12 Jyotirlinga Temples of Lord Shankar – Mythology and SignificanceAccording Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is regarded as Aadi purush – Supreme God and creator of the universe. As the legend has it, one time Lord Brahma and Vishnu went to ego-war in a bid to prove one better over the other. It is at that time; Lord Shiva emerged in front of them in the form of a huge pillar of light. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu both goes on to find the ends of this radiant pillar, Lord Brahma goes upwards and Lord Vishnu goes downwards. Lord Vishnu accepted the defeat on not being able to find the end, but Lord Brahma lied. Lord Shiva emerged from the pillar and cursed Lord Brahma that he won’t be worshipped till the end of eternity, whereas Lord Vishnu was blessed for his piousness. This pillar of radiance was later termed ‘Jyotirling’. When you break the word “Jyotirlanga”, it becomes ‘Jyothi’, which means ‘radiance’ and ‘linga, which means phallus. Adiguru Shankaracharya has mentioned 12 most important Jyotirlings in his Dwadasha Jyotirling Strotram located on varied locations of India. These Jyotirlingas are believed to be different manifestation of Lord Shiva. Hindu devotees from all across the world visit each one of these 12 and worship the Jyotirlinga, as they are believed to be as divine as the presence of the almighty God itself. In case, you or your parents are planning to embark on one such spiritual trip, read on to gain some insights on mythological significance and stories associated with each temple. Let’s begin with complete information guide on the 12 Jyotirling Temples of Shiva.
Somnath Temple is one of the most prominent of 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva situated in Gujrat. The temple is said to be built by none other than the Lord of Moon himself. The architecture of Somnath temple is something you would admire other than the mythological importance of the temple. It gives a beautiful view of Arabian sea which adds to calming aura of the temple. It is said that Somanath temple is one of the oldest of 12 jyotirlingas and the ruins along the temple structure depicts the complete story of survivors of this place. People say that there was mounts of treasure in the original temple, looted by Muslim invaders in later part of history. The temple has got its name about its founder, Somraj, the moon god. Somanath depicts the Lord of Moon, Shiva. It is said that this temple was built entirely out of gold, which was later re-built by Ravana in silver and then Lord Krishna again built it in wood. In the tenth century, the temple was again built in stone by King Bhimdev Solanki.
The Mallikarjun Temple is located on Shri Shaila Mountain in the Southern part of Andhra Pradesh. The legend goes like when Lord Ganesh was married before his brother Karthikeya, Karthikeya became angry and went to Kraunch Mountain. Nobody with all their efforts could console Karthikeya, hence then Parvati and Shiva decided to go to Kraunch mountains by themselves. However, when they reached their Karthikeya had already left the mountain. Then Lord Shiva and Parvati decided to reside they’re on that mountain in form of a linga and hence the temple Mallikarjun was found. Mallika is name of Goddess Parvati and Arjun is another name of Lord Shiva. It is believed that just by a glance of the mountain one could wash away all his sins and miseries and attain moksha. From architectural point of view as well, the temple is beautiful in all its details. It is built in huge fort like architecture of Dravidian style. Nearby this temple, there is also a shrine of Goddess Jagdamba. The legend behind this temple is that Durga took a form of bee and worshipped Lord Shiva here.
This temple is situated in Ujjain on the banks of Rudra Sagar Lake. The temple is very approachable and easy to reach. The temple also has been mentioned in ancient scripture. The temple is said to embody the perpetual existence of the Almighty and is said to have been self-manifested, that is it have derived its power on its own. Another exclusive feature of this temple is that it is called Dakshinamurti since lord Shiva faces towards the South in this temple which is often very rare. The original architecture of temple was destroyed by Muslims during their invasion and the temple was recently rebuilt by scindias. It has three stories and has pictures and sculptures of all in Shiva’s family like Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh and Lord Karthikeya. The temple is huge with curved massive entryways and lots of statutes and sculptures carved on the pillars and walls of the temple. Mahashivratri is one of the major festivals in the region and often the linga is smeared with the hot ash brought straight from cremation ground. This ceremony depicts the vicious cycle of life and death and how everything starts and ends with Shiva.
This temple is located on the banks of river Narmada and is one of the famous jyotirlinga in India. The temple is of course very old and is kept well due to efforts of archeological department of India. People often go to Narmada to take a holy dip in the river before visiting the temple. The devotees often buy famous bilwa patras and flowers to adorn Lord Shiva and conduct 1000 Shivalinga puja known as Shastra linga puja. One might have to climb certain stairs to reach the temple from Narmada Ghat. The temple is a small hall with a sanctum in middle where the Lord Shiva resides in form of linga. The legend goes like this that Vindhya parvat was proud that there is no other mountain mightier than him and he showed this very often. Once Narad muni visited him and confronting his proud behavior, he told Vindhya that he agrees with him, however, Meru Parvatha thinks he is mightiest as many devatas resides on Meru Parvatha. This made Vindhya Parvat feel less-mightier and he started praying Lord Shiva for a boon that he should be mighty enough to fulfil all his desires. Lord Shiva accepted his wish and then on request of other devatas, resided on the mountain for eternity in form of linga.
Baidyanath Temple is in deoghar in Bihar and is built in treta yug in nagar style. The temple has three parts, the main temple, the middle part of temple and the entrance. Being of Nagar style, it consists of Kati, Mekhala and Shring and temple is there since the time of Rama. The legend behind temple goes like this, Lord Ravana thought until he has Shiva protecting him, he cannot be the rarest of rare, he started praying lord Shiva and asked him to reside at his place. Lord Shiva gave him a linga and said where ever he shall place it, it would stay there forever. While carrying the Linga, Ravana was passing through deoghar when others gods played a trick so that he could not carry Shiva’s linga to his place in Lanka. They placed Lord Varuna inside the tummy of Ravana so that he felt like peeing. He wanted someone to carry the Lord Shiva’s linga while he goes to pee. Then Lord Vishnu appeared in shape of a Brahmin and Ravana placed Lord Shiva’s linga to him.Lord Vishnu placed the linga right there and with his mightiest force Ravana was not able to move the linga hence forth. Since then Shiva resides in this place as Baba Baidyanath.
Bhima Shankar is an ancient temple devoted to Lord Shiva and situated in Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra. It is one of the most famous jyotirlinga out of 12 jyotirlingas. In recent times, there is a wild life sanctuary also associated with this place thus giving it immense popularity. It has a river flowing along its coast known as Bhima river. The legend behind this temple goes like this. There was a demon called Tripurasura who prayed Lord Shiva to get the gift of immortality. On his tedious penance, Lord Shiva granted him his wish saying that he should use this wish for the welfare of mankind. As time passed Tripurasura, forgot about the condition laid by Shiva and started harassing normal people. Hence Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati took the form of Ardha-Narya_Nateshwar and killed Tripurasura on a Karthik Purnima. Since then Lord Shiva exists in this place in form of a jyotirlinga. Other nearby temples which one can visit are Datta Mandir, Kamalaja Mata Mandir and Ram Mandir. Best time to visit this temple is between September to February. Since, the temple is located at 3500 feet above sea level; it often experiences low temperature and heavy showers during monsoon.
Rameswaram Temple is situated on Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu in an island which can be reached through a bridge across the sea known as Pamban. The temple is known for its architectural excellence which is depicted in its ornate corridors and massive towers. Per legend behind this temple, Lord Rama have installed Shiva Linga here to cut off his sin of killing a Brahmin (Ravana) after coming back from Lanka. Here you can find another llinga known as Viswanathar which was brought by Hanuman from Benaras. As Hanuman delayed in his expedition, then Rama established Lord Shiva within the earth linga made by Devi Sita. As per proclaimed beliefs people pay homage to Viswanathar before they pray Ramanathaswamy. The temple is spread in a huge area of 15 acres and has lofty gopurams with massive walls and a Nandi guarding the gates of the temple. The temple was originally a small hut guarded by a sadhu. With time over centuries many Kings and devotees built different parts of this temple. Some of them were King Parakramabahu, King of Sri Lanka who constructed the sanctum around Sri Ramanathaswamy, Sri Viswanathar and Sri Visalakshi in the 12th century.
Nageshwar stands for Lord of Snakes and this is what this temple is most famous for. People believe that whoever prays in this temple gets freedom from all kinds of poison and snake bites and ultimately attains moksha. Also, the Linga in this temple faces south which is very unlikely when compared to other Nageshwar temples. The temple is located on Saurastra coast in Gujrat. People are recommended to visit this temple during autumn and winters or else it is very hot in here. The architecture of this temple is very simple with red and brown colors and temple is known more for its evocative spiritual history. The legend goes like this that a demon called Daaruka once attacked the devotees of Lord Shiva and captured them as prisoners and took them to his underwater city which was swarmed with sea-snakes. Amongst these devotees, there was a devotee named Supriya who started calling Lord Shiva for help and started praying him. On listening to cry of his devotee, Lord Shiva appeared in his full glory and killed Daaruka and resided in this place for eternity in form of a Jyotirlinga.
Kashi Visvanatha Temple is one of the most famous jyotirlingas of all located in ancient city of Varanasi. The temple is situated on the banks of holy river Ganga. The temple has its mention in various Hindu scriptures and has been destroyed and rebuilt many a times. The current structure of temple was last constructed by Maratha rules, Ahilya Bai Holkar from Indore in year 1780. As per legends, once the three supreme gods, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva had an argument on who is the most powerful and then to test between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva pierced the three worlds with an endless pillar of light called jyotirlinga. The two other Lords then split their ways in two directions to find these lights to prove their supremacy. Brahma lied that he found the end of the pillar of light. Then Lord Shiva cursed Brahma that he will find no place in any of the ceremonies and Lord Vishnu will be worshipped till the eternity.
The temple is located on the banks of Godavari River. The peculiar part of this jyotirlinga is that the linga is present in form of three faced statues embodying Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva together and hence the name Trimbakeshwar. The temple was constructed by third Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in 17th century. The legends go like this that one who visits this holy shrine is out of any kind of fear and he gets salvation from all kinds of sins. Gangadwar is a at the base of fort at Bramhgiri, one need to climb around 750 steps to reach there. On visiting Gangadwar you will encounter a beautiful statue of Devi Ganga. Before people visit Trimbakeshwar they take a holy dip in Kushawart Tirth and then do the parikrama of Bramhgiri to get rid of all sins, sorrows and illness. Other nearby temples that one can visit are Kolambika Devi Temple, and Gorakh Gumpha. At this place, Lord Ram said to have stayed for few days to do Shraddha ceremony in memory of his father Dashratha.
Kedarnath is one of the most famous pilgrimages for Hindu devotees. It is located amongst the picturesque mountain landscape of Garhwal on the head of Mandakini River. Kedar is the name of Lord Shiva who is considered the embodiment of all kind of passions including the love, hatred and death. The Temple itself is huge structure with a stone slab placed in the middle of the temple’s sanctum which is worshipped as Lord Shiva. The origin of revered temple can be found in great epics like Mahabharata where Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to wash off their sins from the battle. Lord Shiva was trying to avoid them and took refuge in form of a bull at Kedarnath. When he was followed their as well, he dived into the ground leaving a big hump behind which is enshrined in form of a stone in this temple. The arms of Shiva appeared in Tungnath, the face at udranath and belly in Madmaheshwar and his hairs in Kalpeshwar As winter approaches, the temple is covered with snow and now the Statute of Lord Shiva is taken to Ukhimath and worshipped there. The idol is re-instated in Kedarnath in first week of May every year under a huge ceremony to welcome back Lord Shiva. This holy shrine is also one of the Dham’s under Char Dham Yatra. In addition to the spiritual importance, the place also presents the scenic beauty to its visitors.
Grishneshwar temple is situated 11 km from Daulatabad near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The legend behind the temple goes like this, that one of the Lord Shiva’s devotee Kusuma use to pray Shiva regularly in this place by immersing the linga into the water tank as part of her daily ritual. Her husband’s first wife structured a conspiracy against Kusuma and killed her son. While Kusuma kept her faith in Lord Shiva and continued praying him, her son was restored to life miracously. At the same time, Lord Shiva appeared in front of her and said that it was made possible because of her continuous faith and devotion towards him. The temple was built by one of Shiva’s devotee Bhosale who found a treasure hidden in snake pit. He spent all this treasure to renovate the temple. Later in 17th century, the temple was further built by Ahilyadevi Holkar. This revered temple is situated in the state of Maharashtra and lies very near to Buddhist caves Ellora. The temple is adorned with sculpted walls which provide a distinctfeature to the architecture of the temple.