The Supreme being has been called by many different names such as Mahadev, Shiva, The Destroyer of Evil. Most of the people come across the term “Jyotirlinga” quite a few times, Shiva’s Jyotirlinga is highly revered among the Hindus. A Jyotirlinga is a shrine where Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam which is a radiant sign (symbol) of The Almighty. There are 12 Jyotirlinga in India.
The 12 Jyotirlingas sites in India take the name of the presiding deity. Each considered a different manifestation of Lord Shiva. The primary image as all these lingas is the “lingam” representing the beginning and end stamp pillar or the infinite nature of Lord Shiva.
Here is the complete guide on the 12 Jyotirling Temples of Shiva.
The Mallikarjuna Temple is situated on the Shri Shaila Mountain, on the banks of the Krishna River in the southern part of Andhra Pradesh. This Jyotirlinga is one of the greatest Shaivite Shrines in India. The story begins when Lord Ganesha was married off before Kartikeya which left Kartikeya angered. Then Kartikeya went away to the Kraunch Mountain where all the Gods tried to console him. Ultimately Shiva-Parvati themselves traveled to the mountain but were turned away by Kartikeya. When they saw their son emotionally hurt, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a Jyotirlinga and resided on the mountain by the name of Mallikarujna. Mallika means Parvati, while Arjuna is another name of Shiva. The presiding deities at this temple are Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and Bhramaramba (Devi). People believe that the tip of the Shri Shaila Mountain is free from all the sins in the World.
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The Somnath Temple in Gujarat is situated near Veraval inKathiawad district. This is a highly revered pilgrimage site in the country. The legend says that the moon was married to 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati, out of which he loved Rohini the most. When Prajapati saw that the Moon used to neglect all his wives and gave all its time to Rohini, he cursed the moon that it would lose all its radiance. A disturbed moon along with Rohini came to Somnath and worshipped the Sparsa Lingam after which he was blessed by Shiva to regain his lost beauty and shine. The Mahabharata also refers to the Prabhasa Kshetra and the legend of the moon worshipping Shiva. On his request, Lord Shiva assumed the name Somchandra and resided there eternally. From there on, Lord Shiva is referred to as Somnath.
Omkareshwar Temple is one of the highly revered Jyotirlinga and is located on an island called Shivapuri in the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh. This place is thus considered to be highly sacred by the Hindus. Once upon a time there ensued a great war between the Devas and Danavas (Gods and Demons), in which the Danavas won. The war resulted in a major disadvantage for the Devas and then they tired to Lord Shiva and prayed for his help. Lord Shiva then heard their prayers and decided to help them by defeating the Danavas in the form of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga.
Vaidyanath Temple is also known as Vaijnath or Baidyanath. It is located in the Santal Parganas region of Jharkhand. This is one of the highly revered Jyotirlinga shrines, and the devotees believe that the sincere worship of this shrine relieves a person from all his worries and miseries. People believe that one attains moksha or salvation by worshipping this Jyotirlinga. The story revolved around the demon king Ravana who at that time meditated and asked Lord Shiva to come over to Sri Lanka and make him invincible. Ravana was given the twelve Jyotirlingas by Lord Shiva on the condition that if it was placed on the ground it would remain rooted to that spot till eternity. While transporting it to Sri Lanka, Lord Vishnu came down in the form of a lad and offered to hold the lingam in the meantime. However, Vishnu placed the lingam on the ground and it got rooted to the spot. As a form of penance, Ravana cut off nine of his heads. Shiva revived him and joined the heads to the body, like a vaidya and this became the Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga.
Mahakaleshwar Temple is located on the banks of the Kshipra River, in the dense Mahakal forest in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. This Jyotirlinga in Madhya Pradesh is an important pilgrimage site in Central India. There are a number of legends related to how this Jyotirlinga came into existence. According to the Puranas, there was a five-year-old boy Shrikar who was enthralled by the devotion of King Chandrasena of Ujjain towards Lord Shiva. Shrikar took a stone and started worshipping as Shiva. Many people tried to dissuade him in different ways, but his devotion kept growing. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a Jyotirlinga and resided in the Mahakal forest. The Mahakaleshwar Temple is considered significant by the Hindus for another reason. It is among one of the seven “Mukti-Sthal” – the place that can liberate a human.
The Bhimashankar Temple is located in the Sahyadri region of Pune, Maharashtra. It lies on the banks of Bhima River and is the source of this river. The legend about the existence of this Jyotirlinga is related to Kumbhakarna’s son Bhima. Bhima wanted to avenge Lord Vishnu as his father was annihilated by him. He punished himself to please Lord Brahma who granted him immense power. On achieving this power, he started creating havoc in the world also defeated the most loyal devotee of Lord Shiva- Kamrupeshwar and put him in the dungeons. This angered the Lords who requested Shiva to descend Earth and put an end to this tyranny. A war ensued between the two and Shiva ultimately put the demon to ashes. All the Gods then requested Shiva to make that place his abode. Shiva then manifested himself in the form of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga. It is believed that the sweat which poured from Shiva’s body after the battle is what formed the Bhima River.
The Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga is located at a village called Verul that is in Maharashtra. Located near this temple is the famous tourist site – Ajanta & Ellora caves. Ghrishneshwar Temple is a very revered temple and serves as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India dedicated to Lord Shiva. Even the Dulatabad town of Maharashtra is situated nearby. The temple, with exquisitely sculpted walls, was built under the patronage of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, one of the rulers of the erstwhile state of Indore. The very devout Shiva devotee, Bhosale (The Patel or chief of Verul) once found a treasure hidden in the snake pit (ant hill) by the grace of Lord Grishneshwar. This 240 ft x 185 ft temple is the smallest Jyotirlinga temple in India. Halfway up the temple, Dashavataras of Vishnu is carved in red stone. A court hall is built on 24 pillars. On these pillars, there are carvings summarising various legends and mythologies of Shiva.
The Shiva Purana says Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is in ‘the Darukavana’, which is an ancient name of a forest in India. ‘Darukavana’ finds mention in Indian epics, such as Kamyakavana, Dvaitavana, Dandakavana. A narrative in the Shiva Purana about the Nageshvara Jyotirlinga tells of a demon named Daaruka, who attacked a Shiva devotee named Supriya and imprisoned him along with many others in his city of Darukavana, a city under the sea inhabited by sea snakes and demons.
The architectural beauty of the Nagesh Temple is simply exquisite. This temple built with stones during the Pandava period is strong. The four walls of the temple are very strong and the corridors are large. The court hall is supported by eight pillars. It is oval-shaped. Both this and the Nagesha Lingamurthy is located in the small internal Garbhagriha.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in the most revered site in the world- Kashi! It is situated amidst the crowded lanes of the holy city of Banaras (Varanasi). Kashi Vishvanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in history. This temple is said to be the dearest to Lord Shiva, and the people believe that those who die here achieve liberation. The temple complex consists of a series of smaller shrines, located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli, near the river. The linga of the main deity at the shrine is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference housed in a silver altar. The main temple is quadrangle and is surrounded by shrines of other gods.
Rameshwar Temple, the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas, is located on the island of Rameshwaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu. A very important pilgrim center of the Indians, Rameshwaram is the place where Lord Rama, built a bridge across the sea to rescue his consort Sita, from her abductor, Ravana. This is also the place where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva to cleanse away the sin of killing Ravana. Both the Vaishnavites and Shaivites visit this pilgrimage which is known as the Varanasi the south. Visiting Rameshwaram is significant for the Hindus as a pilgrimage to Benaras is incomplete without a Pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. This has been a time-honored pilgrimage center considered by many at par with Banaras. This Jyotirlinga is closely associated with Ramayana and Ram’s victorious return from Sri Lanka.
In the village, the Trimbak Trimbakeshwar temple is a famous pilgrim place. Trimbakeshwar is also the origin of river Godavari. Monday is a scared day here and Shivratri the holy day of Shiva Puja in a year is celebrated here. This temple is the source of the most sacred river in South India which is the Godavari River. According to the Shiva Purana, it is on the earnest request of River Godavari, Gautam Rishi and all the other Gods that Shiva decided to reside here and assumed the name Trimbakeshwar. Gautam Rishi earned a boon from Varuna in the form of a pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of grains and food. This temple was constructed by Raju Balaji Baji Rao who ruled Maharashtra. Trimbakeshwar is also the place where a drop of nectar fell down during churning of the ocean , hence a Kumbh Mela is held every twelve years in this place.
One of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India, the Kedarnath Temple is located on the Rudra Himalaya Range at the height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar. It is approximately 150 miles from Haridwar. The temple enshrining the Jyotirlinga opens only six months in a year. The tradition is that while embarking on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath people first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring the holy water to offer at Kedarnath. According to the people, those who come and pray at this temple with all their heart gets all of their desires fulfilled. It is one of the most famous out of the 12 jyotirlingas in India.