Devadidev Mahadev is worshipped in the form of a Linga (Lingam). A Linga means a mark or sign. Shiv Puran mentions 64 Jyotirlingas of which 12 are considered to be the most important known as Mahajyotirlingas.
Meaning & significance of Shivling Devotees worship Linga as a symbol of energy and the potential of the supreme Bhagwan. The Yoni representative of Maa Adishakti (female creative energy) holds the Linga and together they represent the indivisible power of Shiva and Shakti from whom all life originates.
PC: varanasi.org Shiv Purana’s Vidyeshwar Samhita describes Shivling as a beginningless and endless Jwala-Stambha (cosmic fire pillar). Linga Purana says the pillar signifies the infinite nature of Mahadev. According to Yogic lore, it is the first form that arises when creation takes place and the last form before creation is dissolved.
Puranas trace the origin of Shivling to a fight between Sri Hari Vishnu and Brahmadev where each wanted to prove that He was the most powerful. As the two were arguing, Devadidev Mahadev assumed the form of a bright flaming pillar and stood between the two. He then asked them to find the beginning (adi) and end (anth) of the pillar.
While both failed in this task, Brahmadev lied using the testimony of the Ketaki flower that He has succeeded in finding the beginning. An enraged Mahadev emerged from the pillar and cursed Brahmadev never to be worshipped and banned Ketaki from being used in Puja. The day Mahadev emerged in the form of a Linga (Phalguna Krishna Chaturdashi) is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
Types of Shivlingas According to Agama Sastras, Shivlingas are classified into six types based on their origin.
Daiviga/Divya (Divine): Consecrated and worshipped by Hindu Devis & Devatas including Maa Parvati
Arshaga: Consecrated and worshipped by Rishis
Manusha: Consecrated by humans in historical times
Rakshasa: Consecrated by Asuras and Daityas such as Ravan
Bana: Lingas found on riverbanks
Bana means water but Bana Lingas also derive their names from an Asura named Bana. It is said that Banasura worshipped millions of small Lingas and immersed them in different rivers including Ganga, Gandaki, and Gomukhi, among others. It is these Lingas that are found on riverbanks today.
The first three types are said to be of Uttam/best quality while the rest three are of Madhyam/middle quality.
Twelve Jyotirlingas Jyotirlinga is a shrine where Devadidev Mahadev is worshipped in the form of a fiery pillar of light. Jyoti means radiance and Ling means mark/sign and thereby, Jyotirlinga translates to the radiant sign of Bhagwan.
The twelve Mahajyotirlingas are:
Somnath, Gujarat: This is the first of the 12 Jyotirlingas located in Prabhas Patan. Chandradev is said to have erected this temple and worshipped Bhagwan Shiva here. The Somnath Mandir stands strong despite facing numerous attacks (16 to be precise) by Islamists.
Kashi Vishwanath, UP (Uttar Pradesh): is the most famous shrine of Bhagwan Shiva. Kashi is said to be Mokshadayini (granting moksha) with Baba Vishwanath (ruler of the universe) Himself reciting the Tarak mantra when any living being passes away here. The Mandir is located on the holy Ganga riverbank. It finds mention in the Thevaram (sung by Tamil Shaiva saints known as Nayanmars) as a Paadal Petra Sthalam. Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world.
Mallikarjun, AP (Andhra Pradesh): It is located in Kurnool District’s Srisailam. It is one of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. According to Shiv Puran, an ansh of Bhagwan Shiva and Maa Parvati went to reside at this place after Bhagwan Kartikeya left Kailash to reside at Kraunch Parvat. This is one of the Shakti Peethas as well.
Mahakaleshwar, MP (Madhya Pradesh): Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is located in Ujjain and is the only one where the murti is facing south (Dakshinamurti). This is another Mandir where Jyotirlinga and Shaktipeeth are placed together. The Garbhagriha ceiling houses the Shri Rudra Yantra.
Omkareshwar, MP: It is located on Mandhata island on the Narmada River. Bhagwan derives His name from the island that is shaped like an Om.
Kedarnath, Uttarakhand: This Jyotirlinga is located significantly close to Kailash Parvat, the abode of Devadidev Mahadev. It is also one of the Paadal Petra Sthalams of Vada Nadu (north). It is the first of the Panch Kedar Temples built by Pandavas and also a part of the Char Dham Yatra.
Bhimashankar, Maharashtra: This Jyotirlinga is located in Khed Taluka’s Bhorgiri Village. The presiding deity here is Bhagavan Bhimashankar Mahadev in the form of a Svayambhu or self-manifested Shivalinga.
Trimbakeshwar, Maharashtra: Trimbakeshwar Shiva Jyotirlinga is situated in Nashik at the foothills of Brahmagiri mountain. Shiv Puran says Bhagwan agreed to stay here acceding to the request of Rishi Gautam and Godavari. The Linga here has three faces representative of Bhagwans Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh.
Grishneshwar, Maharashtra: The Grishneshwar (also known as Ghushmeshwar) Jyotirlinga is situated in Sambhaji Nagar and is said to be the twelfth Jyotirlinga. This Mandir, constructed using red rock and comprising a five-tier Shikara, is said to be the smallest of all the Jyotirlinga Mandirs.
Baidyanath, Jharkhand: Baidyanath Mandir is in Santhal Parganas of Jharkhand’s Deoghar. Ravan is said to have worshipped here. Devotees throng to this Mandir during Shravan Mela apart from Mahashivratri. There are 21 other significant temples in this region.
Nageshwar, Gujarat: Shiv Puran says Nageshwar Linga is in Darukavana and Bhagwan Krishna performed Rudrabhishek here. This Mandir is in Gujarat’s Dwarka.
Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu: This Mandir holds great significance as a Hindu pilgrimage site as Prabhu Sri Ram worshipped the Linga here to get rid of Brahmahatya having slayed Brahmin Ravan. The Lingam is known as Ramanathar as it was worshipped by Sri Ram.
Bhagwan Adi Shankaracharya composed the Dwadasha Jyotirlinga Stotra in praise of the 12 Jyotirlingas.
(Featured Image Source: The Rural India)
(This story has been reproduced here with permission from Hindu Post.)