A Jyotirlinga or Jyotirling or Jyotirlingam (Sanskrit: ज्योतिर्लिङ्ग) is a devotional object representing the god Shiva. Jyoti means 'radiance' and lingam the 'mark or sign' of Shiva, or a symbol of the pineal gland; Jyotir Lingam thus means the The Radiant sign of The Almighty. There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India.
It is believed that Lord Shiva first manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga on the night of the Aridra Nakshatra, thus the special reverence for the Jyotirlinga. There is nothing to distinguish the appearance, but it is believed that a person can see these lingas as columns of fire piercing through the earth after he reaches a higher level of spiritual attainment.
According to Śiva Mahāpurāṇa, once Brahma (the God of creation) and Vishnu (the God of Preservation) had an argument over supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. Originally there were believed to be 64 jyothirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious and holy. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity, each considered a different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga at parali in maharashtra , Aundha Nagnath at Aundha Nagnath in Maharashtra, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Ghrushneshwar at ellora near aurangabad in Maharashtra. Kedarnath and Pashupatinath (Nepal) are considered half jyotirlingas counted together as one. There is also one new Jyotirlinga shrine "Bhubaneswar-Bhubaneswari" temple at Mathurapur, P/O- Balarampur, near Sundarban, 24 Parganas (South), W.B.
Somnath is traditionally considered the first pilgrimage site: the Dwadash Jyotirlinga pilgrimage begins with the Somnath Temple. The temple, that was destroyed and re-built sixteen times, is held in reverence throughout India and is rich in legend, tradition, and history. It is located at Prabhas Patan (Somnath - Veraval) in Saurashtra region of Gujarat state in western India.
Mahakal, Ujjain (or Avanti) in Madhya Pradesh is home to the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple. The Lingam at Mahakal is believed to be Swayambhu, the only one of the 12 Jyotirlingams to be so. It is also the only one facing south and also the temple to have a Shree Yantra perched upside down at the ceiling of the Garbhagriha (where the Shiv Lingam sits). It is a place where Shakti peeta and Jyotirlingam are together.
Kedarnath in Uttarakhand is revered as the northernmost and the closest Jyotirlinga to Lord Shiva's eternal abode of Mount Kailash. It is considered to be half jyotirlinga along with Pashupatinath in Nepal. Kedarnath forms a part of the smaller Char Dham pilgrimage circuit of Hinduism. Kedarnath, nestled in the snow-clad Himalayas, is an ancient shrine, rich in legend and tradition. It is accessible only for six months a year. It is also one of the Padal Petra Stalam of Vada Naadu mentioned in Thevaaram. Shiva assumed the form of wild boar and dived into the earth at Kedarnath to emerge at Pashupatinath. Pure ghee is applied at Kedarnath lingam as the boar was injured.
Bhimashankar is very much debated. There is a Bhimashankara temple near Pune (pictured) in Maharashtra, which was referred to as Daakini country, but Kashipur in Uttarakhand was also referred to as Daakini country in ancient days and a Bhimashkar Temple known as Shree Moteshwar Mahadev is present there. Another Bhimashankar is in the Sahyadri range of Maharashtra. The Bhimashankar temple near Guwahati, Assam is the jyotirlinga according to Sivapuran. According to "LINGA PURAN", Bhimasankar temple in Bhimpur near Gunupur of Rayagada district in South Orissa is also believed as Bhimasankar Jyotirlinga, which is situated at the western part of the holy Mahendragiri mountains and at the river bank of Mahendratanaya(which is also believed as the Daakini area by many historian), was excavated in the year 1974, having quadrangular Shakti around the Linga and decorated by a Upavita as per the puran.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh is home to the Vishwanath Jyotirlinga shrine, which is perhaps the most sacred of Hindu shrines. It is also one of the Padal Petra Stalam of Vada Naadu mentioned in Thevaaram. The temple is situated in Varanasi the holiest existing place of Hindus, where at least once in life a Hindu is expected to do pilgrimage, and if possible, also pour the remains of cremated ancestors on the River Ganges. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganges, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. In fact, it is a place where Shakti peeta and Jyotirlingam are together. It is the holiest of all Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishwanath or Vishweshwara meaning Ruler of the universe. The temple town, which claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history, is also called Kashi.
Baijanath Jyotirlinga Temple (also known as Vaidyanath Dham) is located in Deoghar, Jharkhand. In the month of Shravana millions of devotee visit the temple. It is believed that once Ravan worshipped Shiva for years and requested Shiva to come to Lanka. Shiva manifested as shivaling and asked Ravan to not put it down anywhere until he takes it to Lanka. Vishnu intercepted Ravana in between and convinced him to keep it for sometime. Since then Shiva resides as Vaijanath in Deoghar.
Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana (Śatarudra Saṁhitā,Ch.42/2-4, referred as "nagesham darukavane"). Nageshvara is believed as the first Jyotirlinga on the earth. There are three major shrines in India which are believed as identical to this Jyotirlinga. Those are the Jageshwar temple near Almora in Uttarakhand state, the Nageshwara temple near Dwaraka in Gujarat state and the Nagnath temple in Aundha in Maharashtra state.
Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana (kotirudra sahinta,Ch.32-33 referred as "Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga"). Grishneshwar is believed as the Last or 12th (twelfth) Jyotirlinga on the earth. This pilgrimage site is located at a village called Verul which lies at a distance of 11 km from Daulatabad and 30 km from Aurangabad. It lies at a close proximity to the Ellora caves.
^"Welcome To Bhimsankar Jyotirlinga Temple". bhimsankarjyotirling.org. 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2012. "a Quadraple Shakti, a rare one.There is a sign of 'Yajna Upabita' (Janev in Hindi) is clearly visible in the Linga.T"