India is a land of Gods and Lord Shiva is the most revered Gods by Hindus all across the world. Worshipped in the form of Shivlinga, Lord Shiva is believed to bless all his true devotees with salvation. The twelve Jyotirlingas also called the ‘Dwadash Jyotirlingas’ are considered to be the holiest of all shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and according to the beliefs of Hindu mythology, whosoever does the divine darshans of these 12 holy Jyotirlingas, will be released from the cycle of life and death. The Jyotirlinga is same in appearance as a Shivlinga but is manifested with a divine light or ‘Jyoti’ that can only be seen by a person when he reaches a higher level of spiritual attainment. Listed below are the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples of Lord Shiva along with their mythologies.
Located in Somnath, Guajarat, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, the ‘Somnath Temple’ is home to the first of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas. Considered to be the holiest of all Jyotirlinga shrines of India, the temple is visited by thousands of devotees every year, especially on the occasion of Mahashivratri. According to the legends, the Moon God, ‘Somdev’ neglected his wives (daughters of Daksha Prajapati) in awe of a celestial maiden. Seeing this, Daksha Prajapati cursed the Moon God to have his lustre consumed by the darkness of night. Grief stricken, Moon God prayed to the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva for 4000 years at this place. Pleased with the devotion of Moon, Lord Shiva blessed him to wane in brilliance for only 15 days in a month. Regaining his brilliance, the Moon God erected this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to have been built during the period between 320 and 500 AD. Originally believed to have been made of pure gold and silver, the temple witnessed massive destructions from Arab and Afghani invaders and by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb during different time periods. These invasions stripped off the temple with all its wealth. Even after all these invasions and destructions, the glory of this pious place remained untouched. In 1947, the temple was restored on the orders of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the Jyotirlinga was installed by the then president Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Temple Timings: 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Built around 1234 AD by the Hoyasala king, Vira Narsimha, the ‘Mallikarjuna Temple’ is another sacred Jyotirlinga shrine in India, owing to which, it is thronged by countless pilgrims every year. The temple is situated on a hill in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh. Built in a Dravidian style of architecture with its wall sculptures and carvings depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the temple boasts of awe-inspiring sculptural skills of the then Hoyasala artisans. According to the Shiv Purana, Lord Shiva took the form of Jyotirlinga here on the Kraunch Mountain, when he along with his wife, Goddess Parvati visited their son, Kartikeya to console him of his anger owing to the marriage of his younger brother, Lord Ganesh, before his. The temple constitutes the deities of Mallikarjuna (God Shiva) and Bhramarambha (Goddess Parvati). This is the only temple where pilgrims can touch the idols, which is not allowed in any other Shiva temple.
Temple Timings: 4:30 AM to 10:00 PM
Situated in the historical city of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh on the banks of River Kshipra, the Mahakaleshwar Temple, apart from being the home to one of the twelve holy Jyotirlingas, is also one of the top ‘Tantra Temples’ of India. Main highlight of this temple is its ‘Bhasm-Aarti’ that is the first ritual performed in the morning during which the Shivlinga is bathed with ash from a fresh funeral pyre. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit this temple especially during the month of Sawan and on Nagpanchami. There are many mythological stories behind the Mahakaleshwar Temple but, the one that is most frequently heard is that Lord Shiva appeared in Ujjain from the ground to vanquish a demon called Dushana whose tortures on the people and Brahmins of the Ujjain city, had crossed all the limits. After killing the demon, Lord Shiva took the form of Jyotirlinga and since then, he has been residing in this holy city.
Temple Timings: 3:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Fourth sacred Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva resides in the ‘Omkareshwar’ and ‘Mamleshwar’ temples at the banks of Narmada River on an island called Mandhata in Madhya Pradesh. It is believed that the island is in the shape of ‘Om’ – a spiritual symbol in Hindu Mythology. Thousands of devotees gather here for the darshans of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga on the occasions of Shivratri, Mahashivratri and Kartik Poornima. As per the Hindu mythology, there are 3 legends behind the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga. According to the first legend, ‘Vindhya Parbat’ performed a penance to please Lord Shiva; as a reward Lord Shiva appeared here and blessed the Vindhya Parbat with his wish of being greater then ‘Meru Parbat’. The linga which was worshipped by Vindhya Parbat was split into two parts ‘Omkareshwar’ and ‘Mamleshwar’ on request of gods and sages. According to a second story, King Mandhata along with his two sons performed penance. Seeing their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared as a Jyotirlinga. As per the third story, Lord Shiva, in the form of Omkareshwar, appeared to defeat Asuras during a violent war between Devas and Asuras.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Amongst the 12 Shiva Jyotirlingas, Baidyanath Dham in Jharkhand has several legends attached to it. The temple complex is located in Deoghar in the Santhal Parganas division and is adorned with the presence of 21 temples. The sacred Shivalinga existing here is decorated with precious gems. One popular legend here states that this place is where Ravana sacrificed his ten heads in order to gain favour of Lord Shiva. The heads were then joined back by Lord Shiva, who acted like a Vaidya (Doctor), and thus, the place was named as Baidynath Dham. There is a popular belief claiming that offering prayers in this temple render devotees a healthy and prosperous life. An annual fair during the monsoon months (July and August), bring a lot of devotees to this temple. There is a slight dispute amongst the believers, as some of them consider the ‘Parli Vaidyanath Temple’ in Maharashtra as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Thus, a large number of devotees also visit this sacred temple in the small village of Parali in Maharashtra. This particular temple is believed to have been rebuilt by Rani Ahilya Bai in 1776 on the slopes of the mountain range – Meru or Naganarayana.
The village of Parli is very ancient and is also known by other names – Kantipur, Madhyarekha Vaijayanti or Jayanti. Parali is not only a pilgrimage place for devotees of Lord Shiva but, also for devotees of Lord Vishnu due to the presence of Harihar Teerth from where water is brought every day to worship Lord Shiva in the Vaidyanath Temple. Big celebrations take place in Parali during the festivals of Mahashivratri, Vaikunth Chaturdashi and Vijaydashmi; pilgrims from across the country gather here in large numbers to take part in these celebrations. The legend has it, when the gods and demons were churning the ocean for the Divine Nectar/Amrit, fourteen gems emerged including Amrit and Dhanavantari. And just as the demons were about to grab the Amrit, Lord Vishnu managed to pick both Dhanwantri and Amrit and hid them inside a Shivalinga. When the demons tried to break the Linga, a bright light emanated from it which scared the demons who then fled. Since then, this place came to be known as is the place where the Vaijayanthi and the temple as Parli Vaidyanath.
Bhimashankar Temple is situated in a small village called Bhorgiri amidst the Sahayadri Hills near Pune in Maharashtra. The place holds a great religious significance owing to the presence of the ‘Bhimashankar Temple’, which is home to another sacred Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. The temple attracts a footfall of thousands of devotees during the festivals of Shivratri and Maha Shivratri. A huge crowd can also be seen on Mondays. According to the Hindu Puranas, Lord Shiva took a rudra avatar to kill a wicked demon, Tripurasura, who was in rage of destroying the three loks: Heaven, Hell and Nether world (Patal). After killing the demon, the Lord sat down on the Sahayadri Mountains to take some rest. It is then, when the sweat from his body started flowing and turned into the Bhima River. On request from Devas, Lord Shiva stayed on these mountains in the form of Jyotirlinga. ‘Gupt Bhimashankar’, ‘Hanuman Lake’ and ‘Mokshakund Teertha’ and ‘Kamalja Mata Temple’ are some of the other religious places around Bhimashankar.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
The holy town of Rameshwaram, situated in Tamil Nadu holds a great religious significance for Hindus and is considered to be one of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrim sites. The ‘Ramanathaswamy Temple’ here is home to one of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas. According to mythological legends, after returning from Lanka killing the demon, Ravana, Lord Rama wanted to wash off his sins by praying to Lord Shiva in the form of the Shivlinga. So, he sent Lord Hanuman to get the biggest lingam from the Himalayas. As Lord Hanuman took very long to get the Shivlinga, Goddess Sita created a Shivlinga from sand. Before entering the inner sanctum residing the Shivlinga, it is mandatory for all devotees to take bath in the 22 ‘teerthams’ or the holy water tanks in the temple complex. Around the temple, there are many more sacred sites that include the ‘Agniteertham’, ‘Gandhamadhana Parvatham Temple’, ‘Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple’, ‘Rama Setu’, ‘Jada Tirtham Temple’ and ‘Kothandaramaswamy Temple’.
Temple Timings: 4:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Located near Dwarka, one of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrim sites for Hindus, in Gujarat, is the ‘Nageshwar Mahadev Temple’ which is considered to be the home of one of the twelve Jyotirlngas. The creation date of the temple remains unknown, but, the present temple was renovated by Late Gulshan Kumar in 1996. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple every year to seek blessing from the Lord who is worshipped here in the form of ‘Nagdev’. A 25 metre tall statue of Lord Shiva in a seated position is a great attraction of this temple and provides a perfect backdrop for a nice remembrance picture. As per the Shiv Purana, a demon named Daruka was blessed by Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. Misusing her blessings, Daruka tyrannized the local people and imprisoned a Shiva devotee named Supriya along with some other people. On advice of Supriya, everyone started chanting the Shiv Mantra to save themselves from Daruka. Seeing this, Daruka raged in anger and ran to kill Supriya, when suddenly Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga appeared to protect her and other devotees. Since then, the Jyotirlinga is revered here in the Nageshwar Temple.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
The holy city of Kashi, also known as Varanasi or Benaras, situated on the banks of River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, holds a great religious significance for Hindus due to the belief that one who bathes in the sacred waters of Ganga or dies in Varanasi, attains salvation. With almost 2000 temples in the city, the most sacred is believed to be the ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’, which is home to the 12th Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva. The temple originally dates back to 11th century and was plundered many times by Afghan and Arab invaders. The present temple has had been renovated by Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar in the year 1780. The towers of the temple are gold plated with a golden chhatra on the top. Hordes of pilgrims from all over the world gather at Kashi during the festivals of ‘Makar Sakranti’, ‘Kartik Poornima’, ‘Shivratri’, ‘Maha Shivratri’, ‘Dev Deepawali’ and ‘Annakoot’. According to the mythological legends, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of an endless pillar of fire to stop Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma from their ongoing battle for supremacy. Seeing the pillar, Vishnu and Brahma set off in different directions to find the end of the pillar. While both could not find the ends, Lord Brahma lied to have found the end of the pillar. Seeing this, Lord Shiva got angry and cursed Brahma that he will not be worshipped by anyone and gave Lord Vishnu the title of being supreme. Pillar of fire vanished but a small part of it still remained at Kashi in the form of the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga. Along with the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, other sacred sites including the ‘Annapurna Mata Temple’, ‘Visalakshi Temple’ and ‘Kalbhairav Temple’ are visited by many pilgrims.
Temple Timings: 3:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Situated in a small town of Trimbak near Nashik in Maharashtra, ‘Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga Temple’ is an ancient temple dating back to 18th century when it was reconstructed by the orders of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao. Built of black stone in Nagara style of architecture, the inner sanctum houses the Trimbakeshwar Shivlinga. One who gets the darshans of the Jyotirlinga gets all his desires fulfilled. As per the legends, sage Gautam once unintentionally caused a cow to die in his hermitage. To purify his sins, he worshipped Lord Shiva and asked him to send River Ganga to purify him. River Ganga flowed down with the name of River Godavari. Seeing this, all gods sang in praise of Lord Shiva and requested him to reside here in the form of Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga. Other legend says that Lord Shiva resides here in the form of three lingas of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and hence the name ‘Trimbakeshwar’. Along with the darshans of Jyotirlinga, pilgrims take a holy dip at ‘Kushavarta’, the sacred place from where River Godavari originates.
Temple Timings: 5:30 AM to 9:00 PM
Situated in the Himalayan Range in Uttarakhand, the ‘Kedarnath Temple’ is the highest amongst the twelve Jyotirlingas. The origin of the temple is believed to have been during the time of Mahabharata. The Kedarnath Temple is also one of the ‘Chhota Char Dham’ pilgrim sites of Hindus. Owing to extreme cold weather on the hills during winters, the temple is closed and the idol of Lord Shiva is brought down at ‘Ukhimath’ where the deity is worshipped during the winter months. The idol is re-instated in the Kedarnath Temple during the month of Vaisakh as per the Hindu calendars, during which the temple is set open for pilgrims. According to the legends, Pandavas performed a great penance here to Lord Shiva to absolve their sins after the battle of Mahabharata. Pleased with the Pandavas, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a triangular Jyotirlinga. The temple was originally built by the Pandavas and was afterwards rebuilt by the Hindu Guru, Adi Shankaracharya.
Temple Timings: 4:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Located at a village called Verul, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the ‘Grishneshwar Temple’ dates back to the 18th century. The architecture, paintings and sculptures on temple walls remind the excellent architectural skills of the artisans of the bygone era. According to the Shiv Purana, Lord Shiva, pleased with the devotion of a lady named Ghushma, appeared to bless her with a son who was killed by her own sister. On request of Ghushma, Shiva resided here eternally in the form of Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga.
Temple Timings: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM
It is believed that by taking a holy pilgrimage tour of all these 12 Jyotirlingas, darkness is removed from a person’s life and brings him peace, health and happiness. Please write to us for any missing/incorrect information or to share your experiences and suggestions.