Temple architecture

Why is it an important Hindu pilgrimage, what are the other 11 jyotirlingas?

Narendra Modi will visit the famous Baba Baidyanath temple in Deoghar, one of the 12 jyotirlingas. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared as a physician (vaidya) to heal the demon king Ravana of his wounds after he sacrificed ten heads to the Hindu god.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday inaugurated a number of development projects during his visit to Bihar-Jharkhand. One of the most important projects that has been unveiled is Deoghar Airport in Jharkhand.

During his trip, Modi also visited the famous Baba Baidyanath Dham temple, one of the 12 jyotirlingas, to inaugurate “some components of the development project at the temple” to boost spiritual tourism.

Also read: PM Modi visits Baba Baidyanath Dham: The history of the temple and its significance in Hindu mythology

Deoghar Airport will provide direct connectivity to Baba Baidyanath Dham. According to Living mintthe last airport was built at an estimated cost of around Rs. 400 crores.

Also read: 650 acres, Rs 400 crore and more: How Jharkhand’s Deoghar Airport that PM will inaugurate came about

What are jyotirlingas, what is their meaning and what are the legends behind each of them, let’s take a look:

What are jyotirlingas?

The word jyotirlinga is formed from jyoti, which means shine, and lingam, which designates the Shiva Lingam. Therefore, a jyotirlingam can be understood as a “radiation/light pillar”.

According to Shiva Mahapurana, legend has it that once Lord Brahma and Vishnu argued over the supremacy of creation. To settle this debate, Shiva took the form of a beam of light and challenged the pair to find the source or end of the radiating pillar. The one who succeeds will be declared superior.

Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived downward, while Brahma flew upward after transforming into a swan. After spending days searching for the end of the light, Brahma returned and lied about having found it, while Vishnu conceded defeat.

Aware of Brahma’s lie, Shiva cursed him that he would not be worshipped, a possible legend explaining why there are very few Brahma temples. Another version of this legend states that Brahma and Vishnu conceded defeat.

Jyotirlinga shrines are where Shiva appeared as a column of fiery light.

The Shiva maharapurana mentions 64 jyotirlingas in India, however, only 12 jyotirlingas are considered the most sacred.

Baba Baidyanath Dham, Jharkhand

Located in Deoghar district of Jharkhand, Baba Baidyanath Dham is one of the 12 jyotirlingas. It is one of the holiest abodes of Lord Shiva.

According to legends, the demon king Ravana, who was an ardent worshiper of Lord Shiva, offered his ten heads one after another to Shiva as a sacrifice at this site.

Pleased with Ravana’s sacrifice, Shiva descended to heal his wounds. As he acted as a doctor, he is called vaidya (doctor). Thus, the temple derives its name from the vaidya form of Shiva.

Somnath Temple, Gujarat

It is believed to be the first of twelve jyotirlinga. Somnath Temple is located in Prabhas Patan.
The word Somnath means “Lord of Soma”, an epithet of Shiva. According to legend, the temple was created by the Moon God after Lord Shiva relieved him of a curse by his father-in-law, Daksha Prajapati.

In accordance with the curse, the Moon has lost the power of light. On the advice of Brahma, Moon worshiped Shiva and was relieved from the curse of darkness. Puranic traditions hold that Moon had built a golden temple, followed by a silver temple by Ravana, Bhagvan Shree Krishna is said to have built the Somnath temple with sandalwood.

Mahakaleshwar, Madhya Pradesh

Shri Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is located in the ancient city of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. It is the only jyotirlinga shrine that is ‘dakshinamurti’ meaning the idol of Lord Shiva faces south.

The lingam representing Shiva at the temple is believed to be swayambhu (self-born), deriving currents of power (shakti) from within itself, unlike other ritually established lingas.

The shrine also happens to be one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peetha.

Kashi Vishwanath, Uttar Pradesh

One of the most famous Shiva temples in India, the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga shrine is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. It stands on the banks of the holy river Ganga.

Called the holiest of the Shiva temples, Vishwanatha means the ‘Ruler of the Universe’. Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India. Tradition has it that merits earned by darshan from other jyotirlingas scattered in various parts of India accrue to devotees through a single visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

Mallikarjuna, Andhra Pradesh

The Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga Temple is located at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. According to the mythological story, Shiva and Parvati stayed in Shrishailam, in order to remain close to their son Kartikeya who had decided to remain alone on Mount Kravunja.

According to Hindu legend, Lord Shiva in the form of Linga is traditionally worshiped with jasmine (locally called in Telugu as Mallika), leading to the name Mallikarjuna.

Omkareshvara, Madhya Pradesh

Omkareshwar Jyotrilinga is located in Mandhata, an island in the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh. The name “Omkareshwar” is based on the shape of the island, which appears to be Om.

There are two main temples of Lord Shiva – Omkareshwar which literally means “Lord of Omkaara or the Lord of Sound Om” and the other is, Amareshwar which means “Immortal Lord” or “Lord of Immortals or Devas”. It is the second jyotirlinga shrine in Madhya Pradesh, the first being Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain.

Kedarnath, Uttarakhand

It is one of the most difficult pilgrimages of Lord Shiva. Located 3,583 meters above sea level in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, visiting Kedarnath Temple is a tough affair due to extreme weather conditions. It is only accessible six months a year.

It is believed to have been built by the Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya.

The name “Kedarnath” means “the lord of the field”: it derives from the Sanskrit words kedara (“field”) and natha (“lord”).

According to legend, the Pandavas after killing their cousin Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra wished to atone for their sins and went in search of Lord Shiva. However, angered by death and dishonesty during the war, Shiva wanted to avoid them and he took the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.

When the Pandavas finally caught up to Shiva in the form of Nandi, the supreme god disappeared into the ground to later appear in several parts. Nandi’s hump arose at Kedarnath, arms arose at Tungnath, face arose at Rudranath, nabhi (navel) and stomach arose at Madhyamaheshwar, and hair arose at Kalpeshwar.

The Pandavas, pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places to worship and adore Shiva.

Bhimashankar, Maharashtra

Located in Pune, the Bhimashankar temple is one of the five jyotirlinga shrines in Maharashtra. It is also the source of the Bhima River in the Bhimashankar Hills at Khed Taluka.

Built in the Nagara architectural style, this temple dates back to the 18th century. According to legend, the ancient shrine is believed to have been erected over a self-emanating Swayambhu Linga or Shiva Linga.

Ramanathaswamy, Tamil Nadu

Ramanathaswamy jyotirlinga temple is located on Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu. According to Hindu mythology, the jyotirlinga was created by Lord Rama to make amends for killing Ravana, a Brahmin on the battlefield.

To worship Shiva, Rama ordered his faithful lieutenant Hanuman, an avatar of Shiva himself, to bring a lingam from the Himalayas. However, Hanuman’s return was delayed while Sita constructed a lingam from sand from the nearby seaside, which would also be that of the temple sanctuary.

This account is well supported by the original Ramayana authored by Valmiki where it is written in Yudha Kanda. According to another version, quoted in Adhyatma Ramayana, Rama installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka.

Nageshvara, Gujarat

The Nageshvara Jyotirlinga Temple is located near Dwarka in Gujarat. According to the Shiva Purana, Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is found in Darukavana, an ancient name of a forest in India.

According to legend, a demon named Daruk attacked a Shiva devotee named Supriya and imprisoned him and many others in his city of Darukavana, a city under the sea inhabited by sea serpents and demons.

At Supriya’s urgent urging, the prisoners started chanting the sacred Shiva mantra and immediately afterwards Lord Shiva appeared and the demon was defeated, later residing there in the form of a Jyotirlinga.

Trimbakeshwar, Maharashtra

Another jyotirlinga shrine in Maharashtra is the Trimbakeshwar Shiva temple located in the city of Nashik. The temple sits at the foot of the Brahmagiri mountain.

According to legend, Lord Shiva decided to reside as Trimbakeshwar at the behest of Godavari and Gautam Rishi. Unique in its structure, the linga has three faces symbolizing Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The Jyotirlinga is covered with a jeweled crown, which is placed over the golden mask of the three gods.

Grishneshwar, Maharashtra

Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga or Ghrneshwar Jyotirlinga or Dhushmeshwar temple is located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

Considered the last or the twelfth Jyotirlinga, Grishneshwar means the “lord of compassion”. The Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga temple is built of red rock and consists of a five-tiered shikhara. It is also the smallest Jyotirlinga temple of Lord Shiva in India.

With contributions from agencies

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