Shiva permeates the entirety of cosmos, imbibed in each speck of the stardust universes are built of. Shivlinga is meant to be an aniconic manifestation of this all pervasive nature of the consciousness of Divine masculine, Shiva Himself. Shiv Purana asserts that although a point in any space-time realm where Shiva isn’t an absurdity in itself, He has chosen to specifically manifest at 12 sacred places as jyotirlingas. Thus, jyotirlingas can be considered as heightened focal points of Shiva’s grace upon earth. As the very name suggests, Shiva manifests as Jyoti, illuminated columns of Supreme Light, at each of these Shivlinga. It is suggested that those on the higher gradients of spiritual evolution can see the blazing streams of light piercing earth at each of these Shivlingas.
Somnath Temple, Prabhas Patan, Gujarat
One knows Chandra, rather Soma deva, as always adorning the locks of Lord Shiva. Shiva is venerated as the ‘Lord of Soma’ at Somnath. The temple mythology cites its origin to belong to an era unbeknownst to human estimation. Chandra Deva, who was cursed by his father-in-law Daksha Prajapati for the negligence of his wives other than Rohini Devi, performed penances to seek Lord Shiva’s grace at this very site. Lord Shiva freed the deva from the curse of darkness that befell upon him following which moon had to follow its interminable cycles of waxing and waning. Combine this with the waxing and waning of the tides at this seashore causated by the gravitational pull of moon, and the myth comes alive with such luminosity here.
Somnath Temple has also been through many such cycles of destruction and reconstruction too, the present structure having been built by the combined efforts of K M Munshi and Vallabhai Patel. The temple is a true example of architectural splendor with its magnificently built pillars in Chalukya temple architecture style.
This beautiful temple, resting along the seashore of western Gujarat, at the city of Prabhas is foremost among the pilgrimage and historical attractions not just of the state, but of the whole nation. Another famous temple of the state known for its historical and mythological importance is Dwarakadheesh Temple worshipping God Krishna. Dwaraka was allegedly ruled by Krishna Himself in the Treta Yuga, and the temple’s flag with pictorial representation of sun and moon testifies to the belief that His essence would dwell in the place as long as sun and moon exists.
Mallikarjuna Temple, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
Rather Brahmaramba Mallikarjuna Temple to be precise is located in Andhra Pradesh, in its district of Sri Sailam. The temple is venerated both as a Shakti peeth and jyotirlinga, making it a very important pilgrimage stopover. Both Brahmaramba, the form of Maa Parvati and Mallikarjuna, the embodiment of Shiva rest conjugally in this rather magnanimous temple with four gopurams spread across two hectares.
This is cited to be the site at which Maa Parvati and Lord Shiva resided in their attempts to pacify their enraged son Kartikeya who left for Mt Palani. Another legend suggests a princess named Chandravati discovering the pious subterranean Shivlinga from the miraculous behavior of a cow overflowing its milk at the same site everyday. Later, the temple was built to house the jyotirlinga which emanated sun-like rays in all directions and her supreme devotion brought her Mukti too. A
Mahakaleshwar, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
The only Dakshinamurthy (South facing idol) of all the jyotirlingas, Mahakaleshwar is said to have been ‘Swayambhu’, its power being derived of itself as opposed to being ingrained by mantra-shakti. The temple forms the crux of the beautiful city of Ujjain. Also the temple is revered as a shakti peeth, as it is said to have been the site at which Maa Sati’s upper lip fell.
Lord Shiva is said to have embodied the form of Mahakal to protect the city of Ujjain, Avantika then, against one of the attacks aimed at it, in which the ruler Chandrasena evoked Shiva’s protection as per puranic legends. Therefrom, Lord Shiva exists as Ujjain’s guardian deity. The present temple structure is said to have been constructed in the early eighteenth century.
Omkareshwar Temple, Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
The Om shaped island of Shivpuri/Mandata carved by the River Narmada, venerated as Shankari, an allusion to her being Shiva’s daughter, houses two beautiful Shaivite Shrines – Omkareshwar and Omkareshwar(Mamleshwar). Both the shrines are considered representative of the jyotirlinga attributed to the site.
The island is said to have been where Adi Shankara met his Spiritual Teacher Guru Govindapada. In fact, the cave which held the momentous meeting still exists adjacent to the temple. The temple legend attributes its origin to Vindya, deity of the mountain ranges of Vindhyachal, worshipping Shiva using Shivlinga built of clay and sand. Lord Shiva appeared in his forms of Omkareshwar (Lord of Omkar sound) and Amaleswara (Immortal God) before him as he was pleased with the devotional worship.
Kedarnath Temple, Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand
An integral pilgrimage stopover of the renowned Char Dham Yatra, Kedarnath Temple opens for darshan only during half of the year. The temple housing the Lord of Kedar Khand is accessible only after a strenuous trek of 16-19 km from Gaurikund. The temple mythology links its conception with Pandavas while its revival is attributed to Adi Shankaracharya. The temple is also the main shrine in the panch kedar conglomerate.
Bhimashankar Temple, Khed, Maharashtra
Located amidst the dense forests Sahyadri mountain ranges, Bhimashankar Temple offers one an ideal spiritually serene retreat away from the hustle-bustle of modern life. River Bhima that originates here flows south-east to merge with Krishna river. Built gracefully in the Nagara architectural style, the present temple is said to have been constructed in the thirteenth century. The ancient shrine is inexorably linked to the legend of Bhimasur, the son of Kumbhakarna, from whose evil tyrannies Lord Shiva saved the world and agreed to make this region his own abode. Bhimashankar is popular not just among Shiva devotees, but also among wildlife enthusiasts and trekkers.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Banaras, Uttar Pradesh
This is the major Shaivite shrine in the city venerated as Shiva’s own abode by millions of Indians. In fact, the city truly emulates what it is known as- the city of death, rather ‘holy’ death, for death in its premises assures salvation as per the beliefs, with its many ghats dedicated to holy cremation of those who chose to burn away their dead incarnate bodies. The construction of the present temple structure is attributed to very saintly Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore.
Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, Nasik, Maharashtra
The ancient temple of Trimbakeshwar is unique for its jyotirlinga is not just dedicated to Lord Shiva, but to the entire trinity. Its three faces embody the creative, preservative and destructive aspects of Universe personified as Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The architecturally beautiful temple is constructed quite near the actual origin of the river Godavari. Kushavarta kund is venerated as the source of this sacred river of peninsular India. The temple encapsulated by the hill ranges of Brahmagiri, Nilagiri and Kalagiri is particularly beautiful when monsoon blooms its verdant landscape. The temple is marked for the many holy water bodies it contains – Amritvarshini, Bilvateertha, Viswananthirtha and Mukundthirtha among them. Also, its premises are blessed with the presence of several samadhis of monks and monasteries. The temple mythology tells us of the inexorable link of its conception with Gautami Ganga, or rather River Godavari, as per which the river is said to have emerged from Ganga herself to purify the land upon the request of Gautam Rishi and Shiva agreed to stay close by in his Trimbakeshwar jyotirlinga.
Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple, Deoghar, Jharkhand
In a temple complex consisting of about 21 temples, Lord Shiva’s Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is considered supreme. The temple mythology links its connection with the demon king Ravana, who was an ardent believer of Lord Shiva. In fact, the king supposedly sacrificed ten of his heads as an offering to Lord Shiva. The benevolent deity could not help but come to his aid as ‘Baidyanath’, doctor. Certain controversies do exist regarding the actual location of the ninth jyotirlinga though. The temple is said to have been an important Tantrik seat in the earlier times. Also, the temple is equally noteworthy for its being one of the 51 shakteepeeths too, it is at this site that Maa Sati’s heart fell.
Aundha Nagnath, Hingoli, Maharashtra
Prepare to be enchanted by the intricately carved Hemadpanti architecture of this ancient temple at Hingoli. The present temple dates back its conception to Yadav dynasty of thirteenth century. The credit for the initial conception is attributed to King Yudhisthira of Dwapara Yuga. One has to descend two feet below ground and sit down to have the darshan of this Jyotirlingam. The temple is also called as Hari-Hara temple as its sanctum worships Lord Vishnu as well.
Rameshwaram Temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
The temple is as much an architectural marvel as it is a spiritual abode. This magnificently built temple sprawling across many acres has the longest corridor amongst all the temples in the world. One gets to hear a thousand praises regarding the spiritual sanctity of the temple. As per the legend, the shrine was first built by Lord Rama to seek Lord Shiva’s blessings before embarking on his mission to cross ocean and reach Lanka to free his abducted wife Sita from King Ravana’s captivity. There exist 22 teerthas in this temple that is situated on the island of Rameswaram while the Sea Bay of Bengal itself is considered the foremost of them all – Agnitheertham.
Grishneshwar Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra
Lord Shiva is worshipped as the Lord of Compassion in His Grishneshwar jyotirlinga situated in Ellora. This beautiful illustration of south Indian architectural style is located quite adjacent to the iconic Ellora caves. The last of the jyotirlingas is also the smallest of the entire conglomerate. Apart from procuring the blessings of Lord Shiva, enjoy the beautifully carved depictions of Lord Vishnu’s Dashavtar, and myriad portrayals of Goddesses and Gods.