Twelve Jyotirlingas and their stories – part one


Twelve Jyotirlingas are the divine forms of Lord Shiva, the Supreme God. The term Jyotirlinga is a Sanskrit word, in which Jyothi means light and Lingam means a form of Lord Shiva. So, the term literally means “the radiance of Lord Shiva”. According to Shiva Purana, there is a total of sixty-four Jyotirlinga shrines across India and Nepal, out of which twelve are popular in present day. Hence referred to as Dwadasha (Twelve) Jyotirlinga.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya composed a Stotram (shloka) addressed to all 12 Jyotirlingas which is as follows.

Dwadasha/Twelve Jyotirlinga Stotram:

सौराष्ट्रे सोमनाधञ्च श्रीशैले मल्लिकार्जुनम् ।
उज्जयिन्यां महाकालम् ॐकारेत्वमामलेश्वरम् ॥

पर्ल्यां वैद्यनाधञ्च ढाकिन्यां भीम शङ्करम् ।
सेतुबन्धेतु रामेशं नागेशं दारुकावने ॥

वारणाश्यान्तु विश्वेशं त्रयम्बकं गौतमीतटे ।
हिमालयेतु केदारं घृष्णेशन्तु विशालके ॥

एतानि ज्योतिर्लिङ्गानि सायं प्रातः पठेन्नरः ।
सप्त जन्म कृतं पापं स्मरणेन विनश्यति ॥

This beautiful stotram addressed to twelve jyotirlinga aids to remember the names and places of 12 holy jyotirlingas.

The story behind emerging of Twelve Jyotirlingas:

As per Shiva Purana once there was an argument between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma about each other’s supremacy. Seeing this, Lord Shiva took the form of a luminous pillar and threw a challenge to both saying whoever finds the end or source of the pillar will be declared as the superior.

Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar and went downwards to find the end. Similarly, Lord Brahma turned into a swan and flew upwards to find the origin. After days passed both came back to Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu accepted his failure whereas, Lord Brahma chose to lie. Furious Lord Shiva cursed Lord Brahma saying he is not fortunate enough to be worshiped. Then after, the infinite pillar (Lord Shiva) emerged in 64 places on earth, thus forming 64 Jyotirlingas. As the jyotirlingas are the manifestation of Shiva himself, these are also known as Swayambhoo lingas.

Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma with infinite radiant pillar Lord Shiva

Among the twelve Jyotirlingas, two are in the sea, three are on the banks of rivers, four are on top of mountains, and three are in villages/towns.

In this article let’s take a glance at 12 Holy Jyotirlingas in India.

Someshwara Jyotirlinga:

  • Lord Someshawara or Somanatha is first among all Jyotirlingas in India. It is situated in Saurashtra (Now Prabhasa) town in Gujarat. The legendary story behind this temple is that: The Moon or Chandra married twenty-seven daughters of King Daksha Prajapathi out of which he was very much fond of Rohini. Seeing this injustice to his remaining daughters, Daksha cursed the Moon to lose his luster. As a result, the entire Universe became dark and unstable. Seeing this, all the other Gods asked Moon to pray to Lord Shiva for the reoccurrence of his luster. The Moon hence took bath in the river Saraswathi and prayed to Lord Shiva after which he regained his Prabhasa (lustre). For the same reason, the name is given to the city. People believe on every moonless day (Amavasya) the moon prays to Lord Shiva in the same region to regain his luster. Hence the name Somanatha / Someshwara, in which Soma means Moon. It also says that this temple was built in Dwapar Yuga by Lord Krishna himself using pure sandalwood.
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  • According to history, the Somanatha temple has been attacked by many Islam rulers several times and the same was rebuilt after its destruction. The present-day temple was built under the supervision of the first Home Minister of India Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Someshwara – Saurashtra

Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga:

  • Mallikarjuna of Srishaila, Andhra Pradesh takes second place among jyotirlingas. This temple is located on the banks of river Krishna and is surrounded by Kadhali plants (Plantain), Bilva trees (Bael or Bhel tree), and Patalagange. The presiding deities of this place are Sri Mallikarjuna and Devi Bhramaramba.
  • Coming to the mythological story; Once Lord Shiva and Parvathi gave a task to their two sons to go around the world and come back. They said, “whoever comes first will be worshiped as the primary deity in future days”. Immediately Lord Karthikeya began his tour on his vehicle, Peacock. Whereas, Lord Ganesha revolved around his parents and said “you both are my world”. Rejoiced Lord Shiva and Parvathi announced Ganesha as the primary deity. Aggravated by this, Lord Karthikeya settled in Krauncha Giri (known as the first abode of Lord Murugan in South India). Concerning this, the parents’ Shiva and Parvathi started to visit their son at this place on every moonless day and full moon day respectively. The same place is the present-day Srishaila, says the story.
  • History: It says that the Maratha ruler Shivaji used to worship Lord Mallikarjuna on every Shivaratri. He also built a hall for rice consecration on the right side of the temple. Whereas, the other premises of the temple was built by the Vijayanagara rulers.
Mallikarjuna – Srishaila

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga:

  • Lord Shiva is worshipped as Mahaklaeshwar in Ujjain of Madhya Pradesh. As the golden pots are placed on the top of many temples in this place, Ujjain is also called Swarnshringa. Mahakaleshwar is addressed as King of Ujjain and is the only Jyotirlinga facing the South direction. This place is located on the banks of river Kshipra. This is the only place where Bhasmabhishekha is done to Lord Shiva. Every morning the rituals start here only after applying Bhasma (ash) to the jyotirlinga at 4.00 A.M.
  • The story behind this temple: The ruler of Ujjain, King Chandrasena, and his citizens were great devotees of Lord Shiva. Once, two demons namely Triputhamana and Dhooshana attacked the empire and started troubling everyone. The people there prayed to Lord Shiva to save them, the Lord pleased by his devotees’ prayers, came to them and rescued them from the evil demons. People praised the Lord and requested him to stay with them forever and safeguard them. Lord Mahakala settled there as per people’s wish. Ujjain is the pioneer place to learn about art, religion, and science and is called as Aadhyapeetha.
Mahakaleshwar – Ujjain

Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga:

  • This is another Jyotirlinga in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Situated in Khandwa, surrounded by the river Narmada and its tributary, this place looks in shape of Om and hence the name Omkareshwar. There is practice at this place, after worshiping the Lord, people go to the river Narmada and make Lingas out of the sand there and pray. Believers say that worship is incomplete without this practice.
  • The story behind this says, Mandhatha, ancestor of Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva in this place and attained salvation (moksha). There is also a belief that Lord Shiva travels through all the Jyotirlingas and rests at Omkareshwar. Along with Nirakara Shiva, Lord Brahma and Vishnu are also worshiped in this place.

Kedareshwara Jyotirlinga:

  • This is the pioneer Jyotirlingas among the twelve, where the Linga is in the shape of a triangle. Located in the Himalayan range, in Uttarkhand this temple is covered by snow all over. As we all know Kedarnath opens only six months a year, the rest six months it’s closed due to heavy snowfall. Before closing the temple, the priests light the ghee lantern and take out the Lingam/idol and place it in the Urvi Mutt in the valley.
  • According to our mythology, Pandavas saw Lord Shiva here and built the temple. The tale says that, after the Kurukshetra war, Pandavas went in search of Lord Shiva to get rid of their sins of killing Kauravas. They first went to Varanasi but didn’t find him there. Meanwhile, Lord Shiva to test the devotion of Pandavas migrated from Varanasi to Gupta Kashi and then to Kedarnath. Knowing this, the Pandavas also reached Kedarnath. There Lord Ishwara threw another game before Pandavas by disguising himself as an Ox. Discovering this, Bheema stepped on two hills at a time and blocked the path of Oxen. All the oxen crossed the blockage, while Bheema chased the one which didn’t cross. After a while, the Ox went underground but Bhima managed to hold the hump of the Ox. Glad by this, Lord Shiva appeared before Pandavas, blessed them, and helped them in attaining salvation.
Kedareshwar – Kedarnath

Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga:

  • It is the only jyotirlinga in the form of Ardhanareeshwara, that is both Shiva and Parvathi in the form of one Lingam. It is situated on the crests of the Sahyadri mountain range in a place called Dhakini near Pune, Maharashtra. There are two different stories that talk about the origin of this temple.
  • One legend says, once there was a demon named Tripurasura who was harassing humans and Gods by his evil nature. The Gods thus prayed to Lord Shiva for help. Then Lord Shiva along with his consort Parvathi appeared there as Ardhanareeshwara and killed the demon. Then the Ardhanareeshwara inhabited the banks of river Bhima as Bhimashankara.
  • Another tale tells that: Kumbhakarna’s (younger brother of Ravana) son Bhima, a demon lived along with his mother in the Dhakini forests. Learning that Lord Rama killed his father, Bhima performed a penance to please Lord Brahma. The Lord then gave him the boon of immense strength. Bhima troubled people and imprisoned King Kamrupeshwar who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He prayed in front of a lingam in the prison. Bhima then raised his sword to destroy the idol. Then Lord Shiva appeared and burnt him to ashes. Thus, the deity there became popular as Bhimashankara.

So, here ends this short pilgrimage to six Jyotirlinga shrines. But this is not the end yet, next article is coming to take you to remain six Jyotirlingas of India. Until then keep scrolling Curiousport to know interesting facts about our mythology, customs, and cultures.  

Read Remaining Jyotirlingas Stories: 12 Jyotirlingas and their stories – part two

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