Archana Das is a voracious reader. She likes to dig into the stories of Indian mythology and pen down her thoughts on paper often.
India is known as the pilgrimage, place of enlightenment, and the abode of the Hindu Supreme Being, Mahadev. He has left his engravings throughout the country in the form of 12 Jyotirlingas. Many of you must have heard the stories of Shiva Purana while growing up with your siblings. But have you ever come up with what Jyotirlingas mean? Jyotirlingas are the shrines of Lord Shiva.
People worship him in linga form. There is no form of cosmic energy, believed by the Indian scriptures. He is who, has a body, and he is who has no body. The Jyotirlingas means the sign (phallus symbol) of the Almighty. Jyoti signifies light, and linga a sign. Jyotirlinga is the light of Shiva.
Do you want to feel the energy flow within you, or are you searching for spiritual touch? You should visit these 12 Jyotirlingas.
Here are the complete details to make your travel to India beautiful and memorable.
1. Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujrat
Somnath temple is one of the first Jyotirlingas, was built in Gujrat close to Veraval Kathiawad district (Prabhas Kshetra). It is an exceptional pilgrimage where people come throughout the country to witness the divinity.
According to the Shiva Purana, Prajapati Daksh cursed the moon god, Chandra, who married his twenty-seven daughters. But, he was in love with Rohini more than the others. The other wives were seeking the attention of Chandra, but they did not know Prajapati Daksh would curse their husband after complaining.
Chandra slowly lost all his radiance and divinity. Rohini and other spouses regretted and requested Lord Shiva to save their husband. Shiva said I could not reverse Daksha's curse. I can soften it to some extent. From this day, you will increase your radiance for fifteen days in Shukla Paksha and then wane for fifteen days in Krishna Paksha. You will fill the world with your calm brightness on full moon days and disappear on new moon days.
Shiva then placed the moon in his tangled locks as his companion and blessed him with new life. Shiva came to be known as Somchandra, Somnath, Chandrashekhar, or Chandra mounted on his head.
2. Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Andhra Pradesh
The second Jyotirlinga is Mallikarjuna. It is on the highest point of Shri Shaila Mountain, close to the bank of the Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh. It is known as the Kailash of the South and one of the most visited Shaivite temples in India.
As per Shiva Purana, Lord Ganesha's marriage was going canceled because Kartikeya was the eldest, and he should have to marry first. Seeing this problem, Kartikeya left Kailash and went to Kraunch Mountain so that Ganesha could get married. The divine beings went there to console him to come, but he refused. In the end, Lord Shiva and Parvati came to make him aware of the events of Kailash that Ganesha denied marrying without him.
Kartikeya got consoled, and he understood the circumstances, and he was then ready to go back. Thus, this made Shiva install Jyotirlinga named Mallikarjuna.
If a person sees this mountain top, he gets rid of all of the issues of life and becomes liberated from all the sins and life, death cycle.
3. Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is situated close to the bank of the Kshipra River, in Mahakal forest in Ujjain. There are so many telling and retellings of how this Jyotirlinga came to existence. As per Shiva Purana, there was a kid named Shrikar. He took a stone and started worshipping Shiva. Many villagers tried to stop him, but he did not stop.
Shrikar's dedication and devotion continued growing. His prayer towards him pleased Mahadev. He came to bless him with boon and install himself there in the form of a Jyotirlinga in the Mahakal forest.
The place is also known as Mukti-sthal, which frees humans from the life and death cycle.
4. Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
Once Bindhyachanl parvat (mountain) declared he wanted to become the highest mountain in the world, in vain. To fulfill this, he started to pray to Lord Brahma to get the boon. After some time, he utilized his boon to set himself as the greatest parvat. As a result, he was so heavy, and Goddess Prithvi cannot handle his weight. Therefore, the Goddess and other gods asked Lord Shiva to make Bindhyachal parvat realize his mistake. When Bhindhya understood his mistake, he requested Shiva place a Jyotirlinga over there. Thus, he emerged as Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga.
It is one of the most sacred pilgrimages, situated on an island named Shivapuri, close to the Narmada River.
5. Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Jharkhand
This sacred shrine is also called Baidyanath or Vaijnath, situated at Deogarh, Santal Paranas district of Jharkhand. As per the old scriptures, once Demon King Ravana worshiped Shiva and attempted to take Mount Kailash with him, Shiva squashed his effort. Ravana requested Lord Shiva accompany him to Sri Lanka and reside there for eternity.
In this, Shiva asked Ravana to promise he would not set the linga free on the earth. If he did, the linga would set free and reside there forever. On the journey to Sri Lanka, Lord Varuna entered the body of Ravana. It made him put the linga on the earth.
However, he found a boy named Vaidya (Lord Ganesh) on the way. He requested him to hold the linga until he came back. Vaidya put the linga on the earth, and thus he came to be known as Vaidyanath.
6. Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
The Bhimashankar temple is the sixth Jyotirlinga, built in the Sahyadri area of Pune, Maharashtra, close to the Bhima River. The installation of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga's story is unique. Bhima was the son of a demon Kumbhakarna, brother of Ravana was killed by Ram. The incarnation of Vishnu.
Bhima knew that his father was innocent. Bhima pledged to take revenge. He did many penances to accomplish power. When he got power, he started to cause devastation in the entire world. Vishnu has given a promise that he would not kill Khumbhakarna's lineage.
But, seeing Bhima's havoc, Vishnu prayed to Lord Shiva to save the earth. In this battle with Bhima, Kamalaja, an incarnation of Parvati, joined Shiva with Siva Ganams, Shaakini, and Daakini. Bhima got defeated.
At the request of Gods, Shiva manifested himself as Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.
Kaushika Maha Muni bathed at Mokshakund thirtham is behind the temple, connects Sarvathirtha from where the Bhima river begins to flow.
8. Nageshwar Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
The Nageshwar shrine is on the course of Gomati Dwarka and the Bait Dwarka Island, Gujarat. If a person worships Lord Shiva in this temple, his external or internal toxins wash away, and Lord Shiva protects his devotee.
As per the Shiva Purana, Supriya, a worshiper of Mahadev, was imprisoned by the demon Daaruk with many others in his city of Darukavana, a city under the sea inhabited by sea snakes and demons. Supriya advised other devotees that they should chant Om Namah Shivay, the holy mantra. This demonstration enrages Daaruk, and he raced to kill Supriya. Lord Shiva immediately appeared and defeated the demon.
However, he had a wife, named Daruka who was a worshipper of Parvati. Goddess Parvati gave a boon to Daruka and enabled her to master the forest, where she performed her prayers and renamed the forest Darukavana in her honor. Daruka moved the entire forest into the sea to save demons, where they continued their kidnapping campaign against the hermits.
Parvati saved the remaining demons from killing because of her boon to Daruka. Supriya installed a lingam, and Shiva assumed the form of Jyotirlinga with the name Nageshwar, and while the Parvati was known as Nageshwari.
7. Rameswaram Jyotirlinga
Rameswaram Temple is on the island, off the Sethu shoreline of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the topmost pilgrimages where people like to visit, and its architecture is so praiseworthy, having 1000 pillars. Rameswaram means Lord of Ram. In the shrine, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple is Shiva.
According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Ram prayed to Shiva for blessings before battling with Ravana, the Demon King, to rescue Sita.
In another account, upon the advice of sages, Ram, with his better half Sita and brother Lakshaman, installed the lingam to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya. Ravan was the Brahmin. Ram wanted to have a lingam, so he directed his trusted lieutenant Hanuman, an avatar of Shiva himself, to bring it from the Himalayas. Hanuman took a longer time to come back. Thus, Sita built a lingam made of sands of the shores.Valmiki, the author of Ramayana mentioned the same in yudha kanda.
However, in Adhyatma Ramayana, it is written that Ram installed the lingam before construction of the floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu, that continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.
9. Kashi Vishwanath, Varanasi
Kashi, the most sacred shrine of India and one of the Char Dham yatra, is the most loveable spot of Lord Shiva. This shrine is in the Ghats of Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
According to the old mythological notes, Manikarnika, a place where Lord Vishnu's earring fell while the deities were busy creating planet earth. Thus, to show devotion and love towards Vishnu, Lord Shiva made Manikarnika, the old name of Varanasi city, and installed Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga. People love to visit here and worship to get Moksha, liberation, and happiness.
10. Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
The Trimbakeshwar Temple is situated close to Nasik in Maharashtra. The shrine is the source of the river Godavari, which is called Gautami Ganga, the sacred river in South India. As per the Shiva Purana, Brahmadev worshipped Lord Trivikram when he came to Satya Loka, on the earth with some holy water of Ganges held by God Shankar on his matted locks, to flow.
There was a famine for 24 years. People were crying and dying for food and water. In order to eradicate the situation, Gautam Rishi, penanced for a long time and earned a boon from Varuna Dev, the God of Rains. He arranged rains every day in Gautam's Ashram (dwelling place), which was in Trimbakeshwar. Sage Gautam watered the farm to sow rice in the fields in the morning, reap the crop in the afternoon. He fed a large group of Hrishis, who took shelter in his dwelling because of the famine. In this act, Lord Indra got jealous and ordered clouds to rain all over Trimbakeshwar. He urged the Rishis to stay back to feed them and gain merit. However, Gautam saw a cow grazing in his fields. In anger, he drove her away by throwing Darbha, a sharp, pointed grass. The cow died. It was Jaya, Parvati's friend, who took the form of a cow to destroy everything.
He sought help from Lord Shiva to release the Ganges to purify his ashram premises and himself from the sin he did. Gautam then practiced penance for 1000 years by going to the peak of Brahmagiri. Mahadev was pleased by his worship and gave him the Ganges to flow on the ashram.
If Ganga released herself on the earth directly from heaven, it might be destroyed. But, Ganges was not ready to part with Lord Shiva to come on earth on his matted locks, which irritated the lord. Mahadev did Tandav Nrutya (dance) on the peak of Brahmagiri and threw his jata there. The Ganges got frightened by this action, so she appeared on Brahmagiri.
Later on, she appeared in the Trimbak Tirtha. The sage praised her, but she disappeared on the mountains in anger. Still, Gautam could not bathe in her holy waters. She appeared in various places such as Gangadwar, Varaha-tirtha, Rama-Laxman tirtha, Ganga Sagar tirtha.
One day, Gautam vowed to her and surrounded the river with enchanted grass. The flow of the Ganges stopped there, and the tirtha came to be known as Kushavarta. The Godavari river then came into existence. Gautam wiped off his sin of killing a cow, and thus Shiva is known as Trimbakeshwar Jyotirling.
11. Kedarnath Jyotirlinga, Uttarakhand
Kedarnath temple is on the Rudra Himalaya, at the top of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar. It is almost 150 miles away from Rishikesh, Hardwar, on the shores of Mandakini river, a part of Ganga. Kedarnath means the lord of the field.
Once at the Kedar, there was Narayana and Nara penanced for hundreds of years. Mahadev was pleased with both the brothers, who were the incarnation of Vishnu. He gave a boon to them and set a linga for desire fulfillment. The brothers requested Shiva to dwell here.
On another account, after the Kurukshetra War, the Pandava brothers came to Kedarnath to meet Shiva on the advice of the sage Vyasa. The brothers wanted to seek forgiveness for killing their relatives during the war. But, Shiva did not want to forgive them for their sin. He turned himself into a bull and hid with other cattle on the hill. When the brothers managed to track him, Shiva tried to disappear, sinking his head into the ground. Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers, grabbed his tail, forcing him to appear and forgive them.
The Pandava brothers then built the first temple, came to know Kedarnath, and then the other portion of Shiva's body appeared at four locations. So, there are five Kedaras or Panch Kedar, such as Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar.
12. Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga, Aurangabad, Maharashtra
The shrine Ghrishneshwar is in the town named Verul, close to Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. You can discover this spot easily because the temple is close to the renowned tourist destination named Ajanta and Ellora caves. The temple constructed by Ahilyabai Holkar. The temple is famous with the names Ghushmeshwara, Kusumeshwarer, Grushmeshwara, and Grishneshwara.
In Shiva Purana, there was a couple named Sudeha and Sudharm who dwelled on the Devagiri Mountain. They were childless, and Sudeha was unhappy, so she asked her sister Ghushma to wed Sudharm. After some time, the new couple gave birth to a child. As time blur, Sudeha gets envious of her sister.
When their son became an adult, they married him to a beautiful young lady. On seeing this much joy, Sudeha got significantly more envious. In envy, she killed the boy and threw him in the nearby lake. When her sister came to know the incident, she prayed to Lord Shiva without getting attached to her son's untimely death. She had not said anything to her sister. The devotion of Ghushma made Lord Shiva gave her son a new life, and he emerged himself there as Ghushmeshwar Jyotirlinga.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Archana Das
Archana Das (author) from New Delhi, India on May 25, 2021:
Thank you, Ravi Rajan for your kind words.
Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on May 25, 2021:
Wonderful Archana. I had heard about the 12 jyotirlingas but your article gave me in-depth knowledge about each of the lingas and the significance. Thanks for this interesting article.