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12 Jyotirlingas or Dwaadasa Jyotirlinga means the 12 Linga that has emerged in the form of Jyothi(Flame). Originally there were believed to be 12 Jyotirlingas. The most important thing here is that – the 12 jyotirlingas are Swayambhu Lingas – which have emerged on their own; which were neither carved nor were a result of any human creation.
It is believed that Shiva first manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga on the night of the Aridra Nakshatra, thus the special reverence for the Jyotirlinga. There is nothing to distinguish the appearance, but it is believed that a person can see these lingas as columns of fire piercing through the earth after he reaches a higher level of spiritual attainment.
The meaning of a Jyotirlinga
- The all-pervading Brahmatmalinga or all-pervading light.
- In the Taittiriya Upanishad, the twelve Principles of Brahma, Maya, the jiva, the mind, intellect, subconscious mind, ego and the Panchamahabhutas have been referred to as the twelve Jyotirlingas.
- The twelve sections of the Shivalinga.
- In the Yadnyavedi (Pit where the ritual of sacrificial fires is performed), the shalunka represents the pit of the fire and the linga the flame of the fire.
- A representation of the twelve Adityas (Species of Deities who are designated into groups).
- The sites of eruption of fire from the dormant volcanoes. Since Yama, the master of southern direction is a subordinate of Shankar, south becomes the direction of Shankar. The Jyotirlingas are south-oriented, meaning, the opening of their shalunkas face southwards. Most temples do not face the southern direction. When the opening of the shalunka faces the south, its pinda possesses more spiritual energy; while the pinda with the opening of the shalunka facing north possesses lesser energy.
Significance of Jyotirlinga
The Puranas vociferously sing the praises of the greatness of the Jyotirlingas. By reciting the name of this, one can eliminate all the sins. The Sadhaka becomes calm, chaste and pure. He becomes illuminated and enlightened with supreme and divine knowledge. The names mentioned for the benefits of all:
Saurashtra Somnatham Cha Shrishaile Mallikarjunam ||
Ujjainyam Mahakalomkare Mammaleshwaram ||
Parlyam Vaijnatham Cha Dakinyam Bheem Shankaram ||
Setu Bandhe Tu Ramesham Nagesham Daruka Vane ||
Varanasya Tu Vishwesham Tribakam Gautamitate ||
Himalaye Tu Kedaram Ghurmesham Cha Shivalaye ||
Aetani Jyotirlingani Sayam Prataha Pathennaraha ||
Sapta Janma Kritam Papam Smaranen Vinashyati ||
One who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening he washes all the sins committed in the previous 7 births and attains all the powers and Siddhis.
The pillar split open and Shiva revealed himself in his full glory. Brahma and Vishnu realized their mistake and acknowledged Shiva as the Supreme Being.
Since it was on the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a Linga, the day is especially auspicious and is celebrated as Mahashivaratri. Worshiping Shiva on Maha Shivratri day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity.
The Story of the 12 Jyotirlinga
- The first time Lord Shiva manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga was in the night of Aridra Nakshatra. The first Jyotirlinga is the very popular Somnath that is in the state of Gujarat. It was destroyed and re built about sixteen times. This is so case in the olden days it was considered to be the richest temple in India. Studded with gold and gems it was indeed the most sorted temple in India. The story goes like this. Chandra (moon) married all the twenty seven daughters of Daksha. Nevertheless, he loved only Rohini. He gave all importance to her while the other daughters of Daksha were lonely and upset. This made Daksha very upset and he wanted to ensure that Chandra spends quality time with his other wives too. Chandra never gave any heed to this and kept spending time with Rohini alone. Daksha one day lost his temper and cursed Chandra. He said that Chandra will lose all his light. Chandra immediately became lightless as a result the whole world became dark. All the gods met and decided that they should request Daksha to forgive Chandra. After a lot of request from the gods Daksha said that Chandra will have to start worshiping lord Shiva and when lord Shiva gives him his light he will start shining again. Chandra immediately reached Prabas and started to worship the lord Shiva. Soon he was blessed and lord appeared. He gave him the light and moon started to shine again. It is believed that even today on moonless night Chandra comes and dips in the holy water of the sea here and starts shining again. This is how lord Shiva also got the name of Someshwar.
- The second Jyotirlinga in the list is Mallika Arjuna Swamy temple that is located in Andhra Pradesh. The story goes like this. Shiva and Parvati were not able to decide which son of theirs should get married first. So they told them to go around the world. The one who would be able to do this first will get married first. Lord Kartik took his peacock and started the trip but Ganesh decided to go round his parents and said this was his world. Shiva and Parvati were very pleased at this so they got him married to Riddhi and Siddhi the daughters of Viswaroopan. Lord Kartik on his return got to know what happened. He was very ashamed of himself and said he will never get married. He went to the mount Kravunja and started living there. Shiva and Parvati when got to know this they decided to visit their son. Lord Shiva visited on a no moon day and Parvati on a full moon day. This is exactly where this temple is.
- The third Jyotirlinga is the very popular Mahakaleshwar jyotirlinga in Ujjain. It is a very sacred place and is situated on the bank of Rudra sagar. This part of the country was once ruled by a king named Chandrasena. He used to worship lord Shiva. The people would also regularly worship the lord. One day the kingdom was attacked by king Ripudamana who had a demon with him named Dushan. This demon got a unique ability it could become invisible. The kingdom was shattered and all the people started to pray to Lord Shiva. Lord appeared and protected the city. The people of Ujjain requested him to stay there itself and protect them. Shiva could not say and he decided to stay in Ujjain and take care of his devotees. It is belived that the lord still lives there.
- The fourth Jyotirlinga in India that has been worshiped for ages is the very famous Omkareshwar jyotirlinga in the state of Madhya Pradesh. There are many stories that revolve around this shrine. However, it is belived that Lord Shiva had appeared here to defeat the danavas on request of the gods. Some say he had appeared here on request of mount Vindya and blessed him that he would become a mighty mountain unless he stops affecting lord Shiva’s followers. Some say that king mandhata used to worship lord Shiva here. The lord was so pleased with him that he decided to live here.
- Another Jyotirlinga (fifth) of prime importance is the Kedarnath jyotirlinga which is located in the beautiful state Uttarkahand. It is mostly closed in winters as no one can go there. Pandavas wanted to get rid of their sins so that they could go to Swarg. However, they were told that they could do so only if they could see lord Shiva and be blessed by him. So they started their search. After a long search they finally saw lord Shiva at this spot where the Jyotirlinga is today. The lord said that he will stay in this place in the form of a triangular shaped Jyotirlinga. This is one of the most popular Jyotirlinga in India and is also a holy place. Every year a huge number of devotees visit this temple.
- Bheemshankar jyotirlinga is the sixth Jyotirlinga that we are going to discuss about. It is located near Pune in Maharashtra. The temple is old and has an interesting story to it too. In this area lived an Asura named Bhima. When he grew a little old he was told by his mother karkati that Kumbhakaran the brother of King Ravana was his father. His mother also told him that his father was killed by lord Vishnu in one of his incarnations (lord Rama). Bhima decided he will avenge the death of his father. He started to pray Lord Brahma and was granted immense powers by the lord. Bhima as expected misused his powers and started havoc. He would kill innocent people. He would torture saints and even kill children. He once took Kamarupeshwar a big Shiva devotee as captive. The lord got very upset at this. The anger even increased when Bhima told Kamarupeshwar to worship him and not the lord Shiva. Kamarupeshwar denied this and as a result Bhima raised his sword to kill him. This is when lord Shiva came to the rescue of his devotee and he killed Bhima. All the gods requested the lord Shiva to stay in this place and so he manifested himself as the Bheemshankar Jyotirlinga.
- The Kashi Vishwanath is another very famous nslation means ruler of the universe. The city is the oldest in the world and has a three thousand fife hundred year old history. It is said that this city can never be destroyed. It is a place where Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh live at the same time. Anyone can attain Moksha here. There is no sin on earth that cannot be washed here. Every year a huge number of people visit this place. It is said that lord Shiva himself had made this city.
- Another very popular Jyotirlinga (eighth) that is situated in the state of Maharashtra is the famous Trimbakeshwar jyotirlinga. There are three lingas here signify Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. There is a crown that is bejewelled with gems that is used to cover these lingas. It is now days kept from four to five in the evening only on Monday. The use of water is eroding the actual Jyotirlingam. That is why it is covered and kept with a metal shield. The legends say that Gautam rishi used to live here with his wife Ahilya. Gautam Rishi was blessed by lord Shiva with a bottomless pit from where he could get any amount of grain and food. The other Rishi’s got very jealous of Gautam Rishi. They decided to send a cow there and killed it. Gautam Rishi got very upset with this and he prayed to lord Shiva that he wants Ganges to flow in this part of the country so that his sins are washed off. Lord Shiva granted his wish. The lord decided to stay here by the name of Trimbakeshwar. It is said that it can full fill all desires.
- Now we move on to the ninth Jyotirlinga that is called Baidyanath jyotrilinga in Jharkhand. This Jyotirlinga has a very interesting story to it. Ravana the lord of Lanka was a huge devotee of lord Shiva. He once felt that if Shiva does not reside in Lanka then Lanka can be destroyed. He wanted to make Lanka invincible. Lord Shiva agreed to his prayers and gave him a lingam. He warned him that if he places the lingam in any part of earth before he reached Lanka it will get fixed to that land and no one will be able to remove it. Ravana started his journey back from Kailash. On the way it was evening and he had to do his evening prayer. However, he could not do it with the Jyotirlinga in his hand. He saw a shepherd boy and requested him to hold the Jyotirlinga and also warned him not to place it down. The boy agreed but warned him that if there is a delay from him he will place it and go. Ravana said he will be back soon. The shepherd boy was actually lord Ganesh and he was there at the request of the gods. When there was a delay from Ravana, lord Ganesha kept the Jyotirlinga on the ground and he left. When Ravana saw this he became very upset but in spite of trying very hard he could not remove it. Since then it is present in this part of the country. It is one of the very popular Jyotirlinga.
- The next or tenth Jyotirlinga that we are going to discuss is the Nageshwar Jyotirlinga that is located near Dwarka in Gujarat. It is said that there was a Shiva devotee named Supriya who lived in this area. She was once attacked and captivated by Daaruka. When she started to call lord Shiva he appeared and he killed Daaruka. After this he started to live here as Nageshwar Jyotirlingam.
- The eleventh Jyotirlinga that we must mention here is Rameshwar jyotirlinga in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the Char Dham. There are two lingams here. One was brought by Hanuman from Kailash and the other by Sita Devi. The Vishwalingam is worshiped first as it was brought by Hanumana. The one brought by Sita is worshiped second. The same is done even today. This is exactly the place where lord Rama worshiped lord Shiva after he defeated Ravana. It is also known for its unique architecture. It has the largest hallway as compared to any other temple in India. It was built over years. It is considered to be a hugely sacred place by the Hindus. Many visit this place every year.
- The last of the 12 Jyotirlinga that we are going to discuss is the Grishneshwar jyotirlinga in Maharashtra. It is located very close to the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. Many years ago a woman named Kusuma used to live here. She would worship the lord. Her ritual she would immerse the shiv linga in a tank and then worship it. The villagers would respect her a lot and come to her for advice. Her husband’s other wives were very jealous of her so they killed her son in cold blood. After her son’s death too she continued the rituals. One day while she immersed the shiv linga in the tank. Lord Shiva appeared along with her son. The villagers were surprised to see this. Since then it is said that lord Shiva resides here. It is also known as Kusumeshwar Jyotirlinga.