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12 Jothirlinga Temples of Lord Shiva

12 Jothirlinga Temples of Lord Shiva

We have read earlier that Linga is one of the forms of worshiping of Lord Shiva. Jothi means ‘radiant’ and so Jothilinga means the linga that is radiant. There are 12 Jothilinga temples In India. Jyotirlinga temples are the most prominent of all temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Jyotirlinga temples are spread all over India and are considered holiest for Shiva devotees.

Lord Shiva first manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga on the night of the Aridra Nakshatra (aligning the position of the star, Aridra) thus the special reverence for the Jothilinga.

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.

1. Somnath Temple, Gujarat

The Somnath temple is located in Saurashtra, on the western coast of Gujarat.

Somnath temple, also known as the Shrine Eternal is considered to be the most significant

One of the ancient epics, ‘Skanda Purana’, related to Lord Shiva, mentioned this temple as one of the Jothlinga temple and the deity here as Lord Shiva who blesses his devotees as Somanath.

In the Skanda Purana, in the section, ‘prapasa’, it was mentioned that the Somanath temple’s Jothilinga is radiant enough like the sun is buried below the ground. Further, in the great epic ‘Mahabharat’, it was also mentioned that one of the Devas, Moon (star) had worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple.

Bhagavata Purana described that towards the end of his avatar, Lord Krishna stayed in the urban Pirapasa which was in the vicinity of this temple. One day while resting under a tree, an arrow of a hunter aimed for a bird in the tree, missed it target, and hit the Lord who was sitting below and thus the Lord completed his mission on earth and returned to Sri Vaikunda.

Located on the edge of the Arabian Sea, this glorious temple had attracted Islamic invaders for its invaluable treasures. This temple was demolished 7 times by the invaders.

Photo taken by British Man, DH Sykes in 1869, showing the state of the temple after the 7th destruction

However every time, eight times to be specific, it was rebuilt to its glory.

Vallabhai Patel, deputy prime minister of independent India in 1947 had taken the initiative to re-built the temple. Somnath temple was built from scratch and on Monday 1st, January 1995 (01-01-1995) was opened for the public to worship by the President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma.

Somnath temple has been finally built, 8th time, in the form of a large pyramid and according to the ancient architecture of the Chalukya dynasty.

2. Mallikarjuna Swami Temple, Andhra Pradesh

Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva situated at Srisailam in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Chandragupta was the king of the Malligapuri and his daughter is Chandrelega. She was a fervent devotee of Lord Shiva and so worshipped (arjuna) the god with Mallika (Jasmin) flowers which was available in abundant in that area. As a result, the god was referred as Mallikaarjuna Swami.

Srisailam Sri Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Siva as well as one of the 18 Maha Sakti Peetha.

It is believed that the Adi Shankara has produced his renowned ‘Shivanada Lahari’ while staying here.

‘Nandi Dever’ observed penance in this temple and was given the capability of carrying the Lord. The legends (Puranas) about this temple say that it was Nandi Dever, who formed as a mountain to carry the Lord and this temple.

Lord Shiva is known at Srisailam as Mallikarjunar and his consort as Pirammarampal. Srisailam Mallikarjunar temple’s glory was sung by Nayanmars.

3. Mahakaleshwar, Madhya Pradesh

Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and of all the twelve Jyotirlingams, the linga at this temple is believed to be Swayambhu. (Formed naturally as a Linga).

Also, out of twelve Jyotirlinga temples, only Mahakaleshwar temple is facing the southern direction. The temple has three layers.

It is located in the ancient city of Ujjain in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The temple is situated on the side of the Rudra Sagar lake.

The presiding deity, Lord Shiva in the lingam form is believed to be Swayambhu, deriving currents of power (Shakti) from within itself as against the other images and lingams that are ritually established and invested with mantra-shakti.

 The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be Dakshina Murty, which means that it is facing the south. This is a unique feature to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas.

The idol of Omkareshwar is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakaleshwar shrine. The images of Ganesh, Parvati, and Karttikeya are installed in the west, north, and east of the sanctum sanctorum. To the south is the image of Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva.

The idol of Nagchandreshwar on the third story is open for darshan only on the day of Nag Panchami.

The temple has five levels, one of which is underground. The presiding deity of the temple, Lord Shiva who is known here as Mahakaleshwar, appears here majestically in all his splendour.

To have the darshan of the Lord, the devotees have to walk several steps down into the earth’s abyss. The great Kumbha-Mela festival is celebrated here.

The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls near a lake. There are a number of linga can be seen along the bank of the lake. 

The hermitage of sage Santipa who was the guru (teacher) of Lord Kannapiraan (Sri Krishna) is also situated here.

4. Kedarnath, Uttarakhand

Kedarnath temple is one of India’s most sacred temples of Lord Shiva. It is in the Rudraprayag district in the state of Uttarakhand. Kedarnath is near the Mandakini river, located at the foot of Mount Himalayas.

Out of all 12 Jyotirlinga temples, only this temple is considered to be located very close to Mount Kailash which is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva on earth.

It is due to the extreme weather conditions in the region, that this temple opens between April and the Diwali festival day. The unstable temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony service is available to reach the structure. 

The Pilgrims

During winter the idols were brought to a place called Ukimat to be worshipped. Lord Siva is known here as Ketaranathar. His consort is known as Ketarakauri.

The glory of this temple was sung by Tirunavukkarasar who was one of the Nayanmars. The Pandavas worshipped here to Lord Shiva to wash off the sins and were supposed to have pleased the Lord by doing penance in Kedarnath, and were considered to have built the temple. 

The temple was renovated after the advent of Adi Sankara in the 8AD. It is one of the four Shiva temples, located in the northern Himalayas.

The temple is situated at a distance of 223 km from Rishikesh and along the bank of in the river Mandakini which is a branch of the holy river Ganga.

The temple is 3,583 m above sea level (11,755 feet) and so snow normally falls during winter.

The temple is an attractive stone temple. A statue of the Nandi can be seen opposite the main shrine.

The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva, and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. The Statue of Draupadi and other deities are also installed in the main hall.

A medium-size conical rough stone formation is worshiped in the Garbagruha and considered as the Sadashiva form of Lord Shiva.

An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia which is of a suggestive significance.

Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held.

Adi Shankara was believed to have revived this temple, along with Badrinath and other temples of Uttarakhand; he is believed to have attained Mahasamadhi at Kedarnath. Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.

The head priest (Raval) of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Veerashaiva community from the south Indian state of Karnataka. During Pooja of Lord Shiva at Kedarnath, the mantras will be pronounced in the Kannada language. This has been a custom for hundreds of years.

5. Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh

Omkareshwar is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is on an island called Shivapuri in the Narmada river; the shape of the island is said to be like the Hindu ॐ symbol.

Also, there is another temple, the Amareshwar temple which is also for Lord Shiva and it is on the other side of the island.

Omkareshwar is formed by the sacred river Narmada. This island and the river are shaped like “OM” and that is how it derives its name. It is a natural phenomenon. Narmada is one of the most sacred of rivers in India and is now home to one of the world’s biggest dam projects.

The temple consists of a three-layer, Omkareshwar is in the lower layer, Makakalisvarar is in the middle, and in the top layer is Sitheeswarar. Amalisvari is the name of the consort of the Lord.

The water of the river Narmada flows around the temple as it is an island. It also flows beneath the temple and its scntrum of Omkareshvar. It is considered a divine act that this water naturally comes up above to be able to do abishek to the Lord.

There are many ‘Holy Theerthas’ (ponds) around this temple, the sacred of all is Omkareshvar Theertha (holy pond)

Kubera who went to ask for alms from Lord Krishna had a dip in a pond and worshipped the Omkareshvar before he set off. The pond is known as ‘Kubera Pandara Theertha’  is in the vicinity of this temple. Thus the devotees believe that the Lord blesses the devotees who come all the way to worship him with immense wealth and moksha.

6. Bhimashankar, Maharashtra

Bhimashankar Temple is a Jyotirlinga shrine located 50 km northwest of Khed, near Pune, in India. It is located 127 km from Shivaji Nagar (Pune) in the Ghat region of the Sahyadri hills.

Bhimashankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur.

Bhimashankar is an ancient shrine, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. Far away from the tumult of the urban life, peeping through the white fleecy clouds, Bhimashankar can be termed a pilgrim paradise. The dense forests surrounding the high ranges are an abode for rare species of flora and fauna. Situated at the extreme end of the Sahyadri Ranges, this place gives a wonderful view of the world around the rivers and hill stations.

The consort of Lord Shiva is known here as Kamalaadchi-Patcista Devi.

This temple history is linked to Lord Shiva in his battle against Tripuraasura. The legends says that the river Bhima, originally formed from the sweat dropouts of the Lord who was resting after the battle.

The Bhimashankara temple is a composite of old and the new structures in the Nagara style of architecture. It shows the excellency of the skills achieved by ancient Vishwakarma sculptors.

It seems as if Lord Shiva is keeping a silent vigil over the majestic ranges of the Sahyadris. The serenity interrupted only by the silent murmuring of the cool breeze and the occasional chirping of birds, Bhimashankar is a trekker’s delight and a traveler’s sojourn.

Bhimashankar is the source of the Bhima River, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna River. With endless stretches of virgin forests, lofty peaks that seem to reach out to the heavens, and the whispering waters of the Bhima River, Bhimashankar is definitely one of God’s choicest creations.

The temple is one of the most sacred places of Hindus. Linga is at the ground level and the devotees would sit around it and carry out abhisek.

Both males and females have access to the Linga to worship. However, the males will be allowed with no clothes above waist level.

7. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi

Kashi Vishvanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, the holiest existing place of Hindus.

The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishvanatha or Vishveshvara meaning Ruler of The Universe. 

The Varanasi city, which is known to be 3500 years old, is also called Kashi, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishvanath Temple.

The Temple has been referred to in Hindu Scriptures for a very long time and as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy. This temple is considered very holiest than the other temples of Lord Shiva.

Standing on the western bank of India’s holiest river, the Ganges, Varanasi is one of the oldest surviving cities of the world and the cultural capital of India. Inside the Kashi Vishvanath Temple is the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishveshvara or Vishvanath.

The Vishveshvara Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India. Tradition has it that the merits earned by the darshan of other jyotirlinga scattered in various parts of India accrue to a devotee by a single visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

Deeply and intimately implanted in the Hindu mind, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living embodiment of India’s timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple attracts visitors not only from India but abroad as well.

Out of the twelve Jyotirlingas the most famous is Kashi. The main deity is made of emerald and known as Vishwanathar.The consort of Vishwanathar is Visaladchi. This temple is one of the 51 Sakthi Peedas and also called Manikarnika Peeda.

The city of Kashi was mentioned in almost all ancient (purana) legends and epics. The city is located between two rivers, Varana and Hasi and so it got the name Varanasi. 

As it has nearly 23,000 temples, the city of Varanasi is also known as the ‘City of Temples’ too. The holy river Ganga is flowing through the middle of the city. The city and the river were and are the center point of India’s culture and legends.

Worshipping or even dying here is believed to be ensuring a sure passage to heaven (Moksha), as it is considered to wash away all sins. Hence people bring the dead to be cremated near the temples and especially at Manikarnika guts (steps). The ashes are then dissolved in the river Ganga. 

Linga is in a small ditch below ground level. The devotees stoop or kneel down to touch and worship the Lord.

The head of the Lingam is seen covered by a gilt copper plate. A square shape silver plate box is covering the Linga. A vessel is hung above the Lingam and it is filled with the water from River Ganga. The water is dripping from the vessel and does the abishek continuously to the Lord

There is a Nandi known as Aadi Nandi in the back of the temple facing a wall. Close to the Nandi, water well known as ‘Gyanvapi theertha’ can be seen. 

Both Visalaakshi Amman (mata) temple and Annapurani Amman temple are a little distance away from the Viswanathar temple.

The structure of Visalaakshi temple is seem silmilar to that of south Indian temples. The Navagrahas can be worshiped at the Visalaakshi temple.

The legend says that the star Mercury (puthan) which is determining our education level had worshiped in this temple and was blessed well. Hence there is a beleive among students that worshiping here will benefit them too.

The darshan of Lord Viswanathar whose mercy and kindness knows no bound gives tremendous happiness to all the devotees, this temple is also known as ‘Aanada Pavanam’.

The great saints and holy men like Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Guru Nanak, Swami Dayananda Saraswati are all visited here, had a bath in the Ganges, and then had darshan of the Linga.

The temple attracts large pilgrims from around the world and the Maha Shivaraathiri festival here is very famous.

8. Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, Maharashtra

Trimbakeshwar or Tryambakeshwar is an ancient Hindu temple in the town of Trimbak, in the Trimbakeshwar tehsil in the Nashik District of Maharashtra, India, 28 km from the city of Nashik. It is dedicated to the god Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.

Kusavarta, the holy theertha (sacred pond) in the temple premises is the source of the Godavari River, the longest river in peninsular India.

The Avudayar (bottom) part of the Linga is below the ground where the water secrete (ooze) out which is a wonder.

The extraordinary feature of the top part of Jyotirlinga located here is its three faces embodying Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Rudra. While all other Jyotirlingas have Shiva as the main deity

The entire black stone temple is known for its appealing architecture and sculpture and is at the foothills of a mountain called Brahmagiri. Three sources of the river Godavari originate from the Brahmagiri mountain.

The place is known for its scenic beauty in rainy/monsoon season and is surrounded by lush green hills untouched by pollution. Because it’s a peaceful environment suits the spiritual life, many Sithars and Sages had their hermits in this location.

Anjaneri mountain, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, is 7 km from Trimbakeshwar.

The holy water pond is called Kushavarta Theertha. The consort of the Lord here is known as Yadeswari.

Every 12 years, when star Guru aligned with the star Simma (Leo), the Kumbha-Mela festival is celebrated here.

Kumbha-Mela is known worldwide for its largest gathering of devotees for a religious festivel in the whole world.

9. Baidyanath Temple, Jharkhand

Baidyanath Jyotirlinga temple, also known as Baba dham and Baidyanath dham is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the most sacred abodes of Shiva. It is located in Deoghar in the Santhal Parganas division of the state of Jharkhand, India.

It has been ascertained that every year more than one million pilgrims to the temple.

In the month of June, carrying the holy water of river Ganga, some devotees come to the temple on foot from Sultangange, a place 100 kilometres away. It is said that some people are able to cross the distance in 24 hours.

There are 22 temples in the same campus of different Gods and Goddesses among which Lord Shiva is empowered as being supreme. The temple of Shiva, Baidyanath faces the east and is 72 feet tall, and it is lotus-shaped.

Ravana, the king of Lanka meditated for long to ask for some boons from Lord Shiva at this temple. The 10 headed Ravana, raised a yaga fire and he started plucking his head one by one and offered in the fire.  Having lost nine heads, Lord, appeared before him and nursed him to cure his injuries, and so he got all his heads back.

The Lord also gave him many boons and also a Linga to take to Lanka.

The Devas feard that if the Linga was taken to Lanka, the Ravana would become more powerful and unbeatable, and so on their request Lord Ganesh tricked him to go back to Lanka without the Linga.

The story of which s elsewhere in this website.

This nursing and curing earned the Lord, the name, Vaidyanath ( Vaithiyar – Doctor)

Since Lord Shiva, came down as a doctor to help Ravana, he became known here as Vaidyanath ( Vaithiyar – Doctor) or Baidyanath in Sanscript.

Many devotees with maladies come here to seek the blessing of the Lord to alleviate their sorrow.

The consort of the Lord here is Thaiyal Nayakai.

There was great confusion among many about the identified location of vaidyanth jyotirlinga.

There are three temples, Baiydanath temple at Deoghar, Jharkhand, Vaijnath temple at Parli, Maharashtra and Baijnath temple at Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh are claiming their shrines as ‘real’ jyotirlinga of Vaidyanath.

However, the reserch on jyothirlinga sthothram of Adi Sankaracharya (8AD) has concluded that this is the real jyothirlinga temple.


10. Nageshvara Temple, Uttarakhand

Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana. Nageshvara is believed to be the first Jyotirlinga on earth.

Lord Shiva is known here as Naganathar and his consort is Nageswari.

The legend Shiva Purana described the Nageshvara Jyotirlinga and tells of a demon named Daaruka, who attacked a devotee of Shiva named Supriya and imprisoned him along with many others in his city of Darukavana, a city inhabited by snakes (Nagas) and demons.

Supriya, insisted all the prisoners chant the holy mantra of Shiva, and immediately thereafter Lord Shiva appeared and the demon was vanquished, later residing there in the form of a Jyotirlinga guarded by Nagas. He became known as Naganathar.

With high walls on all four sides, the temple is in a spacious location. There are entrances in the North and in the East. However, the North entrance is in use. A magnificent cone-shaped tower with beautiful sculptural works can be seen in this temple.

Four sides, with, spacious house located in the north-eastern part, through the gates, at the northern mouth of the bottle is used. Sculptural works best with a long, cone-shaped tower found in the temple.

One of the largest statues of Shiva in yogic posture can be seen outside the temple which is a very popular tourist attraction.

11 Rameshwar Temple, Tamilnadu

Ramanathaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva located on Rameswaram island in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is also one of the twelve Jyothirlinga temples, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam

The island got the name Rameshwaram due to the existence of this ‘Sri Ramanatha Swami temple’. 

Because Rama worshiped, the Lord, Easwar here, the place came to be known as Ramaeaswaram (Rama + Easwaram).

This temple was sung by Saiva Nayanmars. Appar and Sambanthar both sang the glory of this temple and the deity.

According to the Ramayana, Rama, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu, is believed to have prayed to Shiva here to absolve the sin of killing a brahmana, committed during his war against the demon king Ravana in Sri Lanka.

The main deity here is known as Ramanatha Swami and his consort is Parwatha-varthini.

There are two Lingas in the Sanctum. Rama wanted to have the largest lingam to worship Shiva. He directed Hanuman, the monkey lieutenant in his army, to bring a linga from the Himalayas.

Since it took longer to bring the linga, Sita, the wife of Rama, built a small linga out of the sand available in the seashore, which is believed to be the linga in the sanctum and referred to as Ramalinga.

The one Hamuman brought was Visvalinga. The Rama directed that the Visvalinga must be worshiped first and that direction is still in force. 

Those who go on pilgrimage to Kasi and Rameswaram, should first start with a dip (and bath) in Agni theertha of Rameswaram.

They would take fist full of sand and some water in a vessel from this theertha to take up to Kasi where another dip in Ganga while resolving the sand in it and use the Agni theertha water to carry out abishek to Kashi Vishwanath.

They then fill the same vessel with Ganga water and bring back to Rameswaram to carry out the abishek to Ramanathar to complete the full ritual. 

12. Grishneshwar, Maharashtra

Ghrishneshwar/ Grushneshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana.

Grishneshwar is believed as the Last or 12th Jyotirlinga on the earth. This pilgrimage site is located at a village called Verul which lies at a distance of 11 km from Daulatabad (Devagiri) and 30 km from Aurangabad. It lies in close proximity (1 KM) to the Ellora caves.

The temple is one of the 5 Jyotirlinga temples in Maharashtra and stands as an illustration of the pre-historic temple traditions as well as of the pre-historic architectural style and structure. 

In the 16th century the Malroji Raja Bosle, grant father Sathrapathi Sivaji, has renovated this temple.

The temple, with exquisitely sculpted walls, was built in the 18th century under the patronage of Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, one of the rulers of the erstwhile state of Indore. She was the one who also re-built the Kashi Viswanathar temple and Gaya Vishnu Patha temple.

The temple, built of red rocks, is composed of a five-tier tower (Gopura).

The world-famous Buddhist caves of Ellora is less than a kilometer away

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