Just in case you have not read Shivpurana let me tell you it is all about Lord Shiva. It contains 24,000 verses divided into twelve Samhitas. Out of these one of them Roudra-samhita narrates the following story.
Once, Brahma tried to claim superiority over the trinity of Shiva, Mahavishnu and Brahma himself. He vented this thought of his to Mahavishnu. When, suddenly, a huge column of fire, burst out of the earth, between the two and rose into the sky. Brahma flew upwards on his swan to see the tip of the fire while Vishnu as a boar dug deep into the earth to see the lower end of the pillar of fire. Both failed in their mission and returned. It was then that Shiva appeared at the centre of the fire column. This was the first Jyotirlinga.
Jyotirlingas, represent the beginningless and the endless Stambha or Pillar, indicating the infinite nature of Shiva. In India, there are twelve Jyotirlinga shrines as follows:
The Somnath Temple of Gujarat, is near Veraval in the Kathiawad district of Saurashtra. This is a Jyotirlinga shrine. This region is also known as Prabhasa Thirtha. According to the Shivpurana, the Moon God married all the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati. However, he liked Rohini more than others. Rohini’s sisters complained to Prajapati, who cursed the moon. As a result, the moon lost his radiance. So, he went to Veraval and prayed to Lord Shiva in a temple. And by the Lord’s grace, he regained his lost shine. Since then, the temple came to be known as Somnath Mandir. It was ransacked and destroyed as many as seventeen times by Muslim invaders, and each time, it was resurrected.
This Jyotirlinga can be seen in Shrishailam Mountain, on the banks of the Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh. According to Shiva Purana, Lord Ganesha got married before Kartikeya. So, an angry Kartikeya left the place and went to Shri-shailam. Seeing their son offended, Shiva and Parvati followed him there. Shiva assumed the form of a Jyotirlinga and resided there as Mallikarjuna. Where, Mallika means Parvati, while Arjuna is another name for Shiva.
This Jyotirlinga is located on the banks of river Kshipra in the dense Mahakal forest in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. It was known as Avantika in ancient times. Legend has it that a five-year-old boy by the name Shrikar was amazed at the devotion of King Chandrasena of Ujjain towards Lord Shiva. Shrikar took a stone and started worshipping it as Shiva. Many people tried to discourage him in different ways, but his devotion only grew. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a Jyotirlinga and decided to stay in the Mahakal forest.
This Jyotirlinga is also in Madhya Pradesh. It is situated on an island called Mandhata or Shivapuri in the Narmada River. The island is shaped like an ‘Om,’ as written in Sanskrit. Omkareshwar means ‘Lord of Omkara,’ the sacred syllable Om. Once, when the Asuras defeated the Devas, the latter prayed to Lord Shiva. Pleased with their prayer, the Lord emerged in the form of Omkareshwar and defeated the Asuras.
Also known as Vaijnath or Baidyanath, this Jyotirlinga is located at Deogarh in Jharkhand. This place is also called Chitaa-bhoomi. According to a well-known legend, Ravana once requested Lord Shiva to reside in Sri Lanka permanently. Shiva gave him a Jyotirlinga and told him that he should not place it on the ground before reaching Lanka. On the way, however, Ravana felt an urgent need to relieve himself. When a young boy who appeared there offered to hold the lingam in the meantime. The boy, was no one else but Vishnu in disguise, placed the lingam on the ground and disappeared, for he knew that Shiva’s presence would make wicked Ravana’s Lanka invincible. The lingam got fixed to the spot. On his return, Ravana saw what had happened. To propitiate Shiva, he cut off nine of his ten heads. But Shiva joined the severed heads of Ravana’s body, like a Vaidya. Hence the name of the Jyotirlinga became Vaidynath.
- BHIMA SHANKAR
This Jyotirlinga is located on the banks of Bhima River in the Sahyadri region of Pune, Maharashtra. Legend has it that Kumbhakarna’s son, Bhima, vowed to take revenge on Lord Vishnu who, in His incarnation as Rama had killed his father. He began a severe penance and Lord Brahma was pleased and granted him immense power. Soon, Bhima the demon started creating havoc in the world. In the end, Lord Shiva reduced him to ashes. The Gods were overjoyed. On their request, Shiva made the place one of his abodes and manifested himself in the form of Bhima-shankar Jyotirlinga.
This Jyotirlinga is located on the island of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. On his way to Sri Lanka, Sri Rama had stopped at Rameswaram, and worshipped a linga that he had made out of sand. Lord Shiva blessed Rama and then remained at Rameswaram in the form of Jyotirlinga.
The Nageshwar or Nagnath Jyotirlinga is situated on an island near Dwarka in Gujarat. The place is also known as Daaru-kavan. This Jyotirlinga is known far and wide for protecting devotees from poisons of all kinds. As per the legend in the Shivapurana, a demon by the name of Daruka imprisoned Supriya, a devotee of Shiva. On Supriya’s advice, the other prisoners began chanting, ‘Aum Namah Shivaya.’ Daaruka was enraged on hearing this chant. He sprang forward to kill Supriya. Suddenly, Lord Shiva appeared and put an end to the demon. He then remained on the island as a Jyotirlinga.
The Jyotirlinga at Vishvanath temple is located in Varanasi or Kashi, one of the most ancient cities of the world. It is believed that it was here that the pillar of fire representing Lord Shiva’s endless power broke through the earth’s crust and splayed towards heaven. The faithful are certain that those who die here attain salvation. The original Visvanath temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times. Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple for the last time and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place. Later Ahilabai Holkar constructed the present temple adjacent to the mosque.
The Trimbakeshwar temple is located about 30 km from Nashik in Maharashtra, near the Brahmagiri Mountain. It is from this mountain that the river Godavari, also called the Gautami Ganga flows. Long ago, Maharishi Gautam, through his penance, had obtained an everlasting supply of grains. Some Gods became envious of the Maharishi and sent a cow to the granary. The cow was accidentally killed by the sage. On realising this, Maharishi requested Lord Shiva to get the premises purified. Shiva asked Ganga to flow through Nashik and He himself remained there as Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga.
At a height of 3,583 metres (12,000 feet) in Uttarakhand, the Kedarnath temple is located on the Rudra Himalaya range. It opens for only six months in a year, from May to November. During the other months, all the mountains here get fully snow clad. It is believed that in ancient times, Lord Shiva, pleased by the penance of Rishis Nara and Narayana, who were incarnations of Lord Vishnu, made a permanent abode in Kedarnath in the form of a Jyotirlinga. Many believe that the Pandavas had come here after the Mahabharta war to pray to Lord Shiva.
The Ghrish-meshvar or Ghush-meshvar Jyotirlinga is located in a village named Verul, near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The place is not far from the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves. According to Shivapurana, there was a man named Sudharm, who had two wives, Sudeha and Ghush-ma. They were sisters. When Ghushma bore a son to Sudharm, Sudeha became jealous and threw the baby into a lake. Ghushma, a devotee of Shiva, prayed to the Lord and got her son back. On Sudharm’s request, Shiva manifested himself in the form of Jyotirlinga at that spot and assumed the name Ghush-meshvar.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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