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Jyotirlinga | Image Resource : m.media-amazon.com

Lord Shiva is one among the most revered deity in Hinduism, while he is also one of the triumvirate and is known for the destruction of the universe to recreate it. The others in this group are Lord Brahma, a creator and Lord Vishnu, a preserver. Being a source of good and evil, God Shiva is believed to pave the way for change, which is beneficial and useful to the world by destroying the imperfections and illusions. Shiva is popularly represented as a ‘Jyotirlinga’.

A devotional representation of Lord Shiva, Jyotirlinga is the ‘radiant sign’, where ‘Jyoti’ is referred to ‘radiance’ and ‘linga’ the ‘image of the Supreme Being’.

Origin of Jyotirlinga

In Shiva Purana, the origin of ‘Jyotirlinga’ is well-explained. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu once had an argument over who is supreme. In order to settle this, Lord Shiva appeared in front of them as a massive ‘Pillar of Light’, which looked infinite. When Lord Brahma flew upwards as a swan, Lord Vishnu dug in underneath by becoming a wild boar to find the end and beginning of the blazing light.

After several years of search, they returned to the place from where they had started to find Lord Shiva smiling at them. Lord Vishnu, realizing the fact, admitted that he was unsuccessful in his attempt, while Lord Brahma lied saying he was successful in finding the end of the light. This made Lord Shiva angry and he cursed Brahma that people would never worship him though he is one of the holy trinity and a creator of the universe. With the sign of ‘Jyotirlinga’ the Supreme God showed that he is formless and infinite. The legend says that jyotirlinga has been worshipped for Shiva since then.

Though there are 64 jyotirlingas, 12 of them are believed to be the most worshipped, adored and highly regarded in Dwadasha jyotirlinga strotram.

Some Popular Jyotirlingas among Twelve Jyotirlingas of India

Somnath Jyotirlinga in Gir Somnath, Gujarat: Strategically situated on the western coast in Kathiawad district in Gujarat, Somnath Jyotirlinga, called Shree Somnath, is the first of the twelve jyotirlingas. The legend says that it is associated with Chandra, the moon god. Daksha got the moon married to his 27 daughters, but Chandra loved and favored Rohini and neglected others. Seeing this, Daksha cursed the moon, who lost his blazing radiance.

This led Chandra and Rohini to go to the Prabhas Teerth and worship Lord Shiva, with all devotion. Lord Shiva, who appeared before Chandra, blessed him and freed him from the curse. The Hindu mythology says that Chandra built a golden temple, which was destroyed and rebuilt several times in the course of time. It is believed that the ‘Somnath Jyotirling Pran-Pratistha’ was held on the third day of Shravan month.

Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh: Revered as one among the most ancient jyotirlingas, it is located on the Nallamalai Hills, Srisailam. The place is also popular for being a Sakthi Peetha of Goddess Parvati. The Hindu texts explains the significance of Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga to a story, in which Karthikeya, one of the sons of Shiva Parvati, left Kailash in anger and stayed on the Kraunch mountain. The reason being Ganesha was married first for he came first accepting the challenge of who goes around the world and return first.

In fact, Shiva and Parvati wanted both the sons to get married and there was argument between the brothers and it finally made both brothers to challenge coming first after traveling around the world. When Karthikeya set out on a journey, Ganesha rounded his parents seven times and got him declared as a winner. This made Karthikeya angry and leave. When he left, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati went as Arjun and Mallika and stayed with him to console him but in vain. Hurt by this, Lord Shiva stayed at the mountain in the linga form and came to be known as Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga.

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh: The prominence of this jyotirlinga is it is believed to be ‘born of itself’, which is called ‘Swayambhu’. Though there are several mythological descriptions of how this linga came, the one that is quite popular is about Shrikar, who was five-year old. He happened to see King Chandrasena’s devotion towards Lord Shiva and got captivated by it. Following the king, he found a stone and imagined it as the incarnation of the Lord and started worshipping it.

He did this until his mother found it and threw away. Being sad, the boy got drawn into deep devotion and kept praying all the time. Pleased with him, God Shiva appeared as a fully adorned jyotirlinga in front of him, which is now famously called Mahakaleshwar Jyothirlinga, one among the seven ‘Mukti Sthal’.

Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh: The significance of this linga is that Lord Shiva is seen here as Omkar Swarup, located on the Narmada River banks. There are quite a few mythological stories behind the origin of this jyotirlinga. One among them is about the Vindhya mountain, who worshipped Lord Shiva and it is believed that Shiva appeared before him as a Pranavalinga and blessed him. It is believed that there were two parts of this linga, where one is in Omkareshwar and the other in Mamaleshwar.

Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga in Jharkhand: Located in Deoghar in the Jharkhand state, it is believed to be one among the most sacred jyotirlingas. According to the legend, it was Ravana, the demon king, who was the cause for this jyotirlinga. Ravana through fierce tapasya (austerity) requested Lord Shiva to come to his kingdom. Shiva agreed to it and took the form of shivalinga so that Ravana could carry, without placing it on the ground.

Ravana failed after carrying shivalinga for a long distance; he was forced to give it to a small boy to pass liquid from his body. The small boy who was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu kept the shivalinga on the ground, which got firmly fixed. Out of sadness, Ravana cut off his nine heads, which made Lord Shiva to appear before him as Vaidyanath and fix back his heads. This is the reason behind why the shivalinga was called Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga.

Grishneshwar in Ellora, Maharashtra: The temple known in different names, such as Grishneswara, Kusumeswarar, Grushmeswara, or Ghusmeswara is the abode of Lord Shiva in a jyotirlinga form. The significance of Grishneswar temple lies not only in its amazing structure but also in a legend behind it. Sudharm and Sudeha are married and without a child. At the insistence of Sudeha, Sudharm married her sister, Ghusma, who gave birth to a beautiful child. This made Sudeha envious that she threw the child into a lake.

The lake happened to be where Sudharm discharged 101 shivalingas. This made him pray to the Lord, who was pleased and gave him back his child. Lord Shiva manifested into a shivalinga to become Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga and existed there.

Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga in Maharashtra: Sitting ideally on the Bhima River banks, Bhimashankar temple is one of the most important abodes of Lord Shiva. The Hindu mythology has different versions of the story behind this. The most relevant one is about the demon Tripurasura, who was killed by Lord Shiva in Rudra avatar after a long battle. It is believed that the God sat there to rest and the sweat that flowed from his body got collected to become Kund, a pond. The place where Shiva sat became a jyotirlinga to be called Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.

Nageshwar Jyotirlinga in Jamnagar, Gujarat: Famously called Nagnath temple, Nageshwar temple carries significance of being a cure of any kind of poison. According to the Hindu relics, Lord Shiva appeared before Supriya, his ardent devotee, to save her from Daruka, a demon. Daruka, who received blessings from Parvati, misused it against people. He captured Supriya and other villagers and kept them under captive in Darukavan, the forest. Supriya asked the villagers to pray to Lord Shiva for help by chanting the mantra, “Aum Namaha Shivaya”. This infuriated Daruka, who rushed to kill Supriya.

It was then Lord Shiva appeared before Supriya and scared away Daruka. The Lord stayed there in the form of jyotirlinga to protect people from the demon. Later, this place came to know as Nageshwar Jyotirlinga.

Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga in Maharashtra: One of the several sacred places, Lord Shiva exists here as a jyotirlinga. Trimbakeshwar is also a place from where the River Godavari originates. The other significance lies in the story of sage Gautama, who worshipped the Lord of Rain (Varun) to save the place around Bramhagiri Mountain from a long drought. Pleased by the prayers, Lord Varun sent heavy rains, which helped flourish the place. When the other sages, who were jealous, sent a cow to destroy the vegetation, sage Gautam incidentally killed it trying to get rid of it.

Feeling guilty, Gautam devoted himself to deep ‘tapasya’ (austerity) praying Lord Shiva, who appeared before him and asked River Ganga to flow around and clean the place. Lord Shiva was praised for it and worshipped as Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga.

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