Location: Mahabaleshwar (Satara District), Maharashtra
Altitude: 1372 meters above the sea level
Mahabaleshwar is the highest point of the Western Ghats and lies amidst the Sahyadris. It overlooks the Krishna and the Koyna valleys. The place is one of the most visited hill-stations in the state of Maharashtra.
Mahabaleshwar is known for its two ancient temples – the Krishna or Panchganga temple and the Old Mahabaleshwar temple.
Religion and Mythology
Mahabaleshwar derives its name from Lord Mahabali (Lord Shiva), who is enshrined in the form of a naturally occurring (swayamboo) lingam in the shape of a Rudraksha seed. This lingam is considered more sacred than the 12 jyothirlingams. It is also called Trigunatmaka as it is believed to represent Brahma, Vishnu as well as Shiva.
The Panchganga temple is believed to be the site of origin of five rivers. There is a legend connected to this origin. On this site long ago Lord Brahma along with the Vishnu and Shiva performed a Yagna (religious ritual). Brahma’s consort, Savitri was not present. Brahma forgot to wait for Savitri. Since the presence of his wife was essential for performing the rites, Lord Brahma hastily married a local maiden Gayatri. When Savitri arrived she got enraged and in her fury transformed Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Gayatri into rivers. They also retaliated, turning Savitri into a watercourse as well. Thus, Brahma became the Venna river, Gayatri and Savitri became the rivers of their own name, Lord Vishnu became the river Krishna and Lord Shiva got transformed into river Koyna.
The forests in and around Mahabaleshwar play a critical role in determining the rainfall and climatic conditions of the region. Unrestricted deforestation and soil erosion have caused drastic reduction in the rainfall and hence, the supply of freshwater. Deforestation has also resulted in loss of biodiversity.
Exploitation for tourism has also resulted in the excessive use of plastic carry bags, which are discarded by the tourists all over the hill.