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Linga Purana says, once Brahma and Vishnu started fighting over supremity of their power.Suddenly, there appeared a Shivalinga in front of them as a tall column of fire.
Both of them decided to find the start and the end point of the column.They decided whoever first finds it,would be respected as the supreme one.
Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and went downwards.Lord Brahma assumed the form of a swan, and flew upwards.They tried to find for a very long time but all was in vein.
Then Lord Shiva appeared in the fiery column.On witnessing it,Lord Brahma and Vishnu realised their mistake and acknowledged Shiva as the Supreme Being.
The Shivalinga represents that column of fire as 12 Jyotirlingas.There are 12 famous Jyotirlingas where Lord Shiva appeared in the form of light (Jyoti) lingam.
These 12 Jyotirlings are being worshipped since many many years.
1 - Somnath
Temple of Lord Somnath is situated near the town of Veraval in Western part of Gujarat. Veraval is reached from Rajkot. The temple at present is a great imposing structure and is situated just on the sea shore.Skanda Purana describes the emergence of this Jyotirling.
Legend goes that the moon was married to the 27 daughters of Daksha Prajapati.Amongst all his wives, he loved most Rohini and neglected the others. Seeing the negligence of Chandra towards his other wives, Daksha cursed Chandra that he would lose his charm and radiance.
As the moon lost the radiance and beauty the entire world became lifeless. A disturbed Chandra, came down to Prabhasa with Rohini and worshipped the Linga of Somnath.He was blessed by Shiva to grow and shine in the bright half.
As the moon regained his light here, this town came to be known as Prabhasa.Brahma, one of the trinity, installed the Brahmashila, and paved way for the construction of the temple.
On the1 request of the Chandrama and other gods Bhagwan Shankar assumed the name Somchandra (Jyotirlinga) and resided there eternally. He became famous by the name Somnath in the three worlds.
2 - Mallikarjuna
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There once lived a brahmin in Avanti, who had four sons, who were great devotees of Lord Shiva.Dushanan, a demon was giving trouble, disturbing all good & religious activities.
The brahmins from all over the land gathered with the four sons & performed pooja to Lord Siva. The spot where they had taken mud to make the Lingam, had become a huge pond.
When Dushanan came to disturb their pooja, Lord Siva rose from this pond as Mahakaleshwarar & destoryed Dushanan. On the request of the brahmins, Lord Shiva gave darshan to devotees at this divine place.
3 - Mahakaleshwar
There lived a brahmin in Avanti, who had four sons, who were great devotees of Lord Shiva. Dushanan, a demon was giving trouble, disturbing all good & religious activities. The brahmins from all over the land gathered with the four sons performed pooja to Lord Shiva.
The spot where they had taken mud to make the Lingam, had become a huge pond. When Dushanan came to disturb their pooja, Lord Shiva rose from this pond as Mahakaleshwarar & destoryed Dushanan. On the request of the brahmins, Lord Shiva gave darshan to devotees at this divine place,one of the JyotirLings.
4 - Omkareshwar
Omkareshwar is situated on the Mandhata hills in Madhya Pradesh, known in ancient times as Shivpuri. The temple dates back to the Krita Yuga. River Narmada flows here around the Mandhata hill in the form of an Om (Omkaram).
The Omkareshawar temple is built in the North Inidan style of architecture.Shiva Lingas of various sizes are sold in great numbers in this place. It is said that once, sage Narada during his visit to the Vindyas, sang the praise of mount Meru to Mount Vindhya.
On hearing this, Mount Vindhya prayed to Lord Shiva to gain in importance. Lord Siva blessed him & appeared here as Omkareshwara & Amaleshwara and gave the boon of growing, but without hindering Shiva devotees.. But the Vindhyas did not stop growing, and even obstructed the sun and the moon.
Sage Agasthya subdued its growth by saying it should not grow till he gets back there. He never went back & hence the growth was arrested.
5 - Vaidyanath
As per the legend,the demon king Ravana meditated hard to invoke Lord Shiva, and requested him to come over to Sri Lanka, so that his capital may become invincible.Ravana then attempted to lift the holy mountain,Kailasa, Lord Shiva's abode to take it with him to his capital.
Lord Shiva in anger crushed him with his finger, and Ravana prayed to him for apology. Later on, Shiva gave him one of the twelve Jyotirlingams with the condition that if it was placed on the ground it would get rooted soon. Ravana was then carrying it back on his trek to his capital.
Soon Ravana had nature's call and wanted to relieve himself.Ganesha then came down in the form of a young boy and volunteered to hold the Jyotirlingam as he relieved himself. But before Ravana could return, the boy placed the jyotirlingam on the ground to which it got rooted.
A disappointed Ravana worshipped Lord Shiva here, and cut off nine of his heads as a part of his repentance. Shiva revived him and joined the heads to the body, like a Vaidyaor a physician, hence this Jyotirlingam is named as Vaidyanath.
6 - Bhimashankar
The jyotir Lingam is situated on top of the Sahyadri hill temple.The Lingam measures around one and a half feet & quite narrow.
The temple Bhimashankar is located at Bhuvanagiri village in Pune district of Maharashtra. River Bhima has its source here. This temple in the Nagara style is very old and not very big structure.
Lord Siva is considered to be taking rest here after killing Tripurantaka.Shivaji, the Maratha king had made rich endowments for the maintenance of the temple.
7 - Rameshwaram
This shrine is located at the extreme south eastern point of the Indian peninsula and was consecrated by Lord Rama. The jyotirlingam was worshipped by Lord Rama to atone the sin of killing Ravana.
Hanuman flew to get the lingam from Kailasa but was very late,hence Rama worshipped the Lingam made of sand by wife Sita. This Lingam worshipped by Lord Rama is known as Ramanath.
When Hanuman returned he was disappointed that his Lord had not used the Lingam that he had brought. Lord Rama pacified Hanuman & named this Lingam Kasi Viswanath. Devotees have to worship Kasi Viswanath before worshipping Ramanath.
Temple of Lord Nageshwar is situated in Gujarat, and is about 12 kms on the way to Beti Dwaraka. There once lived a demon called Daruka with his wife Daruki, who were extremely cruel and tortured the innocent people. Daruki was in fact a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
Later Daruka wanted to know the ways of worshipping Lord Shiva.A Shiva devotee, Supriya ,fearing that Daruka would use any additional powers gained by such worship, refused to guide him. The angry Daruka tortured her.
Lord Shiva appeared and killed the demon Daruka. Later on Shiva killed his wfe,Daruki too.
The Nageswara Jyotirlingam is claimed to exist in 3 places in Dwaraka, in Audhgram, near Almora in Uttar Pradesh. he Sivalingam is facing South, with the Gomugam facing East.
9 - Kashi Vishwanath
This shrine of Lord Viswanath is situated in Varanasi.in Northen India. The Siva lingam is placed in a square shaped brass plated pit.
Devotees are permitted to offer worship such as abhishekam with holy ganga water, garlanding the Lord, karpoora aarathi, etc. personally to the swaymbhu lingam.
The Lord himself has declared this spot as his Royal residence. Goddess Parvathi's mother felt ashamed that Lord Shiva no decent dwelling. To please Parvathi Devi, Shiva asked Nikumbha to provide him with a dwelling place at Kashi.
here are several smaller shrines around the main shrine. The head of each ghat has a Shiva linga.
10 - Tryambakeshwar
Lord Trayambakeshwar resides in a beautiful locale about 20 kms from the city of Nashik. It is a well connected place and can also be reached from Mumbai in about 5 hours This shrine is located in the Tryambak town near Nasik. The temple is in the Indo Aryan style.
The temple structure with excellent adornments of idols and sculptures, is surrounded by a massive stone wall. There is a huge bull in front of the temple & another marble Nandi is seen on the inside.
The sculptural adornments continues even to the garbagriha with human, animals and yakshas carved .
From the Jyotir Lingam at the centre of the garbagriha, trickles the Ganges continuously throughout the year. Sometimes, it is said flames issue forth as also a rumbling sound.
11 - Kedarnath
Kedarnath is located at an elevation of 11,735 feet above sea level. This is at the head of the Mandakini River,which is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus. This is the only shrine where the Lingam is in pyramidal shape.
According to legend, Lord Shiva wished to elude the Pandavas, and took refuge in Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed, He dived into the ground, leaving behind his hump of the surface. The hump is worshipped in the temple of Kedarnath.
The remaining parts of the body are worshipped at four other places- The arms (Bahu) at Tungnath, Face (Mukh) at Rudranath, Navel (Nabhi) at Madmaheshwar and Hair (Jata) at Kalpeshwar. Together with Kedarnath, these places are known as the Panch Kedar.
The uniqueness and greatness of this temple sees mention in the vedas, and epics.It is believed that temple that exists till date was constructed by the Pandavas. There are the idols of Kedaragowri, Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, Vinayagar, Veerabadrar, Kaarthikeyan, Nandi.111 The shrine is covered by snow for 6 months in a year and is closed from Oct-Nov upto Apr-May
12 - Grineshwar
Grineshwar is situated near the Ellora caves, Maharashtra state,India.The legend associated with this shrine is like this.Kusuma was a devout woman who was a strong devotee of Lord Shiva.In her daily worship she immersed a 'Shivalingam' in a tank.
Her husband's first wife, was jealous of her standing in the society and murdered Kusuma's son.Sad Kusuma continued her worship, and when she immersed the Shivalingam again in the tank, her son was miraculously restored to life.
Lord Shiva is said to have appeared in front of her and the villagers.Since then the shivalingam here has been worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlinga Ghusmeshwar.
This Jyotir Lingam is considered to exist in two places, one in Devagiri near Ellora & the other at the Kailasa temple in Ellora.