Jyotirlinga Tryambakshevara, amongst 12 Jyotirlinga, is three faces embodying Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Rudra. Due to excessive use of water, the linga has started to erode. It is said that this erosion symbolizes the eroding nature of human society.
The Lingas at Tryambakeshwara are covered by a jewelled crown which is placed over the Gold Mask of Tridev (Brahma Vishnu Mahesh). The crown is said to be from the age of Pandavs and consists of diamonds, emeralds, and many precious stones. The crown is displayed every Monday from 4-5 pm (Shiva).
Shri Tryambakeshwara Temple is located at a distance of about 28 km from Nashik, Tryambakeshwara temple is one of the 12 jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva, the holiest of holy shrines of Lord Shiva.
There is a mountain named the Brihmagiri Mountain 18 K.M. from the city of Nasik in the Nasik district. This is one of the parts of the Sahayadri. The city of Trimbakeshwar is located in the bottom of this mountain. This is a beautiful natural place with the cold weather as it is situated 3000 ft. above from the sea. There are two different routes to get to here. From Nasik to Trimbakeshwar, it is only 18 K.M. This route was built by the help of Shri Kashi Nath Dhate in A.D. 871.
The entire black stone temple is known for its appealing architecture and sculpture. Three sources of the godavari originate from the brahmagiri mountain. Introduction of the holy place Shri Tryambakeshevara
500 years back from now there was built a city which later on became famous as Trimbakeshwar. In the period of the Peshwas regime, Nana Saheb Peshwa had instructed to construct the Tryambakeshwara temple and developed and beautified the city of Trimbakeshwar.
A man who takes bath there becomes worthy of attaining salvation after immediately eschewing the sins and securing perfect knowledge which is difficult of access.
Legend of Tryambakeshwara as per Shiva Purana:
Formerly there was an excellent sage named Gautama. His wife Ahalya was extremely virtuous. A penance extending to ten thousand years was performed by him on the Brahmagiri mountain in the southern quarter. Once a terrible drought lasting for a hundred years occurred there. All the people were put to great distress. Then the sages and other men, the beasts, birds and the deer of the forest went to the different quarters. Gautama performed penance of Varuṇa for six months. Varuna, the god of waters, appeared and asked him for a boom. On his asking for the everlasting water, Varuna advised him to dig a ditch there. When this was said, a ditch of a hand’s depth was dug by him. It was filled with divine water by Varuṇa. Varuṇa said: — “O great sage, let there be a perennial supply of water in this ditch that has become sacred. This will become famous on the earth by your name. Charitable gifts made here, rites performed here, penance pursued here, the sacrifices done here for the gods and the Shraddha offered to the manes, everything will be imperishable.”
This is the nature of the excellent people that they cannot bear others’ misery. They consider others’ misery their own and try to eradicate it. Trees, gold, sandal paste and the sugarcane exist for the enjoyment of the people. Men similarly competent are very rare in the world. A kind man, a man unpuffed by arrogance, a person habitually helping others and a person with perfect control over his sense-organs, these are the four holy pillars that support the earth.
Having secured rare water thus, Gautama performed his routine and ceremonial rites duly. Thereafter he sowed different food-grains and barleys there itself for the performance of his sacrifice. On hearing of it, the sages came there in thousands. Many beasts, birds and other living beings flocked there. They sowed food-grains for their livelihood. There was great joy and bliss in that forest, thanks to the power of Gautama.
Once Gautama sent his disciples there for water. Carrying out his orders they reached the spot with the water-pots in their hands. Many of the womenfolk who had assembled there for water saw the disciples of Gautama who had come for water. They prevented them from taking water. The disciples returned and informed the wife of the sage Gautama. The wife of the sage took them with her, pacified those women, herself took water and gave it to Gautama. The excellent sage performed the routine rites with that water. The other women, the wives of the sages, became infuriated and rebuked her. They returned to their huts with evil intentions lurking in their minds. The entire incident was distorted and intimated to their husbands by those evil-minded women. On hearing their words, the great sages became furious with Gautama as it was destined to be. The infuriated sages of crooked intellect worshipped Ganesh with various articles of worship in order to put obstacle in the activity of Gautama. Ganeshvara appeared to bless them. The sages asked for the boon that Gautama be turned out of his hermitage after being rebuked by the sages. Gaṇesha said: — “A wicked man never attains saintly nature nor docs a saintly man assume perversion at any time. Formerly when you were distressed by starvation, the sage Gautama afforded you happiness. Now you intend to inflict misery on him. This is not proper. Please think over this and choose another boon.” The sage did not pay heed. Gaṇesha said: — “I shall do what is being requested by you all. What is destined to happen will surely happen. After saying this he vanished.”
Gautama did not know the evil intention of the sages. He went on performing his routine along with his wife with delighted mind. There were food-grains and barleys in Gautama’s field. Gaṇesha assumed the form of a feeble cow and went there. The cow, as a result of the boon began to eat the food-grains and barleys. In the meantime, Gautama happened to come there casually. Compassionate by nature, he warded off the cow with a bunch of grass blades. No sooner was it touched by the blades of grass than the cow fell down dead even as the sage was watching it. The sages and their wicked wives who were hiding there began to shout, “O see, what is done by Gautama.” The bewildered Gautama called Ahalya and spoke with a dejected, distressed mind. Gautama said: — “what has happened? How did it happen? Certainly, lord Shiva is angry. What should be done? Where shall we go? The sin of slaughter has befallen me.” In the meantime, the brahmins reproached Gautama. The wives of the brahmins tormented Ahalya with threats. The evil-minded sages said: — “Your face is not fit to be seen. Go hence. If a person sees the face of a cow-killer, he shall take bath in full dress. As long as you stay in the midst of the hermitage, the sacrificial fires and the manes will not accept our gifts. Hence, O sinner, O slayer of a cow, go somewhere else along with your followers. Do not delay.” Saying this, they pelted him with stones. They inflicted pain on him and Ahalya with insulting words. The sages said: — “Without expiation purity cannot be attained. Hence, for the sake of purification you shall perform the rites of atonement. Go round the earth three times announcing your sin. After returning to this place perform the holy Vrata for a month. If you go round this mountain Brahmagiri hundred and one times you can attain purity. Or you fetch water from Ganga and perform the ceremonial ablution. Propitiate lord Shiva making a crore of his phallic images. At the outset, you do circumambulation of the mountain eleven times. Taking bath in Ganga you will become pure thereafter. Performing the ablution of the earthen phallic image of Shiva with a hundred potful of water, the expiatory rite will be completed.” Accordingly, Gautam sage did circumambulation of the mountain and made earthen phallic images of Shiva and worshipped them. The chaste lady Ahalya too acted accordingly. Shiva was delighted and appeared before Gautama accompanied by his Gaṇas to bless him. Gautama asked the boon to make him sinless. Shiva blessed him to be contented, sinless and that people become sinless on seeing you. Shiva informed him that he has been deceived by the wicked knaves and they have been the sinners and evil minded. On hearing the words of Shiva, the sage was greatly surprised. After bowing to him with devotion) he spoke again to him with palms joined in reverence that they have rendered great help. If they had not done like this, how could I have had your vision?
On hearing his words, lord Shiva became all the more delighted. Looking at Gautama mercifully he replied, “O leading brahmin, you are a blessed sage. You are the most excellent among sages. Realising that I am highly delighted, you choose the excellent boon.” Gautama said: — “O lord of gods, if you are delighted, may Ganga be given to me. Render help to the worlds. Obeisance be to you.” What had been held over, Shiva gave to the sage. Then the waters of Ganga assumed the form of a lady and stood there. The excellent sage eulogised her and made obeisance. Gautama said: — “O Ganga, you are blessed. You are contented. The whole world has been sanctified by you. Sanctify me too. I am likely to fall into hell.” Shiva too then spoke — “O Ganga, listen. You are beneficial to all. At my behest, sanctify Gautama also.” Ganga said, “O lord, after sanctifying the sage along with his followers, I shall return to my abode. I am telling you the truth.” When this was mentioned by Ganga, Shiva spoke again to Ganga keeping in mind the welfare of the worlds, "O goddess, till the advent of the Kali Yuga, when the son of Vivasvat shall be the twenty-eighth Manu, you shall stay here alone.” On hearing these words of Shiva, Ganga the sanctifying leading river replied. Ganga said: — “O lord Shiva, O slayer of the Tripuras, if my greatness were to surpass that of all, I shall stay on the earth.” Gautam, “O lord, please listen to something more. O lord, please abide with me with this beautiful body of yours along with your consort and the Gaṇas.” On hearing her words, Shiva spoke again to Ganga for rendering help to the worlds., “O Ganga you are blessed. Listen. I am not distinct from you. Still, I stay here. You too must stay.” Then gods also came there. Ganga asked them to stay there. Gods promised that they shall stay here as long as Jupiter is in Leo. Ganga there became famous as Gautami. The phallic image became famous by the name Tryambaka. Both are destructive of great sins. From that time onwards whenever Jupiter enters Leo, the holy rivers, sacred centres and the gods come there. The holy lakes Puṣkara, and others, the sacred river Ganga and others, Vasudeva and other gods stay on the banks of the Gautami River. This is a Jyotirlinga famous as Tryambaka. It is stationed on the banks of the Gautami destructive of great sins. He who sees the Jyotirlinga Tryambaka with devotion and worships with obeisance after eulogising it is freed from all sins.
Ganga then descended from the mountain Brahmagiri. Its current flowed from the branches of an Udumbara tree. Gautama, his disciples and other sages took his bath joyously. The sages who were malicious towards Gautama came there to take their bath; but on seeing them Ganga vanished immediately. Then Gautama eulogised Ganga and spoke, “Whether these are blind in their arrogance due to their affluence, whether they are good or bad, you shall grant them your vision by the virtue of this holy region.” Ganga spoke, “let them perform expiatory rites in brief. At your behest and particularly under your guidance, they shall do circumambulation of this mountain. Then these wicked persons will be authorised in having a vision of mine.” On hearing these words, the sages did so duly. When they did so, a ditch named Kusavarta just beneath Gangadvara was made by Gautama with her permission. Kusavarta became a famous and excellent place of pilgrimage.
Reference: Shiva Purana, Koṭirudra Saṃhita, Chapters – 24, 25, 26, 27