12 Jyotirling-The Most Sacred Shivling Temples

‘Jyoti’ means light and ‘Ling’ means mark. So Jyotirling, Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam means the ‘Radiant Sign of Lord Shiva’. A Jyotirling is the most sacred or important among varoius types of Shivlings. There are 12 Jyotirling temples at different places of India.

12 Jyotirling

As per Hindu mythology, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had an argument over who was the supreme creator. To settle this argument, Lord Shiva appeared as a huge pillar of light and asked Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find the end. But neither could find the end. The Jyotirling temples or Swayambhu Jyotirling temples are places where Lord Shiva appeared as a column of light. Of these, two (Somnath, Rameshwaram) are on the sea shore, three (Vishveshwar/Vishwanath,Triambakeshwar,Mahakaleshwar) on the river bank, four (Kedarnath, Mallikarjuna,Omkareshwar,Bhimashankar) in the mountains and three (Vaidyanath,Ghrishneshwar,Nageshwar) on the plains. There are various myths behind the installation of each Jyotirling temple. Whether it is a mythology or a temple scene, each temple is a great attraction for pilgrims. Let’s take a look at where these temples are, and the stories behind them.

Somnath Jyotirling Temple

Somnath Temple in Gujarat is considered by Hindus to be one of the holiest of the Jyotirling temples. It is said that this temple had been destroyed 16 times and rebuilt 16 times. It is said that Chandradeva had been cursed by Prajapati Daksha. The light of Chandradeva decreased due to the curse. As a result, the rest of the gods approached Daksha for fear that the whole world would be dark. Then Daksha said that if Chandra worshipped Shiva, then his light would come back. When Chandra started worshipping Shiva, his light returned, with the blessing of the light of Shiva Shakti. Somnath Temple in Gujarat was built in memory of that story. On a full moon night, this temple looks amazingly beautiful.

Mallikarjun Jyotirling Temple

It is a Shiva temple located in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh, South India. It is a very ancient place of worship of Lord Shiva. Besides, Mallikarjun is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. This is unique because Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are both present here as Jyotirling. Mallikarjun, a combination of two words- ‘Mallika’ and Arjuna’ (Shiva Parvati). ‘Mallika’ refers to Goddess Parvati and ‘Arjuna’ to one of the many names of Shiva. Another significance of Mallikarjun Jyotirling Temple is that it is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Thalam temples that are revered in the verses of Saiva Nayanars in the 6th-9th century CE.

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling Temple

Mahakaleshwar Temple is located on the shores of Rudrasagar Lake in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India. This temple is dedicated to Mahakaleshwar (Shaktipeeth ke Bhairab). Mahakaleshwar is actually Bhairab, the presiding deity of 51 Shakti Peethas. Here the upper lip of Sati fell. The name of Shakti is Mahakali. According to Hindu mythology, Mahadev, the chief deity of the temple, ruled Ujjain for eternity. According to the Puranas, Mahadev once appeared in Ujjain (ancient name Avantika) as Mahakala in the prayers of the devotees and destroyed the enemies of King Chandrasen of Ujjain. From then on, at the request of the devotees, he continued to live with Parvati in Ujjain and was recognized and worshipped as the protector of the chief deities and devotees of Shiva in the kingdom. The influence of Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling on the religion of the people of Ujjain is immense. An annual fair is held near the temple on the day of Maha Shivaratri festival.

Omkareshwar Jyotirling Temple

Omkareshwar Island is located on the banks of the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, India. The island looks like Omkar in shape. According to the Puranas, Omkareshwara, one of the dwadash Jyotirlings, is worshipped on the island. There is a temple of Lord Shiva here. For the sake of creation and for the salvation of living beings, Lord Shiva initiated the creation of the whole world at this place. It is here that the world became aware of the greatness of Omkar’s theory. A part of Lord Shiva’s Jyotirling is worshipped as Omkeshwara on the island in the shape of the original word of creation i.e. ‘Om’ which is the beginning of creation. Here Lord Shiva described the greatness of Omkar’s theory as, “Om is the first word of creation. The sum of the letters, A-U-Um is Aum (Om).” On this island, Bindha, the mountain king, performed austerities and with the blessings of Lord Shiva was freed from his sins. The water flowed on the island in such a way that it had given the island the shape of Omkar. The temple of Lord Shiva located at this place is famous as Omkareshwar Temple. Apart from the Jyotirling temple of Lord Shiva, there is also a Parvati temple here.

Vaidyanatha Jyotirling Temple

Vaidyanatha Jyotirling Temple or Vaidyanatha Dham is one of the 12 holiest Jyotirling temples of the Hindu god Shiva. This temple is located in Deoghar town in Deoghar district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. In addition to the original Vaidyanatha Jyotirling temple, there are 21 other temples on the premises of the temple.

According to Hindu belief, Ravana did austerities here to please Shiva. Ravana was cutting off his ten heads one by one and sacrificing them in the fire of Yajna. Satisfied with this, Shiva came to heal the wounded Ravana. Since Shiva incarnated here in the role of a Vaidya or physician, he is called Vaidyanatha.

Bhimashankar Jyotirling Temple

Bhimashankar Temple is situated in a forested hilly area about 15 kms from Pune in Maharashtra. There is a myth associated with Bhimashankar. Many ages ago, there was a demon named Bhima living on the top of Sahyadri mountain. When he passed through childhood and entered adolescence, he could know from the mouth of his mother that his father’s name was Kumbhakarna and Vishnu himself was his father’s killer. At the persuasion of his mother, Bhima appeased Brahma with austerities, and became invincible with the blessings of Brahma, and as usual became intoxicated with the killing of Brahmans and Vaishnavas. Eventually, the demon Bhima defeated the Shiva devotee king Kamrupeshwar in battle and imprisoned him.

“Leave Shiva worship and worship me” – Bhima’s order was ignored by king Kamrupeshwar and Bhima became angry and went to behead the king. At the call of the gods and devotees, Lord Rudra (Shiva) then became fierce and let out a roar. As a result, the monster Bhima was burnt to ashes. The Bhimarathi or Bhima river was born from the sweat that came out of the body of the angry Maheshwar(Shiva) after destroying the monster. Millions of devotees worship Bhimashankar to prevent planetary obstruction and premature death.

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Rameshwaram Jyotirling Temple

The Rameshwaram Jyotirling temple is situated in Tamil Nadu and is considered to be one of the Char Dham. It is said that Sri Rama had established this Jyotirling before his battle with Ravana. Due to the establishment by Lord Rama, it is called Rameshwaram.

There are two Shivlings here. One ling was worshipped by Sita, the other was worshipped by Hanuman. After defeating Ravana, Rama came here and worshipped Shiva. Since then, two Jyotirlings of Shiva have been installed at Rameshwaram.

Nageshwar Jyotirling Temple

This Jyotirling temple is located in Dwarka, Gujarat. After protecting the devotees from the Daruk demon, the Nageshwar temple was established to worship the glory of Shiva.

It is said that once a fierce monster named Daruk lived in the forest with his wife Daruk. Daruk became very arrogant and stubborn as goddess Parvati granted him a boon. He along with his wife began to disrupt various festivals and ceremonies. He captured many people, including an ardent devotee of Shiva named Supriya, and imprisoned them in a dungeon. Supriya started worshipping Shiva there regularly, applying holy ashes on his body and chanting the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivay’. Seeing such devotion of the devotees, Lord Shiva appeared there as Jyotirling and saved his devotees and destroyed the Daruk monster. From then on the place was named Darukavam and the Shivling there was named Naganath.

Another story is related to the Pandava brothers of the Dwapar Yuga. Bhima, the strongest of the five brothers, along with his other brothers saw a river of milk here and a Swayambhu ling in the middle of that river. The place where the Nageshwar Jyotirling temple is located is the exact place where the Pandava brothers saw the ling.

This Jyotirling has a very special significance. The Jyotirling has the power to protect its beholders or worshippers from all kinds of poisons specially snake poisons. This reference is mentioned in the sacred Rudra Samhita where Nageshwar is called Darukavana Nageswaram.

Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling Temple

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is situated in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on the banks of the Ganges. It is believed that Shiva himself is the builder and owner of this city. It is also believed that this place will not be destroyed even after the Holocaust, because Lord Shiva protects the place especially. From that belief, the devotees have great confidence in this Jyotirling. In fact, so sacred is this shrine that it finds mention in the Skanda Purana, which is an ancient Hindu scripture.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been marred with several atrocious events in history. In course of time it has been demolished and rebuilt again and again. It is remarkable to see how this temple has stood the numerous tests of time and stands in all its glory.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the holiest places of worship in Hinduism. Every day thousands to millions of devotees come here to worship. It is said that Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sathya Sai Baba and Guru Nanak came to this temple. It is believed that one can attain salvation by visiting the Kashi Vishwanath temple and bathing in the Ganges. And if someone dies naturally in this temple, then Lord Shiva will recite the mantra of salvation in his ear.

Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling Temple

This Jyotirling temple is located near the source of Godavari river in Nasik, Maharashtra, India. Here the ling idol is divided into three parts and different from other Shivling. Nanasaheb rebuilt this temple in 175 AD.

According to the mythology, Maharshi Gautam’s wife Ahalya once had an affair with the other Brahmin wives who became very angry with her. The Brahmins wanted to banish her from the ashram. Then they all started worshipping Ganesha. It is as if he chased away sage Gautam and his wife from the ashram. Then Ganesha became helpless and took the form of a sick cow. And he continued to graze near the sage’s field. His wife was chased away from the ashram. He started living some distance away. He traveled around the world three times to get rid of the responsibility of killing cows. Mahadev Shiva was pleased to see his hard sacrifice. He told him the whole story of his cow slaughter. He forgave all the Brahmins. All the deities saw this incident and requested Shiva to stay close to sage Gautam. So he stayed there under the name of Trimbakeshwar. This Shivling is known as Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling.

Kedarnath Jyotirling Temple

Kedarnath Jyotirling temple is situated in the Himalayan range, Uttarakhand, India. This temple is famous as Baba Kedarnath. This place is very dear to Lord Shiva.

There is a story in the Mahabharata about this famous Jyotirling. It is said that the Pandavas wanted to worship Lord Shiva to atone for their sins. But for that they needed a Jyotirling. They saw the Jyotirling in Kedarnath. Kedarnath Jyotirling temple was built on the site of that Jyotirling.

Grishneshwar Jyotirling Temple

Grishneshwar temple is located in Aurangabad, India. The temple site is very close to Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra. It is said in the Puranas that Shiva appeared here in response to the call of a devotee.

Grishneshwar temple has a very interesting legend attached to it. It is said that there was once a very pious woman, known as Kusuma, who used to worship Shivling and chanted Shiva storam daily. She used to immerse the Shivling in a tank, as a part of her everyday prayer. Her husband had a second wife, who got jealous of the devotion of Kusuma. Out of jealousy and anger, she killed Kusuma’s son.

Kusuma became extremely depressed when she came to know that her son had been killed. However, she continued worshipping Shiva. It is said that when she immersed the ling into the tank, after the death of her son, he miraculously came back to life again. It is also believed that god Shiva appeared before Kusuma as well as the villagers. It is said that on Kusuma’s request, Lord Shiva manifested himself at the very site, in the form of the Ghusmeshwar Jyotirling. From then onwards, the temple is highly revered by the devotees.

Grishneshwar is also called Ghushmeshwar and Kusumeshwar. Men are required to go bare-chested into the temple.This is the smallest Jyotirling temple in India

Talker: Krishna Das

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