Tryambakeshwar, 30 km from Nasik in Maharashtra is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is here that the river Godavari is born. This is an ancient shrine, but what we see today built by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century. This great JyotirLinga on the banks of Gautami has a unique form. The Lord in this temple’s Grabhagriha is not worshipped with Abhisheka with water (Jalahari) unlike others. There is just a bottom part of the pounding stone (Ukhali), instead, like a hole. In that hole there are three Lingas shaped like the Thumbs. Hence Tryambakeshwara. Of these three Lingas, the Linga of Mahesha has a constant shower of water from an orifice above. It is a natural source of water coming down as Abhisheka for the Lord.
Legend has it that sage Gowtama resided on the Brahmagiri hill here with his wife Ahalya, and seeing his unflinching devotion received a boon from Varuna - a bottomless pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of foodgrains. This of course enraged other sages who conspired for a cow to enter his granary, and caused it to die as Gowtama attempted to ward it off with a bunch of Darbha grass. Because of this misfortune Gowtama therefore worshipped Shiva, to invoke the Goddess Ganga down to his hermitage to purify the premises. Ganga came down as Godavari, and Shiva took up an abode here in the form of Tryambaka. Interestingly, locals refer to the river here as Ganga and not as Godavari.
Legend has it that Brahma and Vishnu searched in vain to discover the origin of Shiva who manifested himself as a cosmic column of fire. Brahma lied that he had seen the top of the column of fire, and was hence cursed that he would not be worshipped on earth. In turn Brahma cursed Shiva that he would be pushed underground. Accordingly, Shiva came down under the Brahmagiri hill in the form of Tryambakeshwar. The shrine enjoyed the patronage of the Peshwas.
The Nagara style of architecture is what typifies this temple made of black stone. It is enclosed in a spacious courtyard and the sanctum (internally a square and externally a stellar structure) houses a small Shivalingam - Tryambaka. The sanctum is crowned with a graceful tower ,a giant amalaka and a golden kalasha.
In front of the garbagriha and the antarala is a mandap with doors on all four sides. Three out of the four doorways are covered with porches, and the openings of these porches are ornamented with pillars and arches. The roof of the mandapam is formed by curvilinear slabs rising in steps. The entire structure is ornamented with sculptural work featuring running scrolls, floral designs, figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals. The Shivalingam is seen in a depression on the floor of the sanctum with water constantly oozing out from the top of the Shivalingam. Usually, the Shivalingam is covered with a silver mask, and on festive occasions with a golden mask with five faces, each with a golden crown. The silver mask is equivalent to the processional images seen in South Indian temples.
Brahmagiri: Original Ganges and Trimbak Tirtha are on Brahmagiri mountain adjacent to Trimbakeshwar temple. Brahmagiri is considered as a huge form of Lord Shiva and hence the mountain climbing was considered as a sin. Godavari is flowing in three directions on the mountain. The one flowing towards east is called Godavari, one flowing towards the south is called Vaitarna and the one flowing towards the west is called the west-flowing Ganga and meets Godavari near Chakra Tirth. River Ahilya meets Godavari in front of the Trimbakeshwar temple. Childless families worship at the Ahilya sangam and it is believed that they do get a child The first peak of Sahyadri is called Brahmadri. The mountain is 1800 feet high . Its height from sea level is 4248 feet. Five peaks of this mountain are called Sadyo-Jata, Vamdev, Aghora, Ishana and Tat-Purusha and are considered as five mouths of the Lord Shiva and they are worshipped.
Gangadwar: Gangadwar is half way to Brahmagiri mountain. There is a temple of Ganga, now known as Godavari River. Ganga appears first time here, after it vanishes from Brahmagiri Mountain. Godavari comes to Gangadwar from Brahmadri. Gangadwar is one of the five tirthas. There is an idol of Ganga and near her feet is a stone of the shape of cow's head through which Ganga water is flowing drop by drop.
Nearby is Kolambika Devi, Varah tirtha further on is the cave of Gautam for practicing penance where there are 108 Shivalingas. A little further on is Gorakh Gumpha, a place where Gorakhnath practiced penance, the idol is worth seeing. After descending a few steps, Ganga flows from the roots of Audumbar tree. This is known as Rama-Laxman tirtha. Here Rama stopped for a few days and did Shraddha ceremony in memory of Dasharatha. There is Rama temple and Gopalrao Ghanekar built in 1857. Ganga Sagar is a big tank in the flow of river.
Bilwa Tirtha: Bilwa Tirtha is to the north of Nila mountain. It is one of the five tirthas. There is a temple of Bilvakeshwar Mahadev.
Gautam Tirtha: Gautam Tirtha is to the south of the Ganges and the Trimbakeshwar temple. Varun being pleased with Gautam gave this tirtha as a permanent source of water. To the north is Gautameshwar and to the south is Rameshwar Mahadev.
Indra Tirtha: Indra Tirtha is to the east and near Kushavarta. This is known as Shakra-Kupa for Indra wiped off his curse given by sage Gautam for enjoying Ahilya, by a bath in this tirtha. On the bank of the tirtha is a beautiful temple of Indreshwar Mahadev with an idol of Indra seated on an Airavata elephant. Besides this there are Vishwanath tirtha, Nilambar tirtha or Moti-tank, Mukund tirtha, Prayag tirtha and Veni-Madhav and other Mahadev temples on the bank of Prayag tirtha. Here is a matha of Nirvana Sampradaya (sect) Nilganga tirtha and nilsangameshwar Mahadev temple are on the north bank of Godavati.
Ahilya Sangam tirtha: To force Gautam to give up his penance, a friend of Ganga named Jatila took the form of Ahilya, Gautam's wife. Gautam could make it out and cursed her to be transformed into a river. Then she begged his pardon. Gautam granted her pardon and said that she will be freed of her curse on her joining with Godavari river. This is the Ahilya-Sangam tirtha where Ganga and Godavari join. There is a temple of Sangmeshwar Mahadev.
Ashta tirtha yatra and pancha tirtha yatra: Two yatras (pilgrimage) are performed here.
Ashta tirtha yatra including Ballal tirtha, the sacred place of Gunesh Ganapati, Varansi tirtha, Manakarnika tirtha, Ganga sagar, Rama-Laxman tirtha, Shali tirtha, Kanchan tirtha and Ahilya-Sangam tirtha.
Pancha tirtha yatra includes Gangadwar, Kushavarta, Bilwaka, Nilparavata and Kanakhala tirtha. It is believed that one who takes a bath in the above is never reborn.
To Nil mountain, Shreemant Seth Kapol has built about 200 steps. On the summit is the temple of Nilamba Matamba Devi, further on is an ancient temple of Nilkantheshwar Mahadev and an idol of Parashuram. There is an old akhada or matha of the Gosavi sect and an ancient temple of Sadguru Dattatreya.
Pradakshina: There are two pradakshinas (ring routes) in this kshetra - one round the Brahmagiri and the other one round Hariharagiri. Pilgrim has to go for pradakshina with holy garment early in the morning visiting and bathing in various tirthas. The tour is to be completed in either a day, three days or five days.