Shiva is one of India’s most worshiped deities and has many temples dedicated to him. Most prominent among these temples are the 12 jyotirlingas of Shiva which are considered to be the most auspicious pilgrim destinations for Shiva devotees.
According to an old religious text called the Shiva Mahapuran, there was once an argument between Vishnu and Brahma with each claiming to be the supreme power. In order to put them to test, Shiva pierced the three worlds into an enormous pillar of light called the jyotirlinga. He asked Vishnu and Brahma to reach the extreme of the pillar saying whoever finds it first will be victorious.
Brahma rocketed in the upward direction while Vishnu went downward chasing the pillar which they did not know was actually infinite. Brahma returned claiming that he had found the end while Vishnu honestly accepted defeat. Enraged by Brahma’s lies, Shiva appeared as a second jyotirlinga and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in any of the religious ceremonies while Vishnu will be worshiped for eternity.
The twelve jyotirlingas are believed to be the temples where Shiva appeared as a form of light. They symbolize the utmost reality and the supreme power and infinity of Shiva.
Here is the list of the 12 jyotirlingas of Shiva with their locations in India:
One of the most famous of the twelve jyotirlingas, Somnath temple in Gujarat is a major pilgrim site that has been renovated quite a few times. The biggest reason behind its popularity is that it is located near a Triveni Sangam which means a confluence of three rivers – Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati in this case.
2. Mallikarjun jyotirlinga in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
Located in the religious temple town of Srisailam, the Mallikarjunaswamy temple is a popular Shiva temple in south India owing to the jyotirlinga here. The Mahashivratri celebrations in Mallikarjunswamy are renowned all across India and are worth witnessing.
3. Mahakaleshwar jyotirlinga in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Ujjain is extremely popular as one of the venues of the Kumbh Mela, and Mahakaleshwar temple is its biggest tourist attraction on account of the jyotirlinga placed here. Situated by the Rudra Sagar lake, the temple is visited by a huge number of devotees on a daily basis.
4. Omkareshwar jyotirlinga in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh
And then there is the Omkaram Amaleshwar jyotirlinga in the holy island of Omkareshwar on the banks of the river Narmada. The swayambhu or self-manifested linga here draws in crowds of devotees all year round.
5. Vaidyanath jyotirlinga in Parali, Maharashtra
Also known as Baba Dham and Baidyanath Dham, the Vaidyanath jyotirlinga is argued to be in Parli while some say the location of this jyotirlinga is in Deogarh in Jharkhand or Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh. It is believed that this land was a funeral place in the past and therefore the abode of tantrics like Bhairava who worshiped Shiva.
6. Nageswar jyotirlinga in Gujarat
Believed to be the oldest shrine of its kind, the Nageshvar jyotirlinga is said to be in Durkavana meaning a forest that finds mention in old texts. According to a legend, Darukavana was a city inhabited by sea snakes and demons ruled by the old demon Daruka. The demon disappeared after Shiva appeared here and resided in the form of a jyotirlinga.
7. Kedareswar jyotirlinga in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand
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One of the four major pilgrim centers forming the char dham pilgrimage for Hindus, Kedarnath is located high up in the mountains of Uttarakhand and is visited by a huge number of devotees every year.
8. Tryambakeswar jyotirlinga in Nasik, Maharashtra
Located close to another pilgrim center Shirdi, Trimbakeshwar or Tryambakeshwar is a famous religious destination for Hindus in India. It is located in the town of Trimbak and is popular for being home to one of the twelve jyotirlingas.
9. Rameswar jyotirlinga in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
Perhaps one of the most popular temples in India is the Rameswaram temple known for its brilliant architecture and the jyotirlinga, of course. It is visited by thousands of devotees daily and holds a significant place for Hindus.
10. Bhimashankar jyotirlinga in Dakini, Maharashtra
Another one of the jyotirlingas in the state of Maharashtra, Bhimashankar is an extremely popular destination near the city of Pune. The place gets its name from an evil Asura named Bhima who lived here ages ago and was reduced to ashed by Shiva after a war. On the request of other Gods, Shiva manifested himself at this place in the form of the Bhimashankar jyotirlinga.
11. Visweswar jyotirlinga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Varanasi is one of the holiest places to visit in India and the Kashi Vishwanath temple is its biggest attraction thanks to the Visweswar jyotirlinga here. The grand aartis held here during major festivals, especially Mahashivratri, are an experience you cannot afford to miss.
12. Ghrishneswar jyotirlinga in Devagiri, Maharashtra
Located in a small village called Verul near Devagiri and Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Grishneshwar or Grushneshwar finds mention in the ancient Shiva Purana as one of the jyotirlingas.