This is Shravan, the month of Lord Shiva, as per the Indian Hindu calendar. Today I will tell you about the 12 (Dadas) Jyotirlingas in India. They are the Shiva temples and pilgrimage sites of highest significance and popularity in India. The Jyotirlingas (Shrine of the light) are self-manifested shrines of Lord Shiva. There are 64 Jyotirlingas, some of them being located out of India too. Out of these, there are 12 which have been identified by the great Hindu sage, Adi Sankaracharya, as the most powerful and sacred ones. It is believed that, if one visits these 12 pilgrimage sites in a lifetime, he/she is released from the cycle of life and death. Shiva is beyond religion and these temples of Jyotirlingas in India are work of art and attract millions of visitors.
There is an intriguing story of the Jyotirlingas from the Myth of the Puranas. The three pillars of Hinduism are the holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. Brahma is the Creator; Vishnu, the Preserver and Maheshwara or Shiva, the destroyer. Lords Brahma and Vishnu are believed to have debated over their supremacy. To mitigate that, Lord Shiva turned into a brilliant shaft of light travelling through the earth and beyond. For thousands of years, Brahma and Vishnu couldn’t trace the start or the endpoints of it. It is believed there is no beginning and ending to Shiva. The light emerged as shrines at certain places, as a symbol of supremacy and a boon to devotees who want to worship him. Jyotirlingas in India have been mentioned in the Vedas.
Here is the list of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, in order of their significance, as identified by the Holy Saint. They are located in 8 states across India – Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.
Somnath Temple, Gujarat
Dwadash Jyotirlinga pilgrimage begins with the Somnath Temple located at Saurashtra, Gujarat. The temple was destroyed and re-built sixteen times. The present temple was reconstructed in Chalukya style of Hindu temple architecture and was completed in 1951. It is a beautiful coastal region and a site of Triveni Sangam, a confluence of 3 rivers- Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati.
The first establishment time of the temple cannot be traced. The second time the temple was built around 649 CE. How to reach there? The closest airport is Diu Airport (63 km) and the closest international airport is Sardar Vallabhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad (394 km). There are loads of other attractions too in this region. You should not miss the Gir National Park, famous for Asiatic lions and Rann of Kutch, famous for the amazing white sands and the vibrant Rann Utsav.
Mallikarjuna Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Sri Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Temple or Srisailam Temple is located on a mountain at Srisailam, in Kurnool District in Rayalseema, Andhra Pradesh. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Devi Parvati. It is one of the 52 Shakti Peeths, important to Shaivams and Shaktams.
Spread across 2 hectares of land, the temple is famous for its rich architecture and grandeur. The 4 ornate Gopurams (gateway towers) are wonders to behold. The shrine, housing Mallikarjuna – the Jyotirlinga, is considered the oldest in the temple, dating back to 7th century. Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad (230 km) is the nearest airport for reaching Mallikarjuna Temple.
Mahakaleshwar Temple, Madhya Pradesh
In the ancient city of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, stands the iconic temple of Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga, on the bank of the holy river Kshipra. The Rudra Sagar Lake is present beside the temple. It is a Shakti Peeth and follows Tantric rituals.
The Bhasma Aarti in the morning can take one to a transcendental level. Bhasma Aarti is the ritual of bathing the Swayambhu (self-established) shrine with ashes brought from the crematorium. Women have to be clad in sarees and men in dhotis, if you are attending the aarti. Let this not worry you. There are (inexpensive) sarees and dhotis available in front of the temple. Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport at Indore is the nearest airport and takes around 1 hour to reach.
Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar Temple is in the Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh on Shivpuri Island, Mandhata hills of Vindhya Hills. There are 2 temples- Omkareshwar and Amareshwar. The name of the Jyotirlinga is ‘Mamleshwar’. The ‘Om’ shaped island is at the confluence of the sacred Rivers Narmada and Kaveri. The location is unique and serene. There are caves and murals to explore. Adi Shankaracharya met his Guru, Govinda Bhagavatpada, here, at Omkareshwar. There are several other temples and shrines on the island.
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Perched on the snow-covered Garhwal Himalayas at 11660 feet, stands the symbolic Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand. It is the closest Jyotirlinga to Lord Shiva’s eternal abode, Mount Kailash. Along with being the 5th out of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, Kedarnath is a significant part of two other pilgrimage circuits. Kedarnath is pivotal to the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit (Kedarnath, Tunganath, Rudranath, Madmaheshwar, Kalpeshwar), based on an episode from the Mahabharata.
Kedarnath is one of the Chhota Char dhams (4 sites) of Uttarakhand (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath). From unknown times, the temple stands there withstanding devastating natural calamities. It has witnessed the mini ice age, a common belief. The temple is symbolic of immense faith, a witness to the devastating flood and cloud burst of 2013 which destroyed every other thing around. The weather conditions at Kedarnath are harsh and the temple remains open from May to October. Kedarnath requires a 14-kilometre trek from Gaurikund. Helicopter services are available. The natural beauty of the Himalayan peaks and the gushing Mandakini River with the ethereal energy conjure a magic, can convert an atheist to a believer.
Bhimashankar Temple is located on the Sahyadri Ranges at Pune, Maharashtra. This ancient temple is far from the hustle and bustle of the cities, wrapped in the natural beauty of the Western Ghats. You can observe the Buddhist influence in carvings and architecture of the temple. It takes around 3 hours to reach from Pune airport.
Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, home to the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga, is one of the most popular Hindu temples. Varanasi, the holiest city for Hindus is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is a seat of spirituality in India. Manikarnika Ghat is the sacred crematorium of Varanasi or Banaras. Performing the funeral rituals at the ghat frees one from rebirth, a popular belief among the Hindus.
The temple stands on the western bank of the holy Ganga. Ganga Aarti in the evening is mesmerizing. A boat ride to see the Assi Ghats (80 banks) is an experience in itself. The oldest observatory in the world is present here. Benaras has always been one of India’s most foreigner friendly places. Benaras is famous for milk products and Silks and brocades. Varanasi itself has a popular airport, the Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport.
Trimbakeshwar Temple, Maharashtra
The Trimbakeshwar Temple is located at the source of the holy River Godavari at Trimbak, Nashik in Maharashtra. The Jyotirlinga has 3 faces depicting Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, differing from the rest of the Jyotirlingas in India. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai is the nearest airport and is 200 km away.
Baba Baidyanath Dham, Jharkhand
The Vaidyanath Temple houses the Jyotirlinga and has 21 temples within the huge temple complex. It is located at Deoghar in Jharkhand, 276 kilometres from Ranchi. Legends have it that Ravana, the demon, offered his ten heads to Lord Shiva here, one after the other. Lord Shiva blessed and cured him. The temple earned its name as Baidyanath from this incident, Baidya means doctor. Ranchi Airport is the nearest accessible airport.
Nageshvara Temple, Gujarat
Nageshwara Temple houses the 10th Jyotirlinga in India, at Dwarka, Gujarat. Dwarka, surrounded by the vast Arabian Sea, is one of the most religious cities in India. Krishna Bhakti cult is dominant here. Along with religious reasons, Dwarka is a great spot for relaxing beach vacations.
Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu
The Southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India is located at Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. The shrine belongs to Ramanathaswamy, meaning Lord of Rama. The architecture of the temple is alluring. It has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples.
The journey to the temple is a beautiful experience. Rameshwaram is an island. It is present at the tip of Indian Peninsular, separated from mainland India by the Pamban Bridge. The drive or the rail ride on the bride with the vast blue sea on both sides is a wonder. Madurai airport is nearest to Rameshwaram.
Grishneshwar Temple, Maharashtra
Grishneshwar Temple or Dhushmeshwar Temple, is the 12th Jyotirlingas in India. The name of the holy shrine means ‘Lord of Compassion’. It is located near Aurangabad, Maharashtra. It is just a kilometre away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ellora Caves.
The Maratha rulers and their queens rebuilt the temple many times. It is the smallest among the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples in India. Astonishingly, the architecture does leave a mark. There are numerous carvings of Hindu Gods and Goddess – ten avatars of Vishnu and the legends of Shiva. There is a 24 pillared hall with a statue of Nandi, Shiva’s Bull. Aurangabad has an airport. Pune and Mumbai airport are easily accessible.
Every Jyotirlinga has an enduring story attached to it. Lord Shiva, the Almighty, is beyond religion. These temples are great work of art and some of their locations are enchanting. Irrespective of our freedom from the cycle of birth and death or not, these temples definitely must be explored for understanding our heritage deeply.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.