally dry during my visit.
Some practical points
There are a number of eateries near the temple serving tea, coffee, cold drinks and snacks. Bottled water is also available.
The temple of Tungareshwar is important to the devotees, but it also carries a lot of attractions for the general visitors. Especially, the 3 km stretch of the road from the gate to the temple passing through the beautiful forest of the Wildlife Sanctuary is really attractive.
Different internet sites including Wikipedia.
All photos are by the author.
Date of visit : 5th June, 2022
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee