Mahadev. Shiva. The Destroyer of Evil. Called by different names but ultimately the Supreme Being. Shiva’s Jyotirlinga is highly revered among the Hindus. A Jyotirlinga is a sacred image of Lord Shiva. The words ‘Jyoti’ and ‘linga’ signify light and sign, respectively. Jyotirlinga is Lord Shiva’s brightness.
In India, there are 12 Jyotirlinga. Lord Shiva is said to have initially appeared on Earth on the night of the Aridra Nakshatra, thus the unique devotion to the Jyotirlinga. The Jyotirlingas do not have a distinct look. Many people think that after reaching a great degree of spiritual enlightenment, you may see these lingas as columns of fire penetrating through the earth. There were originally 64 Jyotirlingas, 12 of which are regarded exceedingly auspicious and sacred. The names of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples in India are derived from the presiding deity.
1. Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
The Somnath Temple in Gujarat, considered the first of the 12 Jyotirlingas, is located near Veraval in the (Prabhas Kshetra) Kathiawad region. According to the Shiva Purana, the moon was married to 27 of Daksha Prajapati’s daughters, the most beloved of them was Rohini. Prajapati blamed the moon for its lack of brilliance after witnessing his neglect of the other spouses. A distressed moon came to Somnath with Rohini and worshipped the Sparsa Lingam, after which Shiva blessed him to restore his lost brilliance and brightness. Lord Shiva took the name Somchandra at his request and stayed there forever. Somnath became his stage name.
2. Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Andhra Pradesh
The Mallikarjuna Temple is located on the Shri Shaila Mountain, on the banks of the Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh’s southern region. It is also known as the “Kailash of the South” and is one of India’s most important Shaivite sanctuaries. Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and Bhramaramba are the presiding deities of this temple (Devi). According to the Shiva Purana, Lord Ganesha was married off ahead of Kartikeya, which enraged Kartikeya. He left towards Kraunch Mountain. Kartikeya turned Shiva and Parvati away as they approached the peak. When they saw their son in such a situation, they were very upset, and Shiva took the shape of a Jyotirlinga and settled on the peak known as Mallikarujna.
3. Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
The Mahakaleshwar Temple is located in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of the Kshipra River, amid the lush Mahakal forest. According to the Puranas, there was a five-year-old kid named Shrikar who was captivated by King Chandrasena of Ujjain’s devotion to Lord Shiva. Shrikar picked a stone and began to worship Shiva. Many others attempted to persuade him in various ways, but his passion grew. Lord Shiva, pleased by his devotion, took the shape of a Jyotirlinga and settled in the Mahakal forest. Hindus see the Mahakaleshwar Temple as sacred for another reason. It is one of the seven “Mukti-Sthals,” or places where a human can be liberated.
4. Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar Temple is located on the island of Shivapuri in the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh. Omkareshwar literally means “Lord of Omkara” or “Lord of the Om Sound!” According to Hindu texts, there was once a tremendous war between the Devas and Danavas (Gods and Demons), in which the Danavas triumphed. This was a severe defeat for the Devas, who appealed to Lord Shiva as a result. Lord Shiva appeared in the guise of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, pleased with their devotion, and destroyed the Danavas.
5. Baidyanath Jyotirlinga, Jharkhand
The temple of Vaidyanath is also known as Vaijnath or Baidyanath. It is situated in Deogarh, Jharkhand’s Santal Parganas area. People think that worshipping this Jyotirlinga leads to moksha or salvation. According to tradition, the demon king Ravana meditated and requested that Lord Shiva come to Sri Lanka and make it invincible. Lord Shiva destroyed Ravana’s attempt to capture Mount Kailash with him. Ravana requested penance and was granted one of the twelve Jyotirlingas on the condition that it be planted on the ground and remain rooted there for forever. Lord Varuna entered Ravana’s body while bringing it to Sri Lanka, and he felt an urgent desire to discharge himself. 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 hence this Jyotirlinga came to be known as Vaidyanath.
6. Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
The Bhimashankar Temple is located in Pune, Maharashtra, in the Sahyadri area. It is located on the banks of the Bhima River and is said to be its source. The mythology of this Jyotirlinga’s existence is linked to Kumbhakarna’s son Bhima. Bhima promised to revenge on Lord Vishnu after learning that he was the son of Kumbhakarana, who was demolished by Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Lord Ram. He practiced penance in order to appease Lord Brahma, who granted him enormous strength. When he gained this ability, he began wreaking havoc on the earth. He overcame Lord Shiva’s ardent disciple, Kamrupeshwar, and imprisoned him. This angered the Lords who requested Shiva to descend on 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.
7. Rameshwar Jyotirlinga, Tamil Nadu
The southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas, Rameshwar Temple, is located on the island of Rameshwaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu. This is a time-honored pilgrimage site that many regards to be on par with Banaras. This Jyotirlinga is linked to the Ramayana and Ram’s triumphant homecoming from Sri Lanka. On his voyage to Sri Lanka, Ram is said to have halted at Rameshwaram and was drinking water on the beach when he heard a heavenly proclamation: “You are drinking water without worshipping me.” After hearing this, Ram built a linga out of the sand and worshipped it, asking for its blessings to destroy Ravana. He received Lord Shiva’s blessings and became a Jyotirlinga, residing at the location for all eternity.
8. Nageshwar Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
The Nageshwar Temple, also known as the Nagnath Temple, is located on the coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat, between Gomati Dwarka and Bait Dwarka Island. This Jyotirlinga is significant because it represents protection from all sorts of poison. Those who pray at this temple are said to be cleansed of all toxins. According to the Shiva Purana, the demon Daaruka kidnapped a Shiva devotee named Supriya. In his capital, Daarukavana, the demon imprisoned her along with numerous others. Supriya urged the captives to recite “Aum Namaha Shivaya,” which incensed Daaruka, who fled to assassinate Supriya. Lord Shiva appeared in front of the demon and extinguished him. As a result, the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga was born.
9. Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is situated in the world’s most respected location- Kashi! It is located in the busy alleyways of Banaras, the sacred city (Varanasi). More than the Ghats and Ganga of Varanasi, the Shivalinga is the pilgrims’ religious center. Banaras is thought to be the location where the first Jyotirlinga displayed its dominance over other gods, burst through the earth’s crust, and blazed into the sky. This temple is supposed to be the most sacred to Lord Shiva, and those who die here are thought to obtain emancipation.
10. Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga, Nasik
Trimbakeshwar Temple is around 30 kilometers from Nasik in Maharashtra, near the peak Brahmagiri, from which the river Godavari originates. This temple is thought to be the source of the Godavari River, also known as the “Gautami Ganga” – the most sacred river in South India. According to the Shiva Purana, Shiva chose to stay here and take the name Trimbakeshwar at the request of River Godavari, Gautam Rishi, and all the other Gods. Gautam Rishi obtained a gift from Varuna in the shape of a pit that provided him with an endless supply of grains and nourishment. The other Gods were envious of him, so they sent a cow to enter the granary. The cow was mistakenly killed by Gautam Rishi who then asked Lord Shiva to do something to purify the premises. Shiva asked Ganga to flow through the land to make it pure. Everyone thus sang praise for the Lord who then resided beside Ganga in the form of Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga.
11. Kedarnath Jyotirlinga, Uttarakhand
The Kedarnath Temple, one of India’s holiest pilgrimage destinations, is located at a height of 12000 feet atop a mountain named Kedar in the Rudra Himalaya Range. It is around 150 kilometers from Hardwar. The temple that houses the Jyotirlinga is only open for six months of the year. It is customary for pilgrims to Kedarnath to first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri before bringing holy water to present at Kedarnath. According to tradition, Lord Shiva took up permanent residence in Kedarnath in the shape of this Jyotirlinga after being gratified by the great penance of the Nara and Narayana avatars of Lord Vishnu.
12. Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga, Aurangabad
The Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga is located in Verul, Maharashtra, 20 kilometers from Daulatabad and near Aurangabad. The famed tourist sites of Ajanta and Ellora caves are nearby. Ahilyabai Holkar, who also restored the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, erected this temple. Other names for the Ghrishneshwar temple are Kusumeswarar, Ghushmeswara, Grushmeswara, and Grishneswara. The Devagiri Mountain was home to a couple named Sudharm and Sudeha, according to the Shiva Purana. They were childless, so Sudeha married Sudharm’s sister Ghushma. They had a son, which made Ghushma proud and Sudeha envious of her sister. Sudha tossed the son into the lake where Ghushma used to discharge 101 lingams out of envy.