The prime worship of Lord Shiva is through the worship of Shiva Linga. Any other worship is secondary. As we have mentioned in our other article, the significance of worshipping Shiva Linga is that one is worshipping the light form of the Supreme Lord. It’s not just the sexual symbol. Rather, the meaning signifies the real nature of God, formless and shapeless.
The light of God “Jyoti Swarupa” exist in all the Shiva Linga forms. There are renowned 12 jyotirlingas across the world, each held with great esteem since ancient times. Even the old Puranas glorify the abodes and talk in details about how devotees are pulled towards these kshetras due to the divine presence.
The 12 Jyotirlinga temples
In the Sanskrit Shloka, one can find the list of 12 jyotirlinga temples, the Lingas of Light:
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||
Where are they located?
Among the 12 Jyotirlingas, two are spread across the seashore, three on the river banks, four in the heights of mountains and three in villages located in meadows. Anyone who goes to the temple receives the holy blessing of Lord and come back as happy, peaceful and blessed.
Here we discuss each of them:
1. Somnath Jyotirlinga, Saurashtra, Gujarat
saurAShTradeshe vishade.atiramye jyotirmayaM chandrakalAvataMsam | bhaktipradAnAya kRipAvatIrNaM taM somanAthaM sharaNaM prapadye ||
This jyotirlinga is located at the Viraval port, Prabhas Pattan in Suarashtra, Gujarat. One can find many references of this temple in the Puranas, as well as, the Itihas, “history”. Moreover, Somnath, also known as Prabhasa Kshetra, holds a much-esteemed place for Hindus. Back in the days, the inner temple was supported to be aglow with the lustre of gemstones, with Nanda Deep kept lighted with Kannauji attar. One can say, the temple was a treasure.
This is also considered to be the primary of all the JyotirLingas as it is considered to be Swayambhu (self-birth) and is always awake with hundreds of thousands of devotees visiting the temple every year.
2. Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
shrIshailashRiNge vibudhAtisaNge tulAdrituNge.api mudA vasantam |
tamarjunaM mallikapUrvamekaM namAmi saMsArasamudrasetum ||
Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga is located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, an area full of forests of Kadali, Bilva trees, mountain ranges and Patalaganga (Krishnaveni river). This river is in the form of underground spring, and this is where millions of devotees take the holy dip and go to worship the Jyotirlinga.
History recounts when Chatrapati Shivaji used to take a “Darshan” of the JyotirLinga during the Maharatri, and he also built a tower on the right side of the temple, opening a free meal center. Other kings of Vijayangar Dynasty have built the temple, tower, portico, and a pond too. Before it was difficult to reach because of terrain, yet many devotees have reached there with their sheer will-power. This includes the mythological personalities like Hiranyakashipa, Narada, Pandavas, Sri Ram.
3. Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
avantikAyAM vihitAvatAraM muktipradAnAya cha sajjanAnAm |
akAlamRityoH pariraxaNArthaM vande mahAkAlamahAsuresham ||
This temple lies in the city of Indrapuri Amaravati and Avantika, known as the “Swarna Sringa” because of the number of golden towers of several temples in the city. Mahakaleshwar is grand and is also known for the foundation of Adyapeetha, the foundation of Sanskrit learning, ethics, knowledge or science, and art. It is said that those who visit Mahakal temple will never be touched by sorrows, even in the dreams, and those who pray to the Mahakal would be granted all the wishes.
4. Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, Shivapuri / Mamaleswara, Madhya Pradesh
kAverikAnarmadayoH pavitre samAgame sajjanatAraNAya |
sadaiva mAndhAtRipure vasantamoNkAramIshaM shivamekamIDe ||
This temple is self-born and thus is known as Swayambhu linga. Across the mountain range of Madhya Pradesh, river Narmada flows rippling from the mountains where smooth, round pebbles, known as BanaLingas, are found. On the bank of the river, this temple lies on a huge island. The island and the river themselves are shaped like “Om” naturally. Devotees feel blessed when they go to the temple as they are doing the parikrama of Om themselves when they visit the temple.
This is where Lord Sankara took the form of “Omkareshwar” and “Amaleshwara” as Jyotirlinga.
5. Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh, Jharkhand
Vaidyabhyam Poojitam Satyam, Lingametat puratamam
Vaidyanathamiti prakhyatam Sarvakamapradayakam
It is located in Deoghar in the Santhal Parganas division of the state of Jharkhand, India. According to Shiva Mahapuran, the location is identified as “Chidabhoomi”, which could be the ancient name of Deoghar, and there are references to “Baidyanatham chitabhoomau”.
The place also celebrates Krishna festival, despite being a Shiva temple. It is built with stones on a high mound and is surrounded by strong walls on all four sides. Special prayers are held for Sun God in the temple, as the sun rays falling through the windows shine directly on the Lingamurthy inside.
6. Nageshvara Jyotirlinga, Darukavanam (Aunda)
yAmye sadaNge nagare.atiramye vibhUShitANgaM vividhaishcha bhogaiH |
sadbhaktimuktipradamIshamekaM shrInAganAthaM sharaNaM prapadye ||
Legend has it that Pandavas came during their Banbas and built a hermitage for themselves at this place. Legends aside, the architectural beauty of Naganath Temple is exquisite. The structure is beautiful too. Built with stones, the temple is oval-shaped and is protected with walls around four sides. The Nandi temple is separate from the main temple, however. All in all, 108 Shiva temples and 68 shrines are located around the temple.
Every 12 years, devotees offer Kashi Ganga as Padarpan at the time of Kapila Shashti.
7. Kedareshwar Jyotirlinga, Kedarnath, Himalayas
mahAdripArshve cha taTe ramantaM sampUjyamAnaM satataM munIndraiH |
surAsurairyaxa mahoragADhyaiH kedAramIshaM shivamekamIDe ||
This temple is located in the snow-covered area of Himalayas. One can only visit this temple during six months of a year, the rest of the month, the snow, and extreme cold do not permit devotees to enter. As such, the Kedarnath temple remains closed for pilgrims.
Due to extreme snowfall of Kartik, the Sri Kedarshwar idol is brought out of the temple after lighting a ghee lamp, “Nanda Deepa” and the temple is closed for the winter. This idol is shifted to the Urvi Math, in the valley. The temple only opens later in Baisakh.
People visit here to see the Nanda Deepa, and when they see this, they consider themselves to be blessed.
8. Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga, Nashik
sahyAdrishIrShe vimale vasantaM godAvaritIrapavitradeshe |
yaddharshanAtpAtakamAshu nAshaM prayAti taM tryambakamIshamIDe ||
Tryambakeshwar Temple lies on the banks of Gautami, near Nashik in Maharashtra. Unlike other temples, the Lord in the temple’s Grabhagriha is not worshiped with Abhisekha with water (Jalahari). Instead, there is a bottom part of pounding stone, like a hole, where three Lingas shaped like thumbs exist (hence, the name Tryambakeshwara). An orifice above one of the Linga has a constant shower of water, and this is the Linga of Mahesha.
Every 12 years, Kumbh Mela is held here at the time of Simhasta. The architecture is beautiful too with beautiful statues carved around the premise.
9. Rameshwar Jyotirlinga, Rameshwaram
sutAmraparNIjalarAshiyoge nibadhya setuM vishikhairasa.nkhyaiH |
shrIrAmachandreNa samarpitaM taM rAmeshvarAkhyaM niyataM namAmi ||
This temple is situated on a big island of sand, in the Ramnad district of Tamilnadu. Today, it has been expanded into a large temple and is famous for its typical architecture. One finds it auspicious and pious to take Ganga water to this temple after the pilgrimage of four holy shrines. The ritual goes like this: the person takes holy bath in the Ganga river, takes the Ganga water to the temple and offered to Lord Shiva of Rameshwaram, a sanga from there is then carried to Ganga and immersed there. This makes the ritual complete.
A grand Badatra mela/fete is organized on the 15th day of Ashada and during Mahashivaratri.
10. Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, Dakini, Maharashtra
yaM DAkinishAkinikAsamAje niShevyamANaM pishitAshanaishcha |
sadaiva bhImAdipadaprasiddaM taM shaNkaraM bhaktahitaM namAmi ||
The temple of Bhimashankar is built in Hemadpanthi style, embellished with Dashavatar statues, qualities that make the temple very beautiful to look at. One enjoyable thing to do in this temple is the ring the big bell and hear the echo roaming the entire temple. Every day, people worship Bhimashankar with Rudrabhishek, Panchamrit snan. The temple is flooded during Mondays and during the Mahashivaratri.
Along with the temple, the natural scenic beauty of the temple is wonderful to look at. Moreover, when one enters the River Chandrabhaga (Bhima) on the expansive meadows, one can see a large number of devotees dancing together in a trance.
11. Visweswar Jyotirlinga, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
sAnandamAnandavane vasanta mAnandakandaM hatapApavR^indam |
vArANasInAthamanAthanAthaM shrIvishvanAthaM sharaNaM prapadye ||
In ancient times, Varanasi used to be a beautiful city built in the adjoint of Varana and Asi. This is where kasha, a tribe, used to live, and thus, Varanasi was also known as Kashi. The Ganga here flows in the shape of a bow, and thus there is a special importance for this area and its temple Kashi Visweshwar. According to Puranas, this city used to be ruled by Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha, and this is where even divines want to tie.
The present temple we see today was built by Ahalya Devi Holkar in 1777 AD and has the towers covered in gold (as planted by King Ranjit Singh).
Many rituals are performed in this place. This temple is also famous among tourists.
12. Grishneswar Jyotirlinga, Devasrovar, Maharashtra
ilApure ramyavishAlake.asmin samullasantaM cha jagadvareNyam |
vande mahodAratarasvabhAvaM ghR^iShNeshvarAkhyaM sharaNam prapadye ||
As Madhwamunishwar once said, “Blessed by VerulNagar, there is no other place like it on this earth, where Lord Grishneswara resides, the best place on this earth.”
This last place of the Jyotirlinga, without which the pilgrimage will not be complete, lies in the village of Verul. The history has it that Bhosala, very devout Shiva devotee, once found a treasure hidden in the snake pit by the grace of Lord Grishneshwar. As a return, he spent the money to renovate the temple and even built a lake in Shikharshinganapur. Later, Goutamibal and Ahilyadevi renovated the temple. Today, it stands at 240ft X 185 ft, strong and beautiful.
As mentioned in each of the Jyotirlinga, if a person prays those Dwadasa JyotirlInga Strotam during the pilgrimage at each temple, then he will attain salvation and enlightenment, and after death will be released from the cycle of human existence. Worshipping the Lingas will also free people from difficulties and struggle.
Darkness eats people and kills them with ignorance. Jyotirlingas, with its Jyoti “light”, frees people from darkness and the natured light of God fulfills all our wishes.
Perhaps, this is where you need to start taking Darshan of these 12 JyotirLingas and achieve happiness, peace, and satisfaction.