The twelve Jyotirlingas – Dwadasha Jyotirlingas
India is a land of Gods and Lord Shiva is considered to be one of the most revered Gods by Hindus all across the world. Worshipped in the form of the Shivlinga, Lord Shiva is believed to bless all his true devotees with salvation. The twelve Jyotirlingas also called the ‘Dwadash Jyotirlingas’ are considered to be the holiest of all shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and according to the beliefs of Hindu mythology, whosoever does the divine darshans of these 12 holy Jyotirlingas, will be released from the cycle of life and death. The annual festival of Shivratri is also celebrated with great pomp and gaiety in all the twelve jyotirlinga temples and attracts thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the world.However, it’s rather an arduous task to visit all at once and therefore most devotees make it a point to visit all over a period of time, sometimes as part of an itinerary and sometimes two or three at a time.
Somnath Temple, Gujarat
Located in Somnath, Gujarat, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, the ‘Somnath Temple’ is home to the first of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas. Considered to be the holiest of all Jyotirlinga shrines of India, the temple is visited by thousands of devotees every year, especially on the occasion of Mahashivratri.
According to the legends, the Moon God, ‘Somdev’ neglected his wives (daughters of Daksha Prajapati) in awe of a celestial maiden. Seeing this, Daksha Prajapati cursed the Moon God to have his lustre consumed by the darkness of night. Grief stricken, Moon God prayed to the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva for 4000 years at this place. Pleased with the devotion of Moon, Lord Shiva blessed him to wane in brilliance for only 15 days in a month. Regaining his brilliance, the Moon God erected this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Temple Timings: 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Nageshwar Temple, Gujarat
Located near Dwarka, which was once the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom, is the ‘Nageshwar Mahadev Temple’ which is considered to be the home of one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple every year to seek blessing from the Lord who is worshipped here in the form of ‘Nagdev’. A 25 metre tall statue of Lord Shiva in a seated position is a great attraction of this temple. A large garden with a pond adds charm to this rather serene place.
As per the Shiv Purana, a demon named Daruka was blessed by Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. Misusing her blessings, Daruka tyrannized the local people and imprisoned a Shiva devotee named Supriya along with some other people. On advice of Supriya, everyone started chanting the Shiv Mantra to save themselves from Daruka. Seeing this, Daruka raged in anger and ran to kill Supriya, when suddenly Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga appeared to protect her and other devotees. Since then, the Jyotirlinga is revered here in the Nageshwar Temple.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Trimbakeshwar Temple, Maharashtra
Situated in a small town of Trimbak near Nashik in Maharashtra, ‘Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga Temple’ is an ancient temple dating back to 18th century. Built of black stone in Indo Aryan style of architecture, the inner sanctum houses the Trimbakeshwar Shivlinga. Jyotirlingas dedicated to Shiva. The temple is surrounded by a massive stone wall. Mondays are considered particularly holy and the priests carry the idol of Trimbakeshwar in a palanquin on their shoulders around the temple. Every 12 years Trimbakeshwar, plays host to the mega Kumbh Mela that attracts millions of pilgrims.
As per the legends, sage Gautam once unintentionally caused a cow to die in his hermitage. To purify his sins, he worshipped Lord Shiva and asked him to send River Ganga to purify him. River Ganga flowed down as river Godavari. Seeing this, all gods sang in praise of Lord Shiva and requested him to reside here in the form of Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga. Other legend says that Lord Shiva resides here in the form of three lingas of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and hence the name ‘Trimbakeshwar’.
Temple Timings: 5:30 AM to 9:00 PM
Bhimashankar Temple, Maharashtra
Bhimashankar Temple is situated in a small village called Bhorgiri amidst the Sahayadri Hills near Pune in Maharashtra. The temple is built in Nagara style. The Shiva Lingam which is enshrined inside the complex of the shrine, measures around one and a half feet and is quite narrow. Goddess Kamalaja is also enshrined here. Two idols of Nandideva can also be found here.
According to the Hindu Puranas, Lord Shiva took a rudra avatar to kill a wicked demon, Tripurasura, who was in rage of destroying the three loks: Heaven, Hell and Nether world (Patal). After killing the demon, the Lord sat down on the Sahayadri Mountains to take some rest. It is then, when the sweat from his body started flowing and turned into the Bhima River. On request from Devas, Lord Shiva stayed on these mountains in the form of Jyotirlinga.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Ghrishneshwar Temple, Maharashtra
Located at a village called Verul, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the ‘Grishneshwar Temple’ dates back to the 18th century. The architecture, paintings and sculptures on the temple walls reminds us of the excellent architectural skills of the artisans of the bygone era. The temple is just half a kilometre from the Ellora Caves. Both the temple and its masonry tank were built by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore.
Legend has it that a devout woman named Kusuma used to worship Lord Shiva by regularly immersing a Shivalingam in a tank, as a part of her daily ritual worship. Her husband’s first wife, envious of her piety and standing in society killed Kusuma’s son with an axe. An aggrieved Kusuma, however, continued her daily worship of Shiva. When she immersed the shivalingam again in the tank, to the surprise of one and all, her son was miraculously restored to life. Shiva appeared in front of her and the villagers, and ever since then the shivalingam here has been worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlinga Ghrishneshwar.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
The Ramanathaswamy temple is located in Rameshwaram, the holy island in the Gulf of Mannar situated in Tamil Nadu The temple is a holy site sanctified by the Ramayana. Therefore, it is held sacred by both Vishnu and Shiva devotees.
According to mythological legends, after returning from Lanka killing the demon, Ravana, Lord Rama wanted to wash off his sins by praying to Lord Shiva in the form of the Shivlinga. So, he sent Lord Hanuman to get the biggest lingam from the Himalayas. As Lord Hanuman took very long to get the Shivlinga, Goddess Sita created a Shivlinga from sand. Before entering the inner sanctum residing the Shivlinga, it is mandatory for all devotees to take bath in the 22 ‘teerthams’ or the holy water tanks in the temple complex.
Temple Timings: 4:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Mallikarjuna Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Built around 1234 AD by the Hoysala king, Vira Narsimha, the ‘Mallikarjuna Temple’ is situated on a hill in Shrisailam, Andhra Pradesh. Built in a Dravidian style of architecture with its wall sculptures and carvings depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the temple boasts of awe-inspiring sculptural skills of the then Hoysala artisans.
According to the Shiv Purana, Lord Shiva took the form of Jyotirlinga here on the Kraunch Mountain, when he along with his wife, Goddess Parvati visited their son, Kartikeya to console him of his anger owing to the marriage of his younger brother, Lord Ganesh, before his.
Temple Timings: 4:30 AM to 10:00 PM</p
Omkareshwar Temple, Madhya Pradesh
Fourth sacred Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva resides in the ‘Omkareshwar’ temple at the banks of Narmada River on an island called Mandhata in Madhya Pradesh. It is believed that the island is in the shape of ‘Om’ – a spiritual symbol in Hindu Mythology.
As per the Hindu mythology, there are 3 legends behind the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga. According to the first legend, ‘Vindhya Parbat’ performed a penance to please Lord Shiva; as a reward Lord Shiva appeared here and blessed the Vindhya Parbat with his wish of being greater then ‘Meru Parbat’. The linga which was worshipped by Vindhya Parbat was split into two parts ‘Omkareshwar’ and ‘Mammaleshwar’ on request of gods and sages. According to a second story, King Mandhata along with his two sons performed penance. Seeing their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared as a Jyotirlinga. As per the third story, Lord Shiva, in the form of Omkareshwar, appeared to defeat Asuras during a violent war between Devas and Asuras.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Mahakaleshwar Temple, Madhya Pradesh
Situated in the historical city of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh on the banks of River Kshipra, the Mahakaleshwar Temple, apart from being the home to one of the twelve holy Jyotirlingas, is also one of the top ‘Tantra Temples’ of India. Main highlight of this temple is its ‘Bhasm-Aarti’ that is the first ritual performed in the morning during which the Shivlinga is bathed with ash from a fresh funeral pyre. Believed to be a Swayambhu (self-created) Jyotirlinga, Mahakaleshwar temple is located near a lake and has five levels, one of which is underground. Bounded by massive walls, the shrine is characterised by a shikhara adorned with sculptural beauty which dominates the Ujjain’s skyline.
There are many mythological stories behind the Mahakaleshwar Temple but, the one that is most frequently heard is that Lord Shiva appeared in Ujjain from the ground to vanquish a demon called Dushana who was torturing the people and Brahmins of Ujjain city. When Dushana had crossed all the limits, Lord Shiva killed the demon and took the form of Jyotirlinga and since then, he has been residing in this holy city.
Temple Timings: 3:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Baidyanath Dham, Jharkhand
The Baidyanath Dham temple in Jharkhand is located in Deoghar in the Santhal Parganas division and is adorned with the presence of 21 temples. The sacred Shivalinga existing here is decorated with precious gems.
One popular legend here states that this place is where Ravana sacrificed his ten heads in order to gain the favour of Lord Shiva. The heads were then joined back by Lord Shiva, who acted like a Vaidya (Doctor), and thus, the place was named as Baidynath Dham.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
The holy city of Kashi, also known as Varanasi or Benaras, situated on the banks of River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, holds a great religious significance for Hindus due to the belief that one who bathes in the sacred waters of Ganga or dies in Varanasi, attains salvation. With almost 2000 temples in the city, the most sacred is believed to be the ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’which is home to one of the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. The temple originally dates back to 11th century and was plundered many times by Afghan and Arab invaders. The present temple has had been renovated by Rani Ahilya bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1780. The towers of the temple are gold plated with a golden chhatra on the top.
According to the mythological legends, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of an endless pillar of fire to stop Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma from their ongoing battle for supremacy. Seeing the pillar, Vishnu and Brahma set off in different directions to find the end of the pillar. While both could not find the ends, Lord Brahma lied to have found the end of the pillar. Seeing this, Lord Shiva got angry and cursed Brahma that he will not be worshipped by anyone and gave Lord Vishnu the title of being supreme. Pillar of fire vanished but a small part of it still remained at Kashi in the form of the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga.
Temple Timings: 3:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Situated in the Himalayan Range in Uttarakhand, the ‘Kedarnath Temple’ is the highest amongst the twelve Jyotirlingas. The origin of the temple is believed to have been during the time of Mahabharata. The Kedarnath Temple is also one of the Char dham temples. Owing to extreme cold weather on the hills during winters, the temple is closed and the idol of Lord Shiva is brought down at ‘Ukhimath’ where the deity is worshipped during the winter months. The idol is re-instated in the Kedarnath Temple during the month of Vaisakh as per the Hindu calendars, during which the temple is open for pilgrims.
According to the legends, Pandavas performed a great penance here to Lord Shiva to absolve their sins after the battle of Mahabharata. Pleased with the Pandavas, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a triangular Jyotirlinga. The temple was originally built by the Pandavas and was afterwards rebuilt by the Hindu Guru, Adi Shankaracharya.
Temple Timings: 4:00 AM to 9:00 PM