(Pic courtesy: Thinkstock Photos)
It’s that time of the year when the celestial power descends on the earth to enlighten ignorant souls seeking refuge in his compassionate arms. Maha Shivaratri is that auspicious day in reverence of the supreme-most of the Hindu Trinity - Lord Shiva.
Personification of manhood, most Hindu women desire to have a husband like Shiva. The Lord first took manifestation in the form of a linga on the night of Aridra Nakshatra and hence the significance of the Maha Shivaratri.
There are as many as 12 Jyotirlingas in India which are symbolic of the “radiance of Lord Shiva” (Jyoti meaning radiance and Linga – part of Shiva).
Here’s taking a look at the Jyotirlingas in India that one can worship in his/her lifetime:
Considered to be the holiest of all the Jyotirlingas, the Somnath Temple in Gujarat is traditionally the first to be visited during the Dwadash pilgrimage. The temple is believed to have been destroyed and re-constructed 16 times since Soma or Moon God built in gold.
Situated on the top of a mountain on river Krishna, Mallikarjuna, also known as Srisaila is the divine place where Adi Shahkaracharya composed Sivananda Lahiri. Located in the Kunrool district of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Srisaila is famous for its stupendous archaeology.
Situated in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), the Mahakal shivling is the sole Swayanbhu (meaning self created) linga of the 12 Jyotirlingas. The linga faces towards the south and is the only temple that hosts the Shree Yantra inscribed on the ceiling above the Grabhagriha.
Situated on the island called Mandhata or Shivpuri on river Narmada, Omkareshwar is famous for its Omkara and Amareshwar temples. The shape of the island is believed to resemble the sign OM.
The Garhwal Himalayan range in Uttarkhand is home to one of the most famous Jyotirlingas, Kedarnath. Situated near the Mandakini River, the temple is often snow-clad. Access to the temple is possible only by foot owing to its rugged terrain and harsh climatic condition.
Most people believe that Bhimashankar linga is located near Pune in Maharashtra. However, a debate looms over the original Bhimashankar linga as different legends cite varied locations of the linga. According to the Shivapuran, the Bhimshankar temple near Guwahati in the eastern Indian state of Assam is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. But the Linga Puran says that the Bhim Shankar temple in Bhimpur in Orissa is one of the 12 shrines.
The most sacred of all the Jyotirlingas, the Kashi Vishwanath is located on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Benaras. The deity is referred to as Vishwanatha or the ‘Ruler of the Universe’. The town of Benaras is believed to be the oldest living city with documented history spanning over 3500 years.
Located on the banks of the Godavari River near Nasik in Maharashtra, Trimbakeshwar is known for its three headed linga that represents the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The linga has been reducing in size owing to the excessive use of water. But the erosion of the linga is considered symbolic for it reflects the wearing away of life with time.
The exact location of the Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is also debated as some believe that the one in Jharkhand is the original one while another school of thought believes that the Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh is one of the 12 sacred lingas. The Parli Vaijyanath in Maharashtra also claims to be one of the Jyotirlingas.
The state of Gujarat is home to another Jyotirlinga, the Nageshwar linga. However, the states of Uttarkhand and Maharashtra are in dispute over claiming a spot in the 12 Jyotirlingas. But according to the Shiva Purana, Nageshvara is in the forested area of Darukavana. The Deodar forest in Uttarkhand homes the Darukavana and since there is no trace of the forest in the Dwaraka region (Gujarat). But the popular perception seems to be Gujarat.
The southernmost temple that homes one of the 12 Jyotirlingas is Rameshwaram. Lord Rama is believed to have prayed to Lord Shiva to pardon him off the sins (if any) committed by him during the war against Ravan. The temple is also one of the four holy sites that a Hindu visits during his lifetime.
Situated near the Ellora temples in Aurangabad, the Grishneshwar linga has an interesting legend. Lord Shiva helped a mother get back her dead son by creating a miracle and appearing to her and the villagers as Jyotirlinga Ghusmeshwar.