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12 Jyotirling
“ 12 ’’ Jyotirlinga Temple’’

The 12 jyotirlinga shrines, popularly known as the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga shrines are considered to be very holy by the Hindus. The Jyotirlinga have held an important position in the Indian belief system. The Jyotirlinga temples have a rich tradition and each temple has a legend attached to it. They are situated in different parts of India. The northernmost Jyotirlinga is located in the snow clad Himalayas at Kedarnath. The southernmost Jyotirlinga is situated at Rameswaram. These temples provide a fine view of Indian architecture and definitely add to the rich glory and tradition of Indian history. These places are a must visit both in terms of pilgrimage and as tourist destinations.

The 12 Jyotirlinga temples are the following:

The Somnath Jyotirlinga Shrine

The Somnath temple is dedicated to Someshwara, another name of Lord Shiva with moon on his head. The temple is situated in Saurashtra. It is believed that Somraj, the Moon God himself had originally built the temple out of gold. Somnath is the first of all the 12 jyotirlinga. Though the temple is of Hindu origin, the Architecture has Jain influences. The Somnath temple has been destroyed six times and has been rebuilt. The temple faces the east direction. Externally the Somnath temple resembles the Rudramala temple at Siddhapur. The dome of the temple is the biggest ever made in this century. The temple has large central hall with entrances on three sides, each protected by a lofty porch. The temple carvings and the sculptures speak about the great artistic endeavor made by the craftsmen of that era. At a certain interval in the balconied corridor is a deformed Nataraja statue.

Somnath is also known by different names like- Deo pattan, Prabhas Pattan or Pattan Somnath. It is believed that 2000 priests served the idol of the temple. The Somnath temple has a long history attached to it. The first temple of Somnath is believed to have existed before the christian era. The second temple was built by the Maitraka Kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat. The Pratihara King- Nagabhata II constructed the third temple. The fourth temple was built by the Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki King. Kumarpal built the fifth temple and was again destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangazeb. The present temple is the seventh temple and has been rebuilt and taken care by Shree Somnath trust.

Sree Sailam-Mallikarjun Temple

The Sree Sailam Temple located in Kurnool district, is one of the 12 Jyotirlingam. Sri Sailam is a small city situated in the densely forested Nallamalai hills. This temple is considered very holy and is dedicated to Mallikarjuna Swamy and Bhramaramba. One unique feature of the temple is that all the devotees who visit the temple are allowed to touch the idol which is not prevalent in any other temple. The temple is located at a distance of 245 km from Hyderabad. The Sree Sailam temple has rich sculptural work, fort like walls and towers. The temple is built in Dravidian style. According to popular legends, the religious leader had visited the temple and had composed his famous Sivananda Lahiri. It is also believed that Goddess Durga had taken the form of a bee and worshiped Lord Shiva here and selected this holy place as her abode. There are some temples in the vicinity of Sree Sailam Temple, they are-

• Tripurantakam to the east of Sree Sailam.
• Siddavatam of Cuddapah district to the South.
• Alampur Navabhrama temples in Mahboobnagar district to the West.
• Umamaheswaram in Mahboobnagar district to the North.
• Paladhara Panchadara : The spot where Adi Sankara is said to have meditated.
• Hatakeswaram : Another Shiva temple near Paladhara Panchadara where the lingam was originally made of gold.
• Sakthi Ganapathi temple : It is considered important to visit this temple before visiting Sri Sailam.
• Kailasa Dwaram : The main entrance to Sri Sailam for those trekking to the temple.
• Sikharam : There is a hill temple dedicated to Shiva at a height of 2850 feet above sea level in the Nallamalai hills
• Patalaganga : is where the bathing ghats associated with Sri Sailam are located. (Krishna river).

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga Temple is situated in Ujjain, the historical capital of Central India. This Temple is situated near a lake. The idol in the temple is known as Dakshinamurti, facing the south. The idols in the temple are all strategically placed like the images of Ganesh, Parvati and Karttikeya installed in the west, north and east direction respectively. The image of Nandi is situated in the south direction. The idol of Nagchandreshwar is situated in the third storey and pilgrims are allowed to pay homage to the diety only on the day of Nagapanchami. Among the 12 Jyotirlingas, the Mahakal Jyotirlinga is believed to be swayambhu, meaning 'born of itself'. It is believed that the holy powers of the Jyotirlinga are self derived from within and unlike other Jyotirlinga, they are not ritually established through Mantra Shakti.

The Mahakaleshwar temple is made in five levels, one of which is underground. The Temple is surrounded by huge walls. The Temple peak is decorated with fine sculptures. The underground sanctum is lightened by brass lamps. The prasada in the temple can be re-offered unlike other temples. According to the legends, a demon called Dushana tormented the people of Avanti and then Lord Shiva appeared from the ground and rescued the people and then on the request of the people, Lord Shiva permanently settled there as Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga. The glory of the Mahakaleshwar Temple has been mentioned in the Tamil hymns of the Nayanmar saints of the 1st millenium CE. The Parvati - Harasiddhi temple is also situated in Ujjain. A huge fair is held on the day of Mahashivratri near the Temple and the worshiping of Lord Shiva goes on through out the night.

Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

The Nageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples of Lord Shiva. The Jyotirlinga in the temple is known as Nageshwar Mahadev. The temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. The Jyotirlinga situated in the temple is considered to protect everybody from all sort of poisons. It is believed that one who offers prayers in the temple becomes poison free. The temple is located between Dwarka and Dwarka island in Gujarat on the coast of Surat. According to the legends, a devotee called Supriya was attacked by a demon named Daaruka in a boat.

The demon imprisoned the devotee and several others in his capital called Daarukaavana. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Jyotirlinga and rescued the imprisoned and vanquished the demon. The Shivalingam in the temple faces South with the Gomugam facing East. There is a legend regarding the position of the idol. It is believed that a devotee called Naamdev was singing bhajans in praise of Lord Shiva and was asked by other devotees to stand aside and not to hide the image of Lord. On being asked to do so Naamdev argued and asked for one such direction where Lord is not present, this angered the devotees and they picked him up and placed him on the south side. To everyones astonishment even the Linga was then facing South with the Gomugam facing east. The other two temples dedicated to Nageshwar Jyotirlinga are situated near Audhgram near Purna and another near Almora in Uttar Pradesh.

Rameshwar Jyotirlinga Mandir

The Rameshwar Jyotirlinga is considered as the southmost Jyotirlingams of India. The mandir is siyuated on an island located on the south eastern coast of Tamil nadu. To the right of the Lords shrine is the shrine for Parvathi. To its North is the Kasi Viswanathars shrine. The temple has close association with Lord Rama and his victorious return from Sri Lanka. It is believed that the ancient shrine was a thatched hut till it was rebuilt by Parakrama Bahu of Sri Lanka into a lofty temple in the 12th century. The rest of the temple was completed by the Sethupathy rulers of Ramanathapuram. Between the 12th and the 16th century much of the additions were carried out in the temple. The temple has six worship services, the first one taking place at 5am in the morning. A special worship service takes place every Friday. There are 36 Theertham meaning water springs in Rameshwaram out of which 22 are situated in the temple.

The water of these springs are said to have medicinal properties. There is another Shivalingam situated in the temple. It is believed that this Lingam was brought by Hanuman from Benaras. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasilingam and Hanumalingam. The Legend regarding the temple goes this way that Lord Rama wanted to worship Lord Shiva and so had asked Hanuman to get an image of Viswanathar from Benares. Hanuman got a bit delayed and so Lord Rama offered his prayer to a Shivalingam made out of earth by Goddess Sita on a pre-chosen auspicious moment. This Lingam came to be known as Ramalingam and the town is known as Rameswaram. There is a nearby hill in the island called Gandamadana parvatam and has a small temple where imprints of Rama's feet are worshipped. This hill also provides a majestic view of the temple.

There also exists a shrine dedicated to Ganapathi and Subramanya. The Rameshwaram temple is spread over an area of 15 acres with lofty towers, impressive 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 pillars. One unique feature about the corridor is that the rocks used are not originally from the island but have been brought from other places across the sea. The Rajagopuram on the eastern side towers to a height of 126 feet and it has nine levels. The western Gopuram is impressive but not as tall as the eastern one. There is a huge Nandi measuring 12 feet in length and 9 feet in height. To the North of the temple is the Kasi Viswanathars shrine. Two annual festivals are celebrated between June 15 and July15. This festival commemorates Lord Rama's worship.

Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

The Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga Temple is one of the ancient and holiest shrines of India. This temple is the holy abode of one of the 12 jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. The temple is located at a distance of 11km from Daulatabad near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Daulatabad was once known as Devagiri. Ahilyabhai Holkar constructed the Grishneshwar Temple, who also re-constructed the Kasi Viswanatha temple at Banaras and the Vishnu Paada temple at Gaya. Grishneshwar is also known as Ghushmeswara. The Lord is also known by several names like Kusumeswarar, Ghushmeswara, etc.

he famous Ajanta and Elora caves are the famous tourist spots nearby the temple. According to legend, a devotee called Kusuma worshiped Lord Shiva by immersing a Shivalingam everyday in a nearby tank. Kusuma's husband's first wife out of jealousy because of Kusuma's piety in the society killed her son. An aggrieved Kusuma continued her daily ritual and when she dipped the Shivlingam in the tank her son miraculously revived. From then on the people started worshiping Lord Shiva in the form of a Jyotirlinga Ghusmeshwar.

Tryambakeshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

Tryambakeshwar is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines situated 30 km from Nasik in Maharashtra. Considered to be the birth place of the river Godavari, the shrine's beauty is still well intact. The effort made by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century has kept the magic of the shrine's architecture still alive.

The influence of the Nagara style of architecture can be well seen through the extensive usage of black stone. A small Shivalingam or Tryambaka, is placed amidst a spacious courtyard & the sanctum which is crowned with a graceful tower, a giant amalaka and a golden kalasha. A mandap with doors on all sides enhances the beauty well situated in front of the garbagriha and the antaral. Three doorways are covered with porches whose opening are ornamented with pillars and arches. The mandapam's roof has curvilinear slabs rising in steps. Sculptural work can be traced everywhere featuring running scrolls, floral designs, figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals.

The Shivalingam is situated in a depression on the floor of the sanctum. Continuous flow of water from the top of the Shivalingam adds to the mystic beauty. Shivalingam is generally covered with a silver mask which is then substituted with a golden mask with five faces on festive occasion. These faces have their respective golden crowns. While, the silver mask is similar to the processional images seen in South Indian temples.

The worship service is carried out thrice on daily basis. Night is meant for the sheja-aarti service where in a mirrored hall, the silver mask is placed on a bed. According to the ritual, on every monday, the silver mask of Tryambaka is placed in a palanquin. This is taken in a procession to Kushavarta theertha where its given an abhisheka. While days like Shiv ratris, full moon day in the month of Kartika & other festive occasions are meant for the special golden mask procession.

As far as the legend goes, Gowtama muni resided on the Bhramagiri hill. Once he worshiped Lord Shiva to bring the Ganga down to purify his premises, as he had committed a sin of killing a cow while in his quest to protect his granary. Therefore, the Ganga came down as Godavari while Shiva came in the form of Tryambaka. The other legend relating to the Lingodbhava manifestation of Shiva also prevails here. Tryambakeshwar has been referred to in the Padma Purana.

Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga Temple

Bhimashankar, the origin of Bhima river, is located on a high peak, surrounded by thick dense forests. It is one of the major pilgrim center which is the abode for one of the five 'Jyotirlinga' of Maharashtra. Innumerable devotees flock near the temple during 'Tripuri Poornima'. The breathtaking scenic beauty & the picture perfect setting of Bhimashankar has made it a hit tourist center, especially famous for trekking, sight seeing & mountaineering.

Bhimashankar temple houses the main 'Shani temple'. One of the two main pillars outside the 'Shani' temple is actually an ancient huge Portuguese bell. The impact of Nagara style can be well make out. Dating back to mid 18th century, the shikhara was built by Nana Phadnavis. The sanctum is located at the lower level. The shrine Bhimashankaram, though dates back to the 13th century. Bhimashankar temple is well surrounded with Kamalaja shrine & Mokshakund thirtha.

As per the ritual, at least three worship services are offered on a daily basis. Mahashivratri is the most auspicious day here.

Lord Shiva's killing of the demon Tripurasura is the main legend associated with the temple. It even states that Shiva took abode on the Sahyadri hills in the form of a Bhima upon the request of the Gods, on the crest of the Sahyadri hills. The sweat of Shiva poured after the battle ultimately led to the origin of Bhimarathi river.


Kedarnath is a Hindu holy town located in the the Indian state of Uttaranchal. The place is located at an altitude of 3,584 m and at the origin of the river Mandakini, the temple of Kedarnath is the most venerated place for Hindu pilgrims. Amidst the dramatic mountain scapes of the majestic Kedarnath range stands one of the twelve 'Jyotirlingas' of Kedar or Lord Shiva. Kedarnath hosts one of the holiest Hindu temples and is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world. The place is accessible after a steep 13 km trek over a paved path from Gaurikund. Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun are well connected to Gaurikund by road. There are different places on the route like- Rambara, Janglechatti and Garurchatti, where one can spend some time while trekking or can even spend a night as a halting station. There is a high and beautiful cascading waterfall just one kilometer before Rambara. The main attraction at Kedarnath is the Kedarnath Jyotirlinga Temple, which is one of the Panch Kendras located in the Himalayas, at the source of the Mandakani river. It is about 120000 feet above the sea level. One can get a glimpse of the God when traveling by foot. The picture perfect setting with breathtaking scenic beauty transforms it in a heaven. Perpetually covered with snow, the place is best accessible from May to October except the Monsoon.

The credit for the construction of this heavenly temple is given to the Pandavas. The entrance starts with the statue of Nandi, the divine bull of Shiva. Fine & detailed carvings exhibiting images can be seen on the walls inside. The shiva lingam is in the form of a pyramid. The Kedar dome peak is located exactly behind the temple. It can be viewed from great distance as well. The temple is located on the Rudra Himalaya range, also known as the Pancha Parvata. It is believed that four of the Pandavas died on one of the peaks, Swargarohini.

The holy statue of Shiva is carried from Garhwal (Kedarkhand) to Ukhnimath in November which is then restablished at Kedarnath in the first week of May. The doors of the temple are now thrown open to pilgrims.

Mythology states that the deity of Kedarnath temple is identified with the rump of a bull. Shiva had camouflaged himself while eluding the Pandavas, who had come to repent for killing their kith and kin, during the battle of Kurukshetra. Shiva dived into the ground, thus, leaving a hump on the surface. This very conical projection is worshipped till now.

The temple is open only during the months of May to October, due to heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather during winter. The origin of this revered temple is mentioned in the great epic-Mahabharata. According to the saying it is believed that the Pandavas came to Lord Shiva to seek blessings to atone their sins after the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva evaded them continuously and took refuge in Kedarnath in the form of a Bull. On being chased, Lord Shiva left his hump behind. This conical protusion is worshiped in the temple. During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow and hence is closed. The ideal time to visit is between May to October. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva are worshiped at four other
places like-

• The arms {baahu} - at Tungnath
• The mouth {mukh} - at Rudranath
• The hair {jata} - at Kapleshwar

Things to remember

• The best season to visit is May to October except monsoon
• One may carry light woolens in summer and must carry heavy woolens in winter
• The colloquial Language in use are Hindi, Garhwali and English
• The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun (251 kms.)
• The nearest railway stations are Rishikesh (234 kms.) Kotdwar (260 kms.)
• The walking route starts from Gaurikund which is connected by road to Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region
• There are halting stations like Dharamshalas, Ashrams, Cottages and Tourist Rest House for comfortable stay

There are some important fairs that are organized at Kedarnath anually like :

• Nagnath (Feb.)
• Sardotsava, Joshimath (Feb.)
• Sardotsava Chamoli, Gopeshwar (Feb. - Mar.)
• Shivaratri, Gopeshwar (Feb. - Mar.)
• Nanda Devi, Nauti (Mar.)
• Maithan, Maithan (Mar.)
• Bishwat Sankranti, Karnaprayag
• Nandprayag (April)
• Bikhot, Agastyamuni (April)
• Nautha, Adi Badri (May)
• Kaviltha, Kaviltha (Jun.)
• Naumi, Jasoli Haryali (Aug.)
• Bhaikhal, Mela, Bhaikhaltal (Aug.)

Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga Temple

Omkareshwar, an island on the banks of the Narmada, is located on the Mandhata hill in Madhya Pradesh. The Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga shrine and the Amareshwar temple is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. The river Narmada branches into two which forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. Ironically, the island's shape resembles the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. The temple can be reached by ferry.

The influence of the Nagara architecture can be well made out. The proof is the lofty shikhara. High spires are another eye catching point of the temple. Shrines dedicated to Annapurna & Ganesha are also found here. Worshiping Panchamuga Ganesha is considered to be very auspicious.

One has to go through two rooms before entering the temple. With mysterious circumstances, the Omkareshwar is naturally installed there surrounded by water. The highlight of this particular linga is its location which is not below the cupola. Lord Shiva's idol is situated on the top of the temple. Kartik Poornima is supposed to be the organization of a huge fair.

As per the legend, Vindhya mountain once prayed to Lord Shiva or Omkareshwara and got blessed in return. Other story says that the Shivalinga was split into two upon the request of the Devas. Thus, the formation of Omkareshwara and Amareshwar.

Vaidyanatha Jyotirlinga Temple

Vaidhyanath is located at Deogarh in the Santal Parganas area of Bihar. Deogarh is also known as Vaidyanath.

The temple is situated in a spacious courtyard surrounded by stone walls. Within the vicinity of the temple complex, twenty two other temples are as well found. The temple faces the east. The top of the Shiva Lingam is slightly broken which as per the legend happened when Ravana tried to uproot it. Sivaganga lake is positioned just near the temple. While the Chandrakoopa well found near the main entrance is said to have been filled with water by Ravana from several thirthams. The Shiva's temple is almost 72 feet tall in the form of a lotus. There are three ascending shaped gold vessels on the top. Then there is a 'Punchsula' as well as an eight petaled lotus jewel called 'Chandrakanta Mani'.

According to mythology, Ravana meditated hard to invoke Lord Shiva. In his desire to become invinciible, he attempted to lift Lord Shiva's abode, Mount Kailash. The act offended the Lord. He punished him but with Ravana pleading for mercy, he left him on one condition. He gave him one of the twelve lingas which was not supposed to be kept on ground in any case. But Ravana's promise gave way infront of nature's call & kept the linga on the ground. In order to rectify the mistake, Ravana started cutting off nine of his heads as a part of his repentance. Shiva was pleased by this & he joined the heads again to the body.

Worshipping Vaidhyanath Jyotirlinga is considered to eliminate one's all worries and miseries. It even imparts Moksha. In order to complete the travel, devotees carry Kanwars on their shoulders.

Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple

The Vishwanath temple in Benares, Uttar Pradesh is a hot spot for thousands of pilgrims. Vishwanatha got its name from two rivers, Varana and Asi. It is the abode of Shiva.

This temple has its own saga to tell. It was desecrated and rebuilt countless times. Rani Ahilyabhai Holkar in the 18th century is reponsible for the latest structure. Pilgrims come here to perform abhishekam to the pious Jotirlingam with holy Ganges water.

The temple can be approached from a lane called Vishwanatha lane. The temple is surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. A well called Jnana Vapi is also located to the north of the main temple. There are three temples in a row as one enters from the southern side of the first temple. There are many temples with their own set of llingas. So much so that often the confusion arises as to which enshrines the original Jyotirlinga.

The temple boasts of a mandapa and a sanctum. A linga made of black stone is well placed in the center of the floor in a square silver altar inside the sanctum. The interior is not very extensive.

Pilgrims can pay homage to the Lord at any time of the day. Ritually, the Shringaar Aarti is performed five times a day where the linga is well decorated with flowers. Shivaratri in February is considered to be the festive day.

As per the legend, the earring of Shiva fell into the pit that Vishnu had dug. It, thus, got its name Manikarnika which is considered holy for cremation.

Both of them include a set of highly esteemed Hindu religious temples where every year large number of pilgrims pay a holy visit to satisfy their quench for spiritualism.