12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, Spiritual Pilgrimage Facts and Significance•
Posted on February 01 2023
The term jyotirlinga means a column or beam of light that has no beginning or end. The jyotirlinga is considered by Hindus as a religious representation of Lord Shiva. The Shiva Purana makes reference to 64 jyotirlinga temples in the country. Among them, a dozen jyotirlingas are considered to be the most revered and are collectively referred to as Maha Jyotirlinga. The lingas in these shrines are said to be swayambhu.
All the jyotirlingas except the Mahakaleshwar jyotirlinga face east while the Mahakaleshwar jyotirlinga alone faces south. Ten of the jyotirlingas are in North India while two of them are in South India.
According to a legend in the Shiva Purana, Lord Brahma, the Creator and Lord Vishnu, the Preserver once had a wordy duel as to who among the two of them was the most supreme. Unable to come to a decision, they approached Lord Shiva, the Destroyer for His verdict. The lord immediately took the form of a huge pillar of light extending into the three worlds and asked both the gods to find the ends of the pillar in both directions.
Brahma proceeded upwards while Vishnu made His way in the downward direction. However, as much as they tried, they couldn’t find the ending. Vishnu admitted that He was not able to find the bottommost end while Brahma was not ready to do so. He claimed that He had found the topmost end and produced the ketaki flower as proof to testify His statement.
Lord Shiva was angered with the lie uttered by Lord Brahma and pleased with the truthful statement made by Lord Vishnu at the same time. He cursed Brahma that the god would never be worshipped while Vishnu would always be worshipped and revered for His honesty.
Read on to know more about each of these twelve jyotirlingas.
Somnath Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Somnath and is believed to be the first of the twelve jyotirlingas. The shrine is constructed according to the Chalukya architecture and is said to be built by the moon the first time using sandalwood. The temple has undergone several destructions and constructions about sixteen times over the years.
According to a Shiva Purana legend, the moon was married to all 27 daughters of the king Prajapati. However, the moon devoted his time and attention to only Rohini and ignored his other wives. This angered the king who cursed the moon resulting in the latter losing its power, beauty and lustre.
The upset moon visited Somnath and started praying to Lord Shiva to regain what it lost. The lord was pleased by the prayers and granted the moon his original charm and power bit by bit every day. As a token of gratitude, the moon built the Somnath temple in honour of Shiva and requested him to reside there with the name Somachandra.
The temple doors are open from 6AM to 10PM everyday with artis at 7AM, 12PM and 7PM. The shrine hosts the famous Joy Somnath sound and light show daily between 8PM and 9PM.
Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Andhra Pradesh
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Srisailam on the banks of the river. The shrine is referred to as Kailash of the South in local parlance. It is well-known for its sculptures and architecture as well as decorated gopurams. The temple features the deities of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The legend goes that Lord Shiva and Lord Parvati were not able to decide whether Lord Kartikeya or Lord Ganesha should get married first. Finally, they decided to hold a competition to resolve the issue. They asked both their sons to complete a full circumvention around the world once and get back to them. Whoever returned first would be declared the winner. Lord Kartikeya set off at once on His peacock to do this while Lord Ganesha circumvented around His parents declaring that they were His world. Shiva and Parvati were pleased with Ganesha and declared Him the winner. They got Him married to Riddhi (prosperity) and Siddhi (spiritual powers).
When Kartikeya returned, He was upset and angered at the development and left for Mount Krounch. He could not be consoled by any god and finally His parents approached Him but they were turned down. The distraught state of their son hurt Lord Shiva and Lord Parvati and they decided to dwell on the mountain Mallikarjuna. Lord Shiva assumed the form of a jyotirlinga. Mallika and Arjuna are other names of Parvati and Shiva respectively. Hindus believe that the mere sighting of the mountain summit helps them to seek liberation from their sins and be freed from the vicious birth and death cycle.
The temple doors are open from 4:30AM to 10PM every day. Devotees can have darshan of their favourite deities from 6:30AM to 1:00PM and from 6:30PM to 9:00PM.
Nageshwar Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
This jyotirlinga temple is located on the Saurashtra coast between Bait Dwarka and Gomati Dwarka. The shrine is situated in an underground sanctum and houses a 25-metre tall Shivalinga. This linga represents protection from any type of poison.
There is an interesting reference of this jyotirlinga in Shiva Purana. There was once a lady called Supriya who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. She was captured by a demon Daaruka who held her captive with other prisoners in his capital Daarukavana under the sea along with several demons and snakes. She made friends with the prisoners and asked them to chant Aum Namaha Shivaya along with her. They agreed and did so, which in turn angered the demon. He rushed towards her to kill her when Shiva suddenly appeared before him and killed him. Some other versions state that the lord gave her His divine weapon Pashupata to slay the demon.
The temple doors are open every day from 5AM to 9PM. Darshan is available for devotees from 6AM to 12:30PM and from 5:00PM to 9:00PM.
Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
This jyotirlinga temple is located on the banks of the river Bhima and is made of black rock with a Nagara architectural pattern. The history of the shrine dates back to the Ramayana times. Devotees visiting the temple also pay their homage to Maa Parvati in the Kamalaja temple.
When Bhima, the son of the demon Kumbhakarna learnt that his father was annihilated by Lord Rama, who was none other than an avatar of Lord Vishnu, he was furious and vowed to kill Lord Vishnu. He engaged in deep penance to Lord Brahma who was pleased with his prayers and granted him immense powers.
With his new powers, he started destroying everything he could in the world and harming everybody. He also defeated Kamrupeshwar, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and sent him to the gallows. This act of the demon angered the gods to no end. They requested Shiva to go to earth and end the tyranny of the demon.
Lord Shiva agreed and engaged in a combat with Bhima. Finally, the lord tuned the demon to a pile of ashes. The remaining gods thanked Shiva and asked Him to make His abode there. Shiva manifested Himself in the form of a jyotirlinga and resided there. It is said that the sweat from the body of the lord after the battle formed the Bhima river.
The temple doors are open daily from 4:30AM to 12:00PM noon and from 4:00PM to 9:30PM. The darshan commences at 5:00AM and goes on until 9:30PM except for forty five minutes in the afternoon during Madhyan arti.
Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Nasik near the Brahmagiri mountain, which is the origin of the river Godavari. The highlight of this shrine is its unique shape. There is a void in the temple with three pillars. These three pillars are said to represent the Trinity - Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. They are considered to be the most powerful authoritative gods.
As per the Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva began residing here on the request of Gautam Rishi and Godavari River assuming the name Trimbakeshwar. One Gautam Rishi was blessed by Varuna with a huge granary of food and grains that would never get depleted. Pleased by this, he invited several sages every day for a meal at his place.
This wealth of the sage made many jealous of him and they sent a cow to the granary to eat and destroy the grain. When Gautam Rishi saw the cow the granary, he became angry and killed it only to repent for his act immediately. He started praying to Shiva to cleanse him of his sins and purify the premises. Lord Shiva obliged and requested Ganga to flow over the area and purify it.
The temple doors are open for devotees all seven days of the week from 5:30AM to 9:00PM.
Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Aurangabad and boasts of an impressive red rock structure with Shikhara style architecture and intricate carvings of several gods and goddesses. There is a huge structure of Nandi in the main hall. The shrine is known by several other names such as Grishneswara, Grushmeswara and Kusumeshwar.
As per the Shiva Purana, there once lived a childless couple by the names Sudharma and Sudeha in the Devagiri mountain. Eventually, the void of a child resulted in Sudharma getting married to Ghushma, the sister of Sudeha. Sudharma and Ghushma together had a son that made Sudharma jealous of her sibling.
The jealousy grew with each passing day and one day, Sudeha threw her sister’s son into a lake. It so happened that Ghushma was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and used to discharge 101 Shivalingas every day in the same lake. When she heard of what happened, Ghushma prayed hard to her favourite deity. The lord was moved by the grief of His devotee and returned the son to his mother and told Sudharma and Ghushma about the deeds of Sudeha.
Sudharma requested Shiva to free Sudeha from her sins and the lord was pleased with the request. He also requested to reside there and Shiva assumed the form of a jyotirlinga with the name Ghushmeshwar.
The temple doors are open for devotees to perform a pooja and have a darshan between 5:30AM and 9:30PM. In the month of Shravan, the darshan hours is between 3:00PM and 11:00PM. It takes anywhere between six to eight hours for completing the darshan during this time.
Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Jharkhand
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Deoghar and is considered to be a revered jyotirlinga. The shrine is also referred to as Baidyanath or Vaijinath. It is also one of the 52 Shakti Peetha abodes of Sati. Devotees believe that by worshipping the lord in this temple, they will get relief from their miseries and worries.
As per a legend, the demon king Ravan was a fervent devotee of Lord Shiva and rendered his heartfelt prayers to the deity to come with him to Sri Lanka. Shiva was pleased by the devotion of Ravan and came before him. Ravan asked Shiva to come with him to Lanka so that he could make it invincible. He even tried to take the whole Mount Kailash with him but the god crushed it. Ravan resumed his prayers and Shiva once again appeared before him in the form of a Shivalinga. However, the lord ordered Ravan not to put the linga down anywhere until he reached Lanka. If the demon king did so, the linga would be stuck at that place for ever.
The other gods knew the impending danger that would take place that if Ravan succeeded in his mission. They decided among themselves that Varuna, the god of rain would enter inside Ravan. He did so and created an urge in the demon king to relieve himself. Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu appeared before Ravan as a brahmin boy and requested him to take a break. He also agreed to hold the linga for Ravan while the latter relieved himself. After some initial hesitation, Ravan agreed and handed Vishnu the linga. As soon as his back was turned, Lord Vishnu placed the linga on the ground.
As a penance, Ravan cut off nine of his ten heads. Shiva appeared before him as a Vaidya and healed him by joining the heads once again. From then on, the linga came to be known as Vaidyanath.
The temple doors are open every day from 4:00AM to 3:30PM and 6:00PM to 9:00PM. On special occasions like Shivratri, the timings are extended. The crowd here is maximum during the Hindu month of Shravan.
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
This jyotirlinga temple is located in Ujjain on the banks of the Kshipra river and is surrounded by dense forests on all sides. The shrine is associated with immense spiritual significance and is one of the most important temples in Central India. It is represented as one of the seven mukti-sthals in the country and devotees come here to atone for their sins and be relieved from their human lives to eternity as well as diseases.
There are various legends about this Shivalinga. According to the legend in the Shiva purana, there was once a five-year old boy called Shrikar who was overwhelmed by the devotion of Chandrasen, the king of Ujjain to Lord Shiva. He wanted to join the king in his prayers but the guards. Shrikar got hold of a stone and started praying to it as Lord Shiva. No one could dissuade him in any way. The news spread round like rapid fire and the boy was joined in his prayers by a priest named Vridhi.
Years later, the king heard of the plans of his rivals to defeat his kingdom with the help of a demon named Dushan who was blessed by Lord Brahma to become invisible. The king started praying fervently to Lord Shiva along with Vridhi and Shrikar. Lord Shiva heard the appeal of His devotees and defeated the enemies by appearing before them in His Mahakal form. Adhering to the requests of Vridhi and Shrikar to reside in Ujjain and protect the city as well as its people, the lord manifested Himself there as a Shivalinga.
The temple doors are open on all days from 4AM to 11PM. Devotees can have their darshan from 8AM to 10AM, 10:30AM to 5PM, 6:00PM to 7:00PM and 8:00PM to 11:00PM.
Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
This jyotirlinga is located in Omkareshwar in an island on the banks of the river Narmada. The term Omkareshwar translates to Lord of the Om Sound. This jyotirlinga also has several legends associated with it.
One legend goes that there was once a mighty war between the devas and the danavas (gods and demons) with the danavas eventually winning the battle. This was a major setback for the devas started rendering their heartfelt prayers to Lord Shiva for victory against the danavas. The lord came to their rescue in the form of Omkareshwar and defeated the danavas, thereby establishing the triumph of good over evil.
According to another legend, Vindhya who was under the control of the Vindhyachal mountain range started offering His prayers to Shiva. He created a lingam and sacred diagram using clay and sand and started worshipping his favourite deity. Pleased with his devotion, the lord appeared in two forms – Omkareshwar and Amaleshwar (meaning immortal Lord).
The temple doors are open every day from 5AM to 10PM. Devotees can visit the shrine for darshan from 5:30AM to 12:20PM and 4:00PM to 8:30PM.
Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga, Uttar Pradesh
This jyotirlinga is located in Varanasi, the most sacred site in the whole world. The shrine is established as the devotional focus of Hindus. Although this temple has been rebuilt several times over the years, its origin traces back to 1780 when it was constructed by the Maratha monarch Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar. There is a saying that this jyotirlinga established its supremacy over other gods by breaking through the surface of the earth and emerging towards heaven.
It is believed that this temple is closest to Lord Shiva’s heart and Hindus believe that an individual who bathes in the Ganges and visits here is blessed with liberation as Shiva himself resided here and rendered happiness and liberation to all. It is said that the lord Himself chants the salvation mantra in the ears of Hs devotees who die a natural death here.
In accordance with one legend, Lord Brahma once engaged in severe penance to Lord Shiva in Kashi Vishwanath. Unfortunately, He made a mistake while chanting one mantra and this angered Shiva who severed the head of Lord Brahma. The severed head stuck on to Shiva and He was distraught at his own action. He wandered around aimlessly and the head fell off on its own when Lord Shiva reached Kashi.
The temple doors are open daily from 2:30AM to 11:00PM. Devotees throng the premises for the Mangala arti from 3:00AM to 4:00AM, Bhog arti from 11:15AM to 12:20PM, Sandhya arti from 7:00PM to 8:15PM, Shringara arti from 9:00PM to 10:15PM and Shayana arti from 10:30PM to 11:00PM. The sarva darshan is from 4:00AM to 11:00AM and 12:20PM to 7:00PM.
Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga, Uttarkhand
This jyotirlinga is located in Kedarnath at an altitude of 1200 feet on the summit of Kedar in the Rudra Himalayan range. This shrine is also considered as one of the four Char Dhams in the country. The temple is open to devotees only for six months in the year and closed for six months during winter because of the extremely cold weather.
Pilgrims first visit Gangotri and Yamunotri to gather some holy water that they take to Kedarnath to bathe Shivalinga. They believe that this bath will help them get freed from ill luck, unhappiness and misfortunes. They are also blessed with getting their desires fulfilled.
The legend goes that the two incarnations Nara and Narayana of Lord Vishnu engaged themselves in severe penance to Shiva here. This penance pleased Lord Shiva immensely and He decided to make this place His permanent abode at their request in the form of a Shivalinga.
The temple doors are open for devotees from 4:00AM to 12:00PM and 3:00PM to 9:00PM.
Rameshwar Jyotirlinga, Tamil Nadu
This jyotirlinga is located in off the Sethu coast in the Rameshwaram island. The shrine is surrounded by sea on all sides and is well-known for its architecture with special emphasis on the 36 theerthams as well as long ornate towers and corridors. The unique feature of this temple is the presence of twenty two water bodies in its premises.
It is referred to as Varanasi of the south in local parlance and has a close association with the victory of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravan. The shrine is also listed as one of the four Char Dhams in the country.
According to one legend, Lord Rama stopped at the seashore to drink water enroute His trip to Lanka to bring His wife Sita back from Ravan. Just as He was about to do so, the lord heard a celestial voice proclaiming that He was drinking the water without rendering His worship. Rama understood that it was the voice of Lord Shiva and realised His folly. He immediately made a linga using sand and rendered heartfelt prayers, seeking blessings from Shiva to win against Ravan. Lord Shiva did so and transformed Himself into a jyotirlinga and continued to stay there for eternity.
As per another legend, Rama accidentally killed a brahmin in His fight against Ravan. After the war, He wanted to atone for His sin and requested Hanuman to fetch Him a linga from the Himalayas for worship. Hanuman embarked on this mission immediately but was not seen for a long time. Sita went about making Lord Rama a linga and He started praying to it. It is believed that this is the lingam in the temple.
The temple doors are open any day of the week from 5:00AM to 1:00PM and 3:00PM to 9:00PM. Devotees can visit the shrine for darshan up to 8:00PM.
The twelve jyotirlingas are situated at specific astronomically and geographically significant points across the country. Each of these jyotirlingas has a powerful aura surrounding it and represents a different manifestation of the lord. However, the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is considered to be the most consecrated abode of Lord Shiva. The Taittiriya Upanishad refers to the twelve principles formulated by Lord Brahma as the twelve jyotirlingas.
The following sloka gives a description of all the twelve jyotirlingas.
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||
It is believed that an individual who recites this mantra in the morning and evening gets relief from the sins committed by him/her in his/her previous seven lives. Similarly, a visit to these shrines helps a person to have his/her wishes fulfilled and his/her karma eliminated by pleasing the Lord with his/her worship.
Written by - Deepthi K