Crouched in the shadow of the Western Ghats, 28km west of Nasik, the village of TRIMBAK – literally “Three-Eyed”, another name for Lord Shiva, in Marathi – marks the spot where one of the four infamous drops of immortality-giving amrit nectar fell to earth from the kumbh vessel during the struggle between Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda and the Demons – the mythological origin of the Kumbh Mela. Numbering among India’s most sacred centres for Shiva worship (it houses one of the twelve must sacred Shiva temples, known as jyotirlingas), the Trimbakeshwar Mandir temple, in the centre of the village, is unfortunately closed to non-Hindus. Its impressive eighteenth-century shikhara (tower), however, can be glimpsed from the backstreets nearby.
Trimbak is also near the source of one of India’s longest and most sacred rivers, the Godavari; the spring can be reached via an ancient pilgrim-trail that cuts through a cleft in an awesome, guano-splashed cliff face. The round trip to Brahmagiri, the source of the Godavari, takes between two and three hours. It’s a strenuous walk, particularly in the heat, so make sure you take adequate water. From the trailhead at the edge of the village, the way is paved and stepped as far as the first level outcrop, where there are some welcome chai stalls and a small hamlet. Beyond that, either turn left after the last group of huts and follow the dirt trail through the woods to the foot of the rock-cut steps (20min), or continue straight on to the three shrines clinging to the base of the cliff above. The first is dedicated to the goddess Ganga, the second – a cave containing 108 lingams – to Shankar (Shiva), and the third to the sage Gautama Rishi, whose hermitage this once was.
The steps climb 550m above Trimbak to the remains of Anjeri Fort – a site that was, over the years, attacked by the armies of both Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb before it fell into the hands of Shaha-ji Raj, father of the legendary rebel-leader Shivaji. The source itself is another twenty minutes further on, across Brahmagiri Hill, in the otherwise unremarkable Gaumukh (“Mouth of the Cow”) temple. From its rather unimpressive origins, this paltry trickle flows for nearly 1000km east across the entire Deccan to the Bay of Bengal.