Over the centuries, there have been innumerable devotees of Lord Shiva and they have worshipped him in his many forms, but none as popular as the Shivling. It is believed that Lord Shiva in Shivling form is probably the most powerful, because it is said that the yoni is a source of immense power.
What Is A Jyotirlinga?Jyotirlinga is a compound word from Sanskrit which combines jyoti and linga – jyoti stands for radiance or light and linga, which means signs or images and is often considered a phallic representation, always associated with Lord Shiva. For centuries, the jyotirlinga has been considered one of the most divine and devotional representations of Lord Shiva. As per Shiva Purana, there were supposed to be 64 of them, located in India and Nepal, but there are 12 that are considered most sacred and it is these 12 jyotirlinga that are also known as the Great Jyotirlingas or the Maha Jyotirlingam. It is said that the locations are places where Lord Shiva resides in different forms and there is a story behind each location. Each site takes its name from the deity that presides over it and the primary image, which is the lingam, is constant and represents the infinite nature of Lord Shiva. The Shiva statue that you can buy from eCraftIndia, will allow you to revel in that infinite nature of the all-powerful god!
What is the story behind the 12 Jyotirlinga?According to legends, it is said that once there was an argument between Lord Brahma, who is considered the god of preservation and Lord Vishnu, who is said to be the form that god takes during preservation. The debate was about who had the supremacy when it came to creation and when the argument became extremely heated, Lord Shiva was brought in to intervene. In order to settle the debate, Shiva pierced the three worlds appearing in the form of a huge pillar of light that seemed infinite. It is said that this Jyotirlinga is what later cooled down to become the holy mountain of Annamalai, on which the Arunachaleshwara temple is now situated.
Brahma and Vishnu were both asked to find the end of the light and both choose to go look for the same in one direction each – so while Brahma chose to go downwards, Vishnu went upwards. After an immense time of searching, both returned and while Vishnu conceded his defeat, Brahma chose to lie, stating that he had found the end of the light. Angered by the lie, Shiva cursed Brahma saying that even though he was the creator, he would not be worshipped by the people. The 12 jyotirlinga temple locations are those where Shiva appeared in the form of the fiery, never ending column!
Which are the 12 jyotirlingas?While it is believed that there are about 64 Jyotirlingas, the most prominent of them are 12 and these 12 jyotirling are located all over the country. Here are the jyotirlingas, their locations and the interesting stories that are often associated with many of them:
- Somnath Jyotirlinga: It is said that when you start the journey for the 12 jyotirlingas, this is the one you should start with. The Somnath temple, located in Prabhas-Kshetra in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is the first lingam, which is also why it is one of the most popular and most visited. It is said that the son of Lord Brahma, who was called Prajapati Daksha, had 27 daughters and all of them were married to the moon; however, the moon paid most attention only to the prettiest of the daughters, Rohini. Prajapati Daksha was angry and upset by the lack of attention that his other daughters were getting and he cursed the moon that due to his pride, he would end up losing all his light and beauty. Scared and worried, the moon prayed to Lord Shiva, asking him to remove the curse and henceforth, Lord Shiva resided in that location. Over the centuries, the Somnath temple has been destroyed and then rebuilt 16 times.
- Nageshwar: Located in the city of Dwarka, people flock here to see the magnificent statue of Lord Shiva, which is unlike anything you might find in the Lord Shiva idols online. This statue is 25 meters tall and has a lovely garden that surrounds it and given that the temple is located near the Arabian Sea, there are some incredible views to be enjoyed too. There are mentions of this particular jyotirlinga in the Shiva Purana and the Dvādaśa Jyotirliṅga Stotram and Lord Shiva resides here in the form of Nageshwara.
- Bhimashankar: The son of Kumbhakarna, Bhima was known to be an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, and it is said that it was he who built the Bhimashankar temple. This temple is situated just a few hours’ drive away from the Pune city centre and is also located on the banks of the river Bhima. The temple is a beautiful structure and comes alive every Shivaratri, because devotees come here from all over the world. If you have ever seen a Shiv Parivar Murti, you will see Shiva, with Parvati and Ganesha; but when you come to Bhimashankar, you will get too see the relationship in reality, because there is a Parvati temple nearby too.
- Trimbakeshwar: This is perhaps one of the most picturesque jyotirlinga, because this temple is located in Igatpuri, in the Brahmagiri Mountains, which is the birthplace of the river Godavari. Yet again, there is a small story associated with this jyotirlinga – Gautam rishi prayed to lord Shiva and requested him to come and live near the Godavari river, and Shiva accepted the request and chose to reside in the region as Trimbakeshwar. Inside the shrine, you will be able to see three pillars, which are meant to resemble Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
- Grishneshwar: This temple is in Aurangabad and quite close to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves – the architecture of this temple is incredibly impressive and while there are several deities carved into the walls, Shiva in the form of Grishneshwar is the resident god. It is said that this temple was built by Ahilyabai of the Holkar dynasty.
- Vaidyanath: Also known was the Baidyanath temple, the location of this jyotirlinga is in modern day Jharkhand, Deoghar. Legend has it that Ravana wanted Shiva to come and live with him in Lanka. Shiva asked him to first carry a linga and ensure that the same was not dropped or placed down anywhere. Lord Vishnu, however, tricked Ravana into setting the linga down and that is where Shiva now resides in the form of Lord Vaidyanath. Another story goes that Ravana worshipped Shiva at this very site to earn boons from him and sacrificed his heads, one by one. Pleased by the devotion, Shiva gave him the boons and also treated him of his injuries, hence earning the name Vaidya, or doctor.
- Mahakaleshwar: The deity at Mahakaleswar is Mahakal and the story goes that the divine shrine was made by a 4 year old boy names Shikar, who was inspired by the monarch of Ujjain. This is also one of the 7 mukti-sthals in India; the lingam is considered to be the sole swayambhu and is also the only one that is facing the south and to have a Shree Rudra Yantra that sits in an inverted position, at the ceiling of the temple.
- Omkareshwar: This temple in Madhya Pradesh is located on an island called Shivapuri and the story behind is that centuries ago, there was a fierce battle between gods and demons. Everyone prayed to Lord Shiva to help and he chose to present himself in the form of Omkareshwara to help stop the war and that is how the resident deity became Omkareshwar.
- Kashi Vishwanath: Perhaps one of the most famous of jyotirlingas and Shiva temples, you will be able to see the image of this temple in several Lord Shiva wall paintings. Also known as the golden temple of Varanasi city, this temple was also built by Ahilyabai Holkar. It is also said that this was the very first jyotirlinga that allowed people to experience the impact of god, which is why, till date, people flock to this temple to pray for happiness and liberation of the soul. Given that Shiva is considered the reigning deity of salvation, several Hindus choose to come and scatter the ashes of loved ones and family here.
- Kedarnath: Sitting in the Himalayan range, at the height of 1200ft, this shrine is a part of the 4 dham that opens only for a few months, each year. Nestled in the heart of Uttarakhand, devotees believe that if you bathe the Shivling here with the water from Yamuna and Ganga, you will attain inner peace.
- Rameshwaram: The southernmost part of the Indian mainland is home to Rameshwaram temple – legend has it that when Lord Rama was trying to build the Ram Setu, he worshipped Lord Shiva and made a Shivling – that is the linga that still exists and was named after Lord Rama, hence the name, Rameshwara.
- Mallikarjuna: On top of the Shrisaila mountain in Rayalseema district of Andhra Pradesh, sits the final one of the 12 jyotirlingas, which is also listed amongst the 52 ‘shakti peethas’ of India. This is also one of the few temples that also has idols of Parvati and Bhramaramba as well.