Jyotirlinga refers to the Linga form of Lord Shiva that is regarded as highly sacred. Here, the Almighty is said to be present with his divinity, fully manifested. There are believed to be 12 such Jyotirlingas in our country, as detailed in the sacred legend, Shiva Purana. These are found across the length and breadth of our great land.
The term ‘Jyothi’ can mean anything like the light, flame, or radiance, whereas Linga is the aniconic manifestation of Shiva, the form in which he is generally worshipped in the temples. Hence, Jyothir Linga can be said to denote Lord Shiva in all his power and brilliance. Therefore, these abodes of the Lord are said to be most efficacious, and their worship can bestow the devotees with immense benefits in both the spiritual and material planes.
The 12 Jyotirlingas
These Jyotirlingas are
Lord Somnath in Gir Somnath, Gujarat
Lord Nageshwar in Daarukavanam, Gujarat
Lord Bhimashankar in Pune, Maharashtra
Lord Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra
Lord Grishneshwar in Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Lord Vaidyanath in Deoghar, Jharkhand
Lord Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Lord Omkareshwar in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
Lord Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Lord Kedarnath in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand
Sri Rameshwar in Rameswaram Island, Tamil Nadu and
Sri Mallikarjuna in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
Thus, 5 of these are in the Western part of the country, one in the East, 2 in Central India, 2 in the North, and 2 in the South.
The Jyotirlingas Temples
Now let us try to learn about the greatness of each of these temples, in brief.
Somnath is regarded as the first of the Jyotirlingas, and also remains as one of the highly worshipped temples of India. As per the legend, once, the Moon lost his luster due to a curse. He prayed to Shiva and regained his brightness. Shiva is believed to have appeared here as a brilliant column of light, and hence this form of Shiva came to be termed as Jyothir Linga, the Linga of brightness. This is a beautiful temple built in the Chalukyan style of architecture. It is said to have been demolished and rebuilt as many as 16 times!
Nageshwar is the second Jyothir Linga from Gujarat, situated on the Saurashtra coast. He is Naga Eshwar, the Lord of the snakes, and hence, is believed to protect people from all forms of poisons. While Nageshwar Mahadev can be worshipped in the sanctum located underground, a huge statue of Shiva and a garden with the Arabian Sea as background, add to the temple’s appeal.
Bhimshankar gets his name from the Bhima river, on whose banks the temple is located. It is a beautiful structure made of black rock and built in the Nagara style of architecture. A legend says that this Jyothir Linga was erected by Bheema, the son of demon Kumbhakarna. While devotees in their thousands visit this temple all around the year, and especially during Maha Shivratri, they also worship at the Kamalaja temple, the abode of Parvati incarnate, nearby.
Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga is located in the Western Ghats, near the origin of river Godavari, also known as Gautami Ganga. Shiva Purana says that the Lord landed here, in deference to the requests of the Godavari and Sage Gautami. The main idol is seen in the form of 3 pillars representing the 3 supreme Gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
Grineshwar is the third Jyothir Linga of Maharashtra, and is located near the internationally renowned monuments, Ajanta and Ellora. This splendid 5-storied temple was built by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, in red rock, in the Shikara architectural style and remains a feast to our eyes. Also known as Gru Someswara and Kusum Eswara, this temple has the fascinating sculpture of Dasavatar, the 10 famous incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Vaidyanath, the only Jyotirlinga of the Eastern region, has an interesting legend about it. Demon Ravana, an ardent devotee of Shiva, was carrying this Linga to his capital Lanka when Vishnu played a trick and made him keep it at this place, which then became its permanent abode. Lord Vaidyanath is worshipped here as a physician, who can help cure miseries and attain salvation. This temple also remains a Shakti Peeta, the chosen abode of the Mother Goddess.
Mahakaleshwar is one of the highly revered and famous Shiva temples of India, in the historical town of Ujjain. Situated on the banks of the Kshipra river, this is said to have been built by a young boy who got impressed with the devotion of the local king. Ujjain’s Mahakal Jyothir Linga is also counted among the 7 Mukthi Sthal, the sacred places that can provide salvation.
Omkareshwar, the Shiva of the sacred sound Om, is located in the Shivapuri island of river Narmada. When war broke out between the celestials and the demons, the celestials prayed to Shiva for their success. The pleased Lord is said to have appeared as Omkareshwar and ensured the victory of the Devas over the Asuras.
Kashi, on the banks of the sacred Ganges river, is the holiest of the holy towns. And Kashi Vishwanath, the Lord of the universe residing here, is believed to give happiness and liberation to all. Queen Ahilyabai Holkar constructed this Jyothir Linga temple in the 18th century. A visit to Kashi, a holy bath in Ganga, and the worship of the Jyothir Linga are said to lead to great spiritual advancement.
Kedarnath, nestled in the Himalayan ranges at the height of 12,000 feet, is a much revered Jyothir Linga and also remains one of the Char (4) Dhams, the important places of pilgrimage. Situated on the banks of river Mandakini, a tributary of Ganga, this temple is located in an extremely cold region and remains closed for 6 months in winter. It is also a practice among the devotees to take the holy waters of Ganga and Yamuna, and offer those to the Kedarnath Linga.
Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga, also known as Ramanathaswamy, is said to have been worshipped by Lord Rama himself. Located in the Rameshwaram island and surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, this grand temple is also well-known for its architecture, imposing tower, and fascinating corridors. The bridge that Rama is believed to have built to Lanka is also said to start from here only.
Regarded as the Kailash of the South, Mallikarjuna Jyothir Linga sits on top of the Sri Saila mountain, on the banks of Krishna river. Replete with beautiful architecture, sculptures, pillars, and towers, this temple houses Lord Shiva as Mallikarjuna and Parvati, as Bhramaramba. This temple is also counted as one among the Shakti Peetas.