2)shri shailam, Kurnool Dt, Andhra Pradesh, South India
Mallikarjun - Sree Sailam -
250 km From Hyderabad, near Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. This is one of the greatest Saivite shrines in India and it constitutes one of the 12 Jyotirlingam shrines of Shiva. The presiding deities here are Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and Bhramaramba (Devi).
This is an ancient temple with fort like walls, towers and a rich endowment of sculptural work. This huge temple built in the Dravidian style with lofty towers and sprawling courtyards is one of the finest specimens of Vijayanagar architecture.
The Satavahanas of the 2nd century AD have referred to it and the Saivite Tamil Saints have sung its glory. The Kakatiyas and the Vijayanagar kings (esp Krishnadevaraya) have made several endowments here. This temple is of immense religious, historical and architectural significance.
The shrine dedicated to Bhramaramba is considered to be of great significance. Legend has it that Durga is said to have assumed the shape of a bee and worshipped Shiva here, and chose this place as her abode.
3) Mahakaleshwar, Ujjaini, Madhya Pradesh, Central India
Mahakaleshwar - Ujjain or Avanti in Madhya Pradesh. Ujjain, a historic capital of Central India in Madhya Pradesh is a venerated pilgrimage center enshrining Mahakaleshwara, one of the Jyotirlinga manifestations of Shiva.
The Skanda Purana describes the glory of Ujjain (Mahakaala Vana) in great detail. Ujjain was the capital of Avanti and it was here that King Udayana married princess Vasavadatta. Ujjain played an important role during the period of the Mauryas and the Guptas.
Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Benares, Kanchipuram, Dwarka and Ujjain are considered to be the 7 Mukti Stalas of India. Ujjain is home to the Kumbha Mela, when Jupiter resides in the zodiac sign of Scorpio.
The Mahakaleshwar temple at Ujjain is located near a lake; it has five levels, one of which is underground.The temple itself is located in a spacious courtyard surrounded by massive walls. The shikhara is adorned with sculptural finery. Brass lamps light the way to the underground sanctum. It is believed that prasada offered here to the deity can be re-offered unlike all other shrines.
Legend has it that a demon by name Dushana tormented the residents of Avanti and that Shiva appeared from the ground and vanquished the demon, and then upon the request of the inhabitants of Avanti, took up permanent abode here as Mahakaleshwara Jyotirlinga. Also in Ujjain is the temple to Parvati - Harasiddhi Devi temple.
4) Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh, Central India
Omkareshwar: 12 miles from Mortakka and close to Bhopal city in Madhya Pradesh on the Mandhata hill on the banks of the Narmada is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva.
The river Narmada branches into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here, one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar.
Legend has it that the Vindhya mountain prayed to Shiva - Omkareshwara and was blessed here. Legend also has it that upon the request of the Devas, the Shivalinga split into two, one half being Omkareshwara and the other Amaleshwara or Amareshwar.
5) Vaidyanath, Parali, Maharashtra, West India
|Baijnath / Vaidyanath|
Vaidyanath: Deogarh in the Santal Parganas area of Bihar. This shrine represents one of the 12 Jyotirlingams of Shiva held in reverence throughout the country. Vaidyanath is located at Deogarh in the Santal Parganas region of Bihar.
Deogarh is also known as Vaidyanath, Haritaki Vana, Ketaki Vana, Ravana Vana, Chitabhoomi and Hardapeetha. Some schools of thought believe Vaidyanath near Parali in Andhra Pradesh to be the Vaidyanatha Jyotirlingam. Other schools of thought claim that Kiragram in Punjab and Dabhoi in Gujarat are the Vaidyanatha Jyotirlinga temples. The Vaideeswaran Koyil temple in Tamilnadu (which is not a Jyotirlingam temple) enshrines Vaidyanathar.
Legend has it that Ravana meditated upon Shiva, and requested him to come over to Sri Lanka, in order that his capital may become invincible. It is said that he attempted to lift Mount Kailash and take it with him to his capital; however Shiva crushed him with his finger, and Ravana prayed to him and sought his mercy, after which Shiva gave him one of the twelve Jyotirlingams with the condition that if it was placed on the ground it would take root immediately.
Ravana carried the Jyotirlingam and began his trek back to his capital. Varuna the God of water, entered his belly, and caused him to feel the need to relieve himself. Vishnu then came down in the form of a lad and volunteered to hold the Jyotirlingam as he relieved himself. Before Ravana returned, Vishnu placed the Jyotirlingam on the ground, and it became rooted to the spot. A disappointed Ravana offered severe penances to Shiva here, and cut off nine of his heads. Shiva revived him and joined the heads to the body, as if by the work of a Vaidya or a physician, hence this Jyotirlingam goes by the name Vaidyanath. The same legend holds at Gokarna in Karnataka.
Another legend has it that this temple was re-discovered by a cowherd Baiju, and hence the name Baijnath.
Vaidyanath is also considered to be one of the 52 Shakti Pitha shrines of Sati. It is believed that the heart of Sati fell here, when her half burnt body being carried by Shiva at the end of Daksha's yagna, was chopped to pieces by Vishnu's discus.
The temple: The temple is situated in a spacious courtyard bounded by stone walls. In the temple complex are twenty two other temples. The Baijnath or Vaidyanath temple faces east. The top of the Shiva Lingam is slightly broken, keeping with the legend that it chipped away when Ravana tried to uproot it. Near the temple is the Sivaganga lake. The Chandrakoopa well, near the main entrance is said to have been built and consecrated with water from several thirthas by Ravana.
6) Bhimashankar, (Dhakini), Maharashtra, West India
Bhimashankar - Village of Bhavagiri 50 km north west of Khed, near Pune in Maharashtra. It is an ancient shrine, enshrining Bhimashankara one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. It is located 110 km away from Pune in the ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Bhimashankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows south east and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur. The other Jyotirlinga shrines in Maharashtra are Tryambakeshwar and Grishneshwar.
This temple is closely associated with the legend of Shiva slaying the demon Tripurasura associated with the invincible flying citadels Tripuras. Shiva is said to have taken abode in the Bhima form, upon the request of the Gods, on the crest of the Sahyadri hills, and the sweat that poured forth from his body after the battle is said to have formed the Bhimarathi river.
The Temple: The Bhimashankara temple is a composite of old and the new structures and is built in the Nagara style of architecture. It is a modest temple yet graceful temple and it dates back to mid 18th century. The shikhara of the temple was built by Nana Phadnavis. The great Maratha ruler Shivaji is also said to have made endowments to this temple to facilitate the carrying out, of worship services. As with other Shiva temples in this area, the sanctum is at a lower level.
Shaakini and Daakini the Shivaganas who helped Shiva in the battle against the demon are also honored and worshipped here.
The Mokshakund thirtha is located behind the Bhimashankara temple, and it is associated with the rishi Kaushika. There are also the Sarvathirtha, the Kusharanya thirtha where the Bhima river begins to flow eastward, and the Jyanakund.
Worship: Three worship services are offered each day. Mahashivratri is a season of greate festivity here.
It is to be noted that the Rudrasamhita sloka in its reference to Bhimashankar says, Daakine Bhimashankaram. There is also a Bhimashankar temple at Bhimapur hill near
Guwahati in Assam where legend holds that a demon by name Bhima who inflicted havoc upon the beings in the area, was slain by Shiva, as he tried to kill a king enaged in Shiva worship. This is a legend similar to that where Shiva emerged from a Shivalingam to vanquish Yama the Lord of death. The Shiva Purana and the Koti Rudra Samhita refer to Bhimashankar temple in the Kamarupa country. However there is also a reference to Mount Sahya, where it is stated that Shiva - Bhimashankara appeared on the Sahayadris.
There is also a Bhimashankara temple at Kashipur near Nainital, which was referred to as Daakini country in ancient days. It is believed that Bhima the Pandava prince was married to Hidamba, a Daakini here. Mahashivaratri is celebrated in great splendour here too. This temple also has shrines to Bhairavanath and Devi, and a temple tank by name Shivaganga.
7) Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, South India
Rameshwaram: Rameshwaram, in Southern Tamilnadu. This Shivasthala is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in India. It represents the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and has been a time honored pilgirmage center held on par with Banaras. The island-temple town is located off of the Sethu coast of Tamilnadu (south eastern).
This temple is assocated closely with the Ramayana and Rama's victorious return from Sri Lanka.
Rameswaram is an interesting temple both from the standpoint of its association with Rama and from a structural standpoint. A. huge temple in the island of Rameshwara (reached via the Pamban bridge across the sea), Rameshwara is known for its long ornate corridors and towers and 36 theerthas.
Legend has it that Rama worshipped Shiva in the form of a Shiva Linga made of earth by Sita, while returning to Ayodhya. Legend has it that Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Benares. Anticipating delay in Hanuman's return from Banares, Rama is said to have offered worship at a pre-chosen auspicious moment to a Shivalinga fashioned out of earth by Sita. This linga is referred to as Ramalinga and the town is known as Rameswaram.
There is yet another Shivalinga here - Viswanathar said to have been brought by Hanuman from Banares. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasihlinga and Hanumalinga.
There is also a shrine to SethuMadhava and Lakshmi in Rameswaram. Sethu Madhava is also referred to as Sweta Madhava, the term Sweta referring to the white stone with which the image is made.
The Gandamadana parvatam: is a hill on the island which bears a small shrine containing imprints of Rama's feet held in worship .
Architecture and History: This temple, spread over an area of 15 acres , has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a collossal Nandi. Rameshwaram also boasts of a 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 pillars, supposedly the longest in the world. The carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform. What is unique about this corridor is that the rock is not indigenous to the island and it was brought in from elsewhere in Tamilnadu across the sea. The eastern Rajagopuram towers to a height of 126 feet and it has nine levels. The Western Rajagopuram, though impressive is not as tall as the Eastern one. The stuccoed image of Nandi is about 18 feet tall and 22 feet in length.
It is believed that the ancient shrine was housed in a thatched hut until the 12th century and that the 1st ever masonry structure was built by Parakrama Bahu of Sri Lanka. The Setupathy rulers of Ramanathapuram completed the rest of the temple. Some of the temple vimaanams resemble the Vimaanams of the Pallava period. Much of the additions were carried out between the 12th and the 16th centuries. The long corridor (3rd prakaram) dates back only to the 18th century. The Gandhamadhana Parvatam (hill) provides a good view of the temple. This temple has received royal patronage from several kingdoms such as Travancore, Ramanathapuram, Mysore and Pudukkottai.
Worship: Six worship services are carried out each day, the first being at 5am. Special worship services are carried out every Friday.
Festivals: Rama's worship is commemorated in the month of Aani (June 15-July 15); two annual Bhrammotsavas are celebrated in Aadi and in Maasi.
Theertha (Water springs): There are 36 Theerthas in Rameshwaram of which 22 are in the temple and these waters are said to possess medicinal properties. Bathing in these is considered to be of great significance. The Agni theertha refers to the ocean while the Koti theertha is located within the temple itself.
8) Nageshwar, Gujarat, West India
9) Vishvanath, kashi (Varanasi), Uttarpradesh, North India
Vishwanath temple in Banares in Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi - Banares - Kaashi is considered to be the holiest of all pilgrimage sites in India. It is considered home to Shiva - Visweshwara.
Banares is also known as Kaashi because it is beleived that Supreme brilliance shines there, and lights the way to salvation (Kas - to shine). Varanasi is located between two rivers Varana and Asi, and hence the name Varanasi. \
This place is said to give the greatest delight to God and hence the name Anandakanana; the five elements lie in this great cremation ground as will all dead bodies at the time of the final deluge and hence the name Mahasmasaanam.
Banares houses the Kaasi Visweswara (Viswanatha) temple, enshrining one of the twelve Jyotirlingams of Shiva. This temple was desecrated and rebuilt several times. The latest structure dating back to the 18th century (thanks to the efforts of Rani Ahilyabhai Holkar) is the center of attention of the millions of pilgrims who converge here, to perform an
abhisheka to the sacred Jyotirlinga, with water from the Ganges.
Banares is also considered to be one of the Shakti Peethas of India. It is believed that the left hand of Sati fell at Varanasi, and that Annapurna or Visalakshi represent the Shakti Peetham here.
Apart from these temples, there are five other sacred spots in Banares. The Asi-Ganga sangamam, at Lolarka houses a temple to the Sun God. The rivers Ganga and Varana converge at a spot where there is a shrine to Kesava. The Panchaganga Ghat houses a temple to Bindu-Madhava. It is believed that five rivers Kirana, Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati and Dhuta-papa converge here. The Dasaswamedha Ghat where it is believed that the ancient kings performed the aswamedha sacrifice ten times and took a dip in the Ganga.
The last of the sacred spots is the Manikarnika Ghat. Legend has it that Vishnu dug a pit with his chakra, and the sweat created during his meditation filled the pit. Shiva shook his head and his jeweled earring fell into the pit, hence the name Manikarnika. Tradition has it that those that die at Banares and get cremated at the Manikarnika ghat, get liberated from the cycle of life and death.
Hyuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller visited Varanasi in the 7th century. His travel accounts speak of the grandeur of the city and of its temples. This writer describes a hundred feet high statue of Shiva Maheshwara made of brass that adorned the city.
Several other temples and shrines adorn the city of Benares. Virtually every block houses a shrine here. Mention must be made of the modern shrine to Kaasi Viswanatha elsewhere in the city. Shivaratri in the month of Aquarius is a season of great festivity at Banares.
10) tryambakeshwar, Nasik, Maharashtra, West India
Tryambakeshwar - Near Nasik in Maharashtra. Tryambakeshwar located near at a distance of about 30 km from Nasik in Maharashtra is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. Tryambakeshwar is the source of the river Godavari. This is an ancient shrine, however the current structure is a result of the reconstruction efforts undertaken by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century. The other Jyotirlinga shrines in Maharashtra are Bhimashankar and Grishneshwar.
Legend has it that Gowtama muni resided on the Bhramagiri hill here with his wife Ahalya, and by virtue of his devotion received from Varuna, a bottomless pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of grains and food. The other rishis, jealous of his fortune, arranged for a cow to enter his granary, and caused it to die as Gowtama attempted to ward it off with a bunch of Darbha grass.
Gowtama therfore worshipped Shiva, to bring the Ganga down to his hermitage to purify the premises. The Ganga came down as Godavari, and Shiva took up an abode here in the form of Tryambaka. Interestingly, locals refer to the river here as Ganga and not as Godavari. (Shown above is an image of the Ganga at Haridwar). All the heavenly Gods promised to come down to Nasik, once in twelve years, when Jupiter resides in the zodiac sign of Leo.
The legend relating to the Lingodbhava manifestation of Shiva also prevails here. Legend has it that Bhrama and Vishnu searched in vain to discover the origin of Shiva who manifested himself as a cosmic column of fire. Bhrama lied that he had seen the top of the column of fire, and was hence cursed that he would not be worshipped on earth. In turn Bhrama cursed Shiva that he would be pushed underground. Accordingly, Shiva came down under the Bhramagiri hill in the form of Tryambakeshwar. Circumambulating the Bhramagiri hill is considered sacred.
Tryambakeshwar has been referred to in the Padma Purana. The Bhramagiri hill in Tryambakeshwar is referred to in the literature of Marathi saints. This shrine enjoyed of the patronage of the Peshwa rulers.
The Temple: This templebuilt of blak stone in the Nagara style of architecture is enclosed in a spacious courtyard. The sanctum internally a square and externally a stellar structure houses a small Shivalingam - Tryambaka. The sanctum is crowned with a graceful tower, crowned with a giant amalaka and a golden kalasha.
In front of the garbagriha and the antarala is a mandap with doors on all four sides. Three of these doorways are covered with porches, and the openings of these porches are ornamented with pillars and arches. The roof of the mandapam is formed by curvilinear slabs rising in steps. The entire structure is ornamented with sculptural work featuring running scrolls, floral designs, figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals.
The Shivalingam is seen in a depression on the floor of the sanctum; water constantly oozes out from the top of the Shivalingam.Usually, the Shivalingam is covered with a silver mask, and on festive occasions with a golden mask with five faces, each with a golden crown. The silver mask is equivalent to the processional images seen in South Indian temples.
Thirthas: Legend has it that the Ganga (Godavari) appeared and reappeared several times in response to the pleas of Gowtama Rishi, and there are several thirthas associated with these legends. The Gangadwara thirtha is believed to be the site where Ganga emerged. Varaha thirth is where Vishnu in the form of Varaaha took a bath in the Ganga (Godavari).
The Kushavarta thirtha is a tank with flights of steps on all sides, with pillared aisles with highly ornate arches. This is considered to be the holiest of all the thirthas here, and is believed to be the spot where Gowtama Rishi finally secured Ganga on earth by spreading the Kusha or the Darba grass around her. The structure around this thirtha was constructed by Raoji Abaji Parnekar (of the Holkars of Indore) in late 18th century.
Other thirthas here are the Gangasagar the Gautamalaya, Bilva thirtha, Indra thirtha, Vishwanath thirtha, Mukund thirtha, Prayag thirtha,Rama Kund, Lakshmana Kund etc. The confluence of the rivers Ahalya and Godavari is also held in reverence.�
Other shrines: Kolhambika is a temple dedicated to Parvati, where she is believed to have slain the demon Kolhasura who had swallowed the Ganga river. Also here is the Ganga Devi temple enshrining a white marble image of Ganga. This temple was built in 1879. Other shrines here include those to Kedarnath, Rameshwar, Gowtameshwar, Kashi Vishwanath, Jareshwar, Kanchaneshwar, Tribhuvaneshwar, Rama, Parasurama, Krishna, Balaji, Lakshmi Narayan and Hanuman.
Worship services: Three worship services are carried out each day. During the nightly worship service sheja-aarti is carried out and the silver mask is placed in a bed in the hall of mirrors.
Each Monday, the silver mask of Tryambaka is placed in a palanquin and taken in procession to Kushavarta theertha and given an abhisheka there. This procession with the special golden mask, happens also on Shiv ratris, full moon day in the month of Kartika and during other festive occasions.
Simhasta Parvani which occurs once in every 12 years, when Jupiter enters the zodiac sign of Leo, is a time of great festivity when it is believed that all sacred waters gather in the Kushavarta thirtha. The Ganga avatarana festival is celebrated in the month of Magha.
11) Grushneshwar (gusmeshwar), Ellora, (Near Aurangabad), Maharashtra, West India
Ghrishneshwar: It is located at a distance of 11 km from Daulatabad near Aurangabad, close to Near Ellora, in Maharashtra. Ghrishneshwar is an ancient pilgrimage site revered as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. Daulatabad was once known as Devagiri. Located nearby are the popular tourist attractions Ellora - featuring ancient rock cut monuments from the 1st millennnium CE, and Ajanta known for its exquisite cave paintings again from the 1st millennium CE.
The Ghrishneshwar temple was constructed by Ahilyabhai Holkar who also re-constructed the Kasi Viswanatha temple at Banares and the Vishnu Paada temple at Gaya. Grishneshwar is also known as Ghushneshwar.
Legend has it that a devout woman Kusuma offered worship to Shiva regularly by immersing a Shivalinga in a tank, as a part of her daily ritual worship. Her husband's first wife, envious of her piety and standing in society murdered Kusuma's son in cold blood. An aggrieved Ksuma continued her ritual worship, and when she immersed the Shivalinga again in the tank, her son was miraculously restored to life. Shiva is said to have appeared in front of her and the villagers, and then on is believed to have been worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlinga Ghrushneshwar.
12) Kedharnath, Uttaranchal, North India
Kedarnath - Near Badrinath, Uttaranchal. This is one of the best known Shivastalams in India and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country, located in the lofty Himalayas. It is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlingams - the Northern most one, while the Southernmost one is Rameswaram. The spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely associated with Kedarnath. Kedarnath is a shrine steeped in antiquity, rich in legend and religious significance.
The Temple: Located in the Himalayas at a height of 12000 feet in awe inspiring surroundings, this small shrine is accessible by foot, only 6 months a year. The temple at Kedarnath enshrining the Jyotirlingam of Shiva opens only when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio. The priests then go to Ukhimath, where the worship of Kedareshwara is continued during the winter season.
Kedarnath is located on a ridge which juts out at right angles from below the 23000 feet high snowy peak of Mahapanth. Kedarnath is located on the Rudra Himalaya range.
The Rudra Himalaya range is also known as the Pancha Parvata; its five peaks are Rudra Himalaya, Vishnupuri, Bhramapuri, Udgari-Kanth and Swargarohini. It is believed that four of the Pandavas died on the last of these peaks.
Legend has it that Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Kedara Munivar is also said to have established this shrine visited by the Pancha Pandavas.�
Legend also has it that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations of Vishnu practised severe penances at Badrikashramam, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. When Shiva appeared in front of them, they requested him to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirlingam at Kedarnath.
Legend also has it that the Pandava princes were advised to visit Kedarnath after the great Kurukshetra battle. Shiva upon seeing the Pandavas, assumed the form of a male buaffalo and entered the earth. It is believed that the rear of its body remained here, as Kedareshwar. The front part is believed to be in Nepal. This legend says that when Shiva entered the ground, he became five fold - his hind remained at Kedar, his arms Tunganatha, his face Rudranatha, his belly Madhyameswara and his Jata Kalpeswara. These five shrines together as known as the Pancha Kedara.
The Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
Tradition has it that pilgrims first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them the holy waters from the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to Kedareshwara. The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar - Rishikesh - Devaprayag - Tehri - Dharasu - Yamunotri - Uttar Kashi - Gangotri - Triyugnarayan - Gowrikund and Kedarnath. Alternatively, the route to Kedar from Rishikesh is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath.
Near Kedarnath is the source of the river Mandakini. Mandakini joins Alakananda at Rudraprayag.