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12 Jyotirlingas in India


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12 Jyotirlingas in India

According to the Shiva Mahapurana - the greatest Purana of Shaivites, the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma and the preserver of the universe and the supreme lord of Vaisnava Dharma, Lord Vishnu locked horns over supremacy of their powers. All of a sudden, Lord Shiva perforated the trailokya (the three worlds) and appeared as a massive column of fire. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu set out separately to discover the starting and ending point of the column of fire. The gods determined that whoever discovers the starting or the ending point of the fire column will be esteemed as the greater one.

Jyotirlingam in India

As their endeavor resulted fruitless, Lord Vishnu admitted his failure while Lord Brahma misinformed that he discovered the end of the column of fire. On knowing the misleading information of Lord Brahma, the Mahadeva took form as a second column of fire and destined Lord Brahma to have no place in pujas, while Lord Vishnu would be revered forever and a day. Realizing that their disputation was a big mistake, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu worshiped and acknowledged Lord Shiva as the supreme one. Lord Shiva declared that he will always remain within the boundaries distinguished by his Jyotirlinga. The jyothirlinga temples in India therefore are holy locations where Lord Shiva came along as an ardent pillar of fire (light).


Though there were believed to be sixty-four jyothirlingas, twelve of jyothirlingas are regarded to be extremely sacred and auspicious. The much revered twelve jyothirlinga sacred locations assume the name of the main deity, while every jyothirlinga is venerated as a singular manifestation of Maheshvara. Across the twelve jyothirlinga temples, the presiding deity is the aniconic form of Lord Shiva, which is the lingam symbolizing the 'no beginning and no end' Skambha column, representing the myriad character of Sarveshwara. Furthermore, a most popular shloka (Dvadasa Jyotirlinga Stotram) from the Hindu religious text, the Shiva Mahapurana distinguishes the twelve jyotirlingas as follows:
“Saurashtre Somanathamcha Srisaile Mallikarjunam |
Ujjayinya Mahakalam Omkaramamaleswaram ||
Paralyam Vaidyanathancha Dakinyam Bheema Shankaram |
Setu Bandhethu Ramesam, Nagesam Darukavane ||
Varanasyantu Vishwesam Tryambakam Gautameethate |
Himalayetu Kedaaram, Ghrishnesamcha shivaalaye ||
Etani jyotirlingani, Saayam Praatah Patennarah |
Sapta Janma Kritam pApam, Smaranena Vinashyati ||”

Let's now take a tour across the twelve most sacred jyotirlinga sites that are glorified in the Shiva Mahapurana

Somnath Jyotirlinga

State: Gujarat
Sacred Location: Prabhas Patan, Saurashtra

Somnath Temple

First among the 12 jyotilingas of India, Shree Somnath temple remains firmly at the seashore of the Arabian ocean on the westerly corner of the Indian state of Gujarat. Somnath pilgrimage is regarded as one of the oldest pilgrimage in the country and the sacred site is mentioned in the age old Hindu texts like Skand Puran, Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana, Shri Shiva Mahapurana and so on. Located near the Veraval town, Somnath Temple is one distinguished stately structure.

Legend has it that Chandra; the moon god was married to the twenty-seven daughters of Daksha (one of the sons of Brahmadeva). Among his twenty-seven spouses, the moon god loved his wife by the name Rohini more overlooking his other wives. Miffed by his carelessness, Daksha doomed the moon god that he would lose the quality of being bright and sending out rays of light. As the Chandra lost its character, the whole universe came to a standstill. The distressed Chandra along with his wife Rohini visited Somnath and revered the jyotirlinga. Shree Somnath Mahadev blessed and relieved the moon god from the curse of Daksha. As the Chandra got relieved from the curse and regained his light, beauty and charm here, the holy site came to be called as the Prabhasa Kshetra. As the moon god prayed Lord Shiva here, the Somnath jyotirlinga is found with the moon on his head in this temple.

Mallikarjuna Swami Jyotirlinga

State: Andhra Pradesh
Sacred Location: Srisailam

Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga Temple

One of the most sacred sites in the country where Jyotirlinga and Shakthi Peetha are together, Mallikarjuna jyotirlinga temple is located on the Nallamalla range at Srisailam in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga Temple is renowned all over the world for its architectural grandeur. The notable 8th-century Hindu theologian and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya (also known as Shankara Bhagavatpada) composed his Shivananda Lahari - a devotional hymn, here in this holy site.

Did you know?
Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga Temple (Srisailam Devasthanam) is one among the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams - sacred sites that are glorified in the compositions of Saiva Nayanars in the 6th-9th century CE

Legend has it that when Lord Kartikeya (the son of Lord Shiva) got back to Kailash after finishing his journey around the earth, he got word about his brother Lord Ganesha’s marriage. Enraged Kartikeya departed to stay alone on Mount Kravunja as a brahmachari. An emotionally troubled Goddess Parvati prayed Lord Shiva to look into the matter. The god and the goddess decided to visit their son. But, Lord Kartikeya moved away after knowing that his parents are visiting him. Prior to starting up an additional search Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati chose to keep a light on every mount they traveled to. Right from the day, the holy site came to be called as 'JyotirLinga Mallikarjuna'. It is considered that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati visit this sacred location on every 'no moon day' (amavasya) and full moon day (pournami), respectively.

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga

State: Madhya Pradesh
Sacred Location: Ujjain

Shri Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling

The third jyotirlinga among the twelve, Mahakaleshwar is located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the antique and the spiritual town of Ujjain (also known as Avanti). The renowned temple is located on the banks of the sacred Shipra River (also known as Kshipra). The jyotirlinga temple is glorified in the Srimad Bhagavata Maha Pura as being the location where the celebrated guru Sandipani had his gurukulam where all the imperial people of the region went to their educational activity. As a matter of fact, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, his elder brother Balarama and their friend Sudama (Kuchela) also had their education from guru Sandipani.

Did you know?
Among the twelve jyotirlinga temples, Shri Mahakaleshwar Jyotirling temple is the only temple where the idol of the presiding deity is facing the south and called as 'dakshinamurti'

The main deity, Shri Mahakaleshwar here is considered to be Swayambhu (self manifested), gaining power from itself, which is unlike other Shivalingams that are ceremonially installed. Legend has it that once existed a brahmin in Avantikapuri, who was a father of four sons. The four sons were ardent worshippers of Sarveshwara. There was an evil force by the name Dushanan who gave nothing but trouble to the people and tried his best to stop pujas and other spiritual activities in the town. The people of the town got together and the four sons of the brahmin offered prayers to Lord Shiva seeking his blessings. The exact place where they had collected mud to shape the Shivalinga, turned a pond. When the evil force struck, Lord Shiva came out of this pond and destructed the mighty Dushanan, in the form of Mahakaleshwarar. On the humble request of the people, Shri Mahakaleshwarar offered his blessings and stayed in the town forever.

Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga

State: Madhya Pradesh
Sacred Location: Omkareshwar

Omkareshwar Mahadev Temple

Located on an island called Mandhata (also known as Shivapuri) in the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh. The history of the Omkareshwar Mahadev Temple goes back to 'krita yuga'. The sacred Narmada streams around the Mandhata hill in the shape of Hindu 'Om'. There are two temples in Mandhata, one dedicated to Shri Omkareshwar and another to Shri Amareshwar. But then, according to the dwadash jyotirliga sloka, Mamleshwar is the jyotirlingam here and it is found on the other side of the sacred river.

Legend has it that Vedic sage Narada traveled to the Vindhya mountains and delivered the praise of mount Meru by singing. On listening to his praise, the Vindhya Mountains sought blessings of Lord Shiva in order to become distinguished. The Mahadeva offered his blessings in the name of Omkareshwara and Amaleshwara. Furthermore, Lord Shiva gave the blessing of 'growing', but without obstructing the devotees of Lord Shiva. The Vindhya Mountains did the exact opposite and grew obstructing the sun and the moon. The vedic sage Agasthya curbed the monolithic growth of the mountains by convincing that it would not rise till he and his wife returns. The couple never returned and therefore the growth of the Vindhya was finally halted.

Kedarnath Jyotirlinga

State: Uttarakhand
Sacred Location: Kedarnath

Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath, located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini River (an affluent of the river Alaknanda) in Uttarakhand is venerated as the north-most and the nearest jyotirlinga kshetra to Mahadeva's legendary Mount Kailash. Located 11,755 ft above sea level and cuddled by the snow-covered Himalaya Mountains, the ancient Kedarnath shrine is accessible only for 6 months in a year.

Did you know?
Kedarnath shrine is one among the 275 Padal Petra Stalams of 'Vada Naadu' named in the Tamil Saiva hymns Tevaram

A modest conelike rough stone shaping is revered in the sanctum sanctorum and regarded as the 'Sadashiva' form of Mahadeva. The presiding deity here is called as 'Kedarnath'. Legend has it that Mahadeva willed to sidestep the Pandavas, and visited the sacred land of Kedarnath as a bull. On noticing that he is being accompanied, Sarveshwara plunged into the earth, leaving his 'hump' above the surface. On the 'hump' of the bull which is in fact, Lord Shiva's, a Jyotirlinga came out and Lord Shankara took shape of a light. The Pandavas got the blessings. Lord Shiva told the Pandavas that he will remain there as a jyotirlinga.

Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga

State: Maharashtra
Sacred Location: Bhimashankar

Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga Temple

Located in the Sahyadri hills in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, Bhimashankar Temple can be reached via Pune. A source of Bhima River, the sacred site is the spot where Lord Shankara is believed to have destructed the evil Tripurasuras - the three demons.

Did you know?
The other name of the presiding deity of the Bhimashankar Shiva Mandir is Moteshwar Mahadev

Legend has it that there lived an evil force named Bhima. When Bhima confronted his mother about the secrets of his life, his mother revealed that his father was none other than the powerful Kumbhakarna, one of the brothers of the evil king of Lanka - Ravana. She further revealed that his father was destroyed by Lord Rama during the war. After knowing about the death of his father, he took the path of vengeance. The evil force started killing kings, sadhus and rishis. He captured and prisoned a king named Kamarupeshwar (a pious devotee of Lord Shiva) and tortured. The king started praying Shankara for his rescue. Lord Shiva came to his rescue and destroyed the demon. The ardent devotee pleaded Lord Shiva to remain there and hence Lord Shiva here is called as Bhimashankara

Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga

State: Uttar Pradesh
Sacred Location: Varanasi

Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga

One of the most sacred pilgrimage and one of the most visited Shiva temples in India, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Regarded as the holiest temple of Hindus, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is situated on the westerly bank of the sacred Ganges. The presiding deity (Lord Shiva) of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is also called as Vishweshwara and Vishwanatha which can be translated as 'Ruler of the universe'. The renowned jyotilinga temple here has been ravaged and rebuilt several times throughout the history.

The main deity of Shivling here is singular that it is laid in a square-shaped sizable hole made of brass. In this temple, people are allowed to offer ceremonial bath (using holy waters of the river Ganga), decorate with garlands and offer aarathi ritual and so on to the Shankara, in person. Furthermore, Lord Mahadeva has himself declared this holy site as his abode. The mother of Goddess Parvathi had a bad feeling about Lord Shiva not having a proper abode. To delight the goddess, Lord Shiva asked his devotee Nikumbha to erect a holy abode here in Kashi. There are several smaller temples found in Kashi surrounding the main temple.

Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga

State: Maharashtra
Sacred Location: Trimbakeshwar near Nashik

Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple

Lord Trayambakeshwar also called as Trimbakeshwar temple is located in a picturesque venue which is approximately 20 km away from the bustling city of Nashik in Maharashtra. The temple is well connected and can be easily accessed from the financial capital of India, Mumbai 3 to 4 hours (via NH 3). The Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is known for its spectacular architecture which reflects the Hemadpanthi style of architecture. A sacred pond in the temple premises called as Kusavarta is regarded as the source of the second longest river of India - Godavari River.

The over-the-top characteristic of Lord Shiva here is its 3 faces representing Lord Rudra, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. Owing to the lavish use of water, the Shivling began to wear away. This eroding factor here is believed to represent the eroding nature of human beings. The deity of the Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple is adorned with a bejeweled crown which is based over the structure of the Lord Mahesha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. The beautiful crown of the deity comprises of diamonds and many other gemstones. The ornamented display of the deity happens on Mondays from 4 PM to 5 PM.

Baidyanath Jyotirlinga

State: Jharkhand
Sacred Location: Deogarh, Deogarh District

Baidyanath Jyotirlinga

The temple of Baidyanath Jyotirlinga (often spelled as Vaidyanath) is also called as Baidyanath dham and Baba dham. This jyotirlinga temple is situated in Deoghar in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. Legend has it that Ravana - the demon king of Lanka revered Lord Shankara and undertook intense tapasya here. The evil king sought to receive power from the lord that he ill-used to bring mayhem to the human race later.

Did you know?
The exact location of Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is a subject of disagreement and debate. The disputed locations are:
  • Baba Vaidhyanath Mandir, Deoghar, Jharkhand
  • Vaijnath Temple, Parli, Maharashtra
  • Baijnath Temple, Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh
The demon ruler went on to offer his ten heads one by one as a part of his prayer. On seeing the ardency, Lord Shiva came down to heal Ravana who was hurt. As Lord Shiva played a role of a doctor, the lord here is referred as 'Vaidhyanath'. From the same prospect of Lord Maheswara, the Baba Vaidhyanath Mandir got its name.

Nageshvara Jyotirlinga


State: Gujarat
Location: Jamnagar

Located just 17.2 km away from the Dwarkadheesh Mandir (Jagat Mandir) in Dwarka, the Nageshvara Jyotirlinga temple is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat. It is important to mention that two other temples are also claimed to be Nageshvara Jyotirlinga and they are Jageshwar in Almore district (Uttarakhand) and Aundha Nagnath Temple in Hingoli district (Maharashtra). Lord Mahadev offers his blessings here facing south.

Legend has it that once there was an evil force by the name of Daaruka. The demon assailed a pious and zealous devotee of Lord Shankara called as Supriya. Furthermore, the demon took jailed Supriya and several other people from the city of Darukavana, which was a region under the ocean occupied by venomous aquatic viviparous snakes and monsters. Influenced by Supriya, the captives began chanting the sacred sloka of Lord Shiva (Om Namaha Shivaya) and instantly thenceforth the lord came along and the evil force was crushed, subsequently inhabiting there as the holy Nageshvara Jyotirlinga.

Ramanathaswamy Jyotirlinga

State: Tamil Nadu
Sacred Location: Rameswaram

Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Thirukoil

Situated on the Rameswaram Island in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Thirukoil is one among the most visited Hindu temple in all of South India. One of the most important pilgrimages for Shaivites, Smarthas and Vaishnavites, the Ramanathaswamy Thirukoil is one among the Char Dham sites comprising Dwarka, Badrinath and Puri. Besides, being located in the town that is a tip of Indian peninsula, the Ramanathaswamy Thirukoil is regarded as the southernmost jyotirlinga temple among the twelve jyotirlingam temples in India.

Did you know?
The Ramanathaswamy Thirukoil is one among the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams that are glorified by the three most important Saivite saints - Appar Tirunavukkarasar Nayanar, Sundarar (Tampiran Tozhan) and Thirugyana Sambandar

Legend has it that the Ramanathaswamy Jyotirlingam was revered by Lord Rama to turn away from the sin of demolishing the demon king of Lanka - Ravana. Lord Hanuman flew to bring the Shivling from Mount Kailash but got delayed. Therefore, Lord Rama revered a sand Shivalingam which was made by Goddess Sita. The Shivalingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the Rameswaram temple that was revered by Lord Rama is called as Ramanathaswamy.

Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga

State: Maharashtra
Sacred Location: Verul, Daulatabad

Grushneshwar Jyotirling Mandir

Often called as Grushneshwar Jyotirlinga, this sacred site is regarded as the twelfth or the last among the jyotirlingam in the country. Located in the district of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra, the renowned Grushneshwar Jyotirling Mandir is very close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ellora caves. The antique temple stands tall as a perfect example of pre-historic architectural style which is of a real treat among the historiographers and travelers.

Legend has it that there lived a brahmin by name Brahmavetta Sudharma along with his wife Sudeha. They were a childless couple and the wife Sudeha made her husband marry her sister Ghushma, all this for a son. As per her sister's words, Ghushma practiced of making a hundred and one shivlingams, revere and liberate them in the lake nearby. As an answer to her prayers, Ghushma was blessed with a boy. The happy moment brought emotional issues among the sisters that the first wife of Sudharma and the sister of Ghushma, Sudeha got envious. The covetously Sudeha went to an extent of killing the baby boy and disposed him in the same lake where the shivalingams were discharged by Ghushma. On knowing the horrific incident, Ghushma did not react much and continued to perform her daily pujas to Lord Shiva. To perform the daily ritual of discharging the shivalingams in the water, Ghushma went to the lake and saw her baby boy coming alive. Seeing her devotion, Lord Shiva appeared and offered his blessings and in turn Gushma asked the lord to stay there forever.

Visiting all these twelve jyotirlingam temples in India is nothing short of a blessing that a devotee of Lord Shiva can ask for! Let's chant

|| Om namah shivaya ||


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