Lord Shiva is acelebrated and much-feared and loved God worldwide. He is more rustic and humanthan Brahma or Vishnu, which has made him more approachable and appealing tothe common folk. The Destroyer in the Hindu divine trinity, he is a passionateand fearless God who rules over his devotees wisely and justly, along with hisconsort, Maa Parvati. Like the avatarsof Vishnu in each period of time, Shiva has manifested in various forms, forvarious reasons in different locations. All these manifestations involved Shivain the form of Lingams, earning the locations the name Jyotirlingams. There are12 such sites spread over India and we are giving you a brief on each one,which you can find by reading below
Nageshwaram islikely the most popular of the Jyotirlingas attracting a lot of visitors everysingle day. The sanctum of the temple is built underground and the surroundingland
was once an immense forest. There was a demon Daaruki who was a devotee ofMaa Parvati. Pravati in her benevolence granted her mastery over the forests.Daaruki took the entire forest into the ocean
and kidnapped and confined humansin her underwater lair. At one point her husband Daaruka kidnapped Supriya, adevotee of Shiva. He prayed to the Lord who appeared as a pillar of light thatpierced
the three worlds and vanquished the demons. The underwater kingdom was inhabitedby sea snakes, called Nagas. The Lingam that appeared there was named asNageshwar and Parvati was named as Nageshwari.
Bhimashankartemple lies on the shores of the Bhima river and is carved out of Black rock. Thetemple is fashioned in the Nagara Architectural style. The temple is surroundedby the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary. The temple is famous among pilgrims,especially during Maha Shivaratri. The temple is quite ancient and is believed tohave been built by Bheema the son of Kumbhakarna, not to be confused withBhima, one of the Pancha Pandavas. Hencethe deity is named as Bhimashankar, the Lord of Bhima. The Nearby Kamalaja templeis dedicated to a tree called Kalamb. The local tribals worship the tree as amanifestation of Maa Parvati. The temple nestled within the forests and riversis a sight to behold.
Contrary topopular belief and despite being considered as a Jyotirlinga, theTrimbakeshwara temple houses the holy trinity of Hinduism. It is located nearthe Brahmagiri mountain, the point of origin of the Godavari river.
The innershrine does not contain a Lingam or figurine of the deity. Instead it is a voidwith three pillars. The three pillars are the Hindu Divine trinity of Brahma,Vishnu and Shiva. The holy river Ganga had taken residence
in the hair ofShiva. When a sage who had committed a sin wanted to wash away his karma in theholy waters of the Ganges, he begged Shiva to release her. But Ganga wasreluctant to part with Shiva. Shiva danced the Nrutyathandav
on the Brahmagirimountain and dashed his Jata on the hill. Ganga flowed from the mountaintop andthe Godavari is still called as the Gautami Ganga. The Jyotirlinga there issaid to be at the behest of Ganga who asked Shiva to
stay with her.
The Shikara styletemple is fashioned in five stories out of red rock and the entire façade isfilled with carvings of the various Gods and Goddesses. The temple is so oldthat it finds mention in the Shiva Purana. It witnessed several invasions anddestructions by the invaders. The temple was finally rebuilt by AhilyabaiHolkar in the 18th century, and is called the Gru Someshwar and theKusum Eswarar. Keeping in style with its South Indian architecture, the templerituals are also reminiscent of the South Indian Traditions. The temple is opento all people, but the men entering the inner sanctum must go in bare-chested,which is a practice that is prevalent in South India. The temple alsocelebrates Lord Vishnu with its magnificent and impressive sculpture of Vishnu’sDasavatharam.
The first of theAadi Jyotirlingas warrants special attention from around the world. ThisChalukya style temple houses Shiva depicted in the form of a towering pillarof light. It is said the moon came down to earth and married 27 daughters ofPrajapati Daksha. But Chandra favored Rohini over all his other wives. Herdistraught sisters went and complained to their father. Daksha cursed Chandrathat he would become ugly and loose his luster. Chandra meditated and gainedthe attention of Lord Shiva, who removed his curse. Shiva manifested as apillar of flames in the location of the temple, where a shrine was built later.The temple has faced various invaders and has been felled and rebuilt more than15 times.
Besides being afamous Jyotirlinga site, Vaidyanath is also one of the 52 Shaktipeedams ofHinduism, dedicated to Sati. The temple has an interesting legend. Ravan as weall know was an ardent devotee of the Mahadev. He prayed hard to Shiva foryears on end and asking that he accompany him to Sri Lanka. Shiva finallyrelented and gave Raavana a Shivalingam. He also warned him not to put the Lingamdown anywhere and take it to straight to Sri Lanka. However, Vishnu interruptedRaavana and made him place the Lingam at Deogarh, and the Vaidyanath site wasestablished.Devotees believe thatworshipping Vaidyanath will rid them of all their miseries and help them attainMoksha.
This is yetanother Jyotirlinga temple that is set amidst the lush landscapes of forests. TheMahakal Shiva is said to be Svayambu, originating on its own as against beingconsecrated there by others. There is also an alternative legend that says ayoung boy named Srikar was so touched by the devotion of the King Chandrasena,who ruled over Ujjain, to Lord Shiva. His inspiration led him to install a Shivalingaat Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain. The temple has an idol of Mahakaleshwar whichincidentally faces South and is called the Dakshinamukhi. Parvati, Ganesha andKarthikeya are also present here along with Shiva. The site is also one amongthe seven Mukti- Sthal in India, that when visited, have the ability to cleanseus of all our sins and set us on the path to salvation. The temple is also oneof the 18 Maha Shakthi Peedams. This site is revered as being the place whereher upper lip fell off and she is worshipped as Mahakali.
The OmkareshwarTemple stands on an “OM” shaped island in the Narmada river. There are in facttwo temples here. One dedicated to Omkareshwar or the Lord of Omkara and theother temple dedicated to Amareshwar or the Immortal lord which is on theshore. There are at least 3 legends associated with how this Jyotirlingammanifested. Vindya was the deity who ruled over the land beyond the Vindyachalmountain range. He prayed to Shiva to help him rid himself of his sins. He didthis by creating a sacred symbol on the ground and building a Lingam from sandand clay. Shiva, pleased with his austerities manifested in two forms asOmkareshwar and Amareshwar. The mound on which this happened is said to haveformed itself into the shape of Om.Theother legend states that Shiva manifested at this place to help the Devas, wina war over the Danavas or Asuras.
This is the mostfamous of the 12 Jyotirlingas and is on the must-visit list of every pilgrim. Thedeity here is Vishwanath or more precisely Vishweswara, meaning one who rulesover the universe. This temple came under siege during the Mughal invasion butwas later rebuilt during the 18th century by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar. Thespecialty of this temple is that is located right on the banks of the holyriver Ganga. Visiting devotees pray to Vishwanath at the temple and then take adip in the waters of the Ganges to cleanse their souls of all Karmic imbalance.It is said that devotees who pray to Shiva at this temple are taken to Kailashdirectly and that Lord Shiva himself chants the Mantra of death to the blessedfew who are lucky enough to lay their lives down naturally at this temple.
The Kedarnath the temple is located far from the reaches of civilization and the journey is atest of faith. It stands on the Rudra Himalayan Range at an altitude of 12000feet above sea level. It is one of the Char Dham Divine places that pilgrimsmust visit at least once in their lifetime. The Skandapurana states thatKedarnath was the place that Shiva released the holy water of the Ganges fromhis matted hair. Due to the extreme weather conditions of its harsh location, the temple is only opened from May to June. Pilgrims who wish to visit Kedarnath,stop at Gangotri and Yamunotri and take the holy waters. This water is used toperform Abhishegam to the Kedarnath Lingam. This temple miraculously survivedthe flash floods of 2013 while everything around it was ravaged beyondsalvation. The temple is also popular for being the final resting place of AdiShankara, thus attracting a lot of South Indian pilgrims and followers of AdiShankara as well.
The temple at Rameshwaramis dedicated to Lord Shiva under the name of Ramanathaswamy. Besides being aJyotirlinga Sthalam, it is also one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams of theNayanmars. The story of the temple involves one of the Dasavatars of LordVishnu. Lord Rama was on his way back to India after vanquishing Ravana and conqueringSri Lanka. He has so burdened with guilt at the bloodshed that the war led to,that he prayed to Shiva to absolve him of his sins. He asked Hanuman to bring aLingam from the Himalayas but he got delayed. By that time Rama himself built aLingam from sand, which is said to still stand today as the main deity. Thereis another Lingam in the sanctum which is believed to be the Vishwalingambrought by Hanuman from the Himalayas. There are 64 Holy Teerths or waterbodies in and around the temple. Taking a dip in all the 64 Teerths iscomparable to performing penance and cleanses us of our sins.
The last of theJyotirlingas is the Mallikarjuna in SriSailam. It is dedicated to ShriBrahmaramba Malliakrjuna and his consort Parvati. The temple is also one of 18Shakthi Peedams. Once there was an argument between Ganesha and Karthikeya as to who should get married first. Shiva and Parvati said they would get the onewho went around the world in Pradakshina and came back first, married beforethe other. Ganesha won the contest and they married Siddhi, Buddhi, and Riddhito him. The enraged Karthikeya, fled Kailash and came to Srisailam as aKumaraBrahmachari. Shiva and Parvati descended to earth as Arjuna and Mallikato try and appease their son. As a result, a shrine was raised for them, which becameone of the 12 Jyotirlingas
All the above temples have diversearchitecture, legends, and rituals, yet bring people together under the name ofLord Shiva. The journey is arduous and tests the faith of the devotees. Thetemples and their energies more than makeup for the difficulties in reaching them. We would love to hear about your experiencesat the Jyotirlingas and you can reach out to us through the comments section.