The Destroyer, the Transformer, Mahadev, Bholenath; Lord Shiva is addressed with several names by his devotees. The Supreme being, along with Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma form a trinity which is known to be primary aspect of the divine in Hinduism. Furthermore, he is represented as an omniscient Yogi of Mount Kailash, residing with his wife Parvati, and two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Shiva is the patron god of Yoga and the arts. He has a third eye on his forehead, his snake Vasuki around his neck, River Ganga flowing from his matted tress (jata), and a crescent moon further prettifying it. In addition to this, Damru and Trishul are two things he holds. Often he is worshipped in the form of Shiva Linga.
There are twelve most famous Shiva temples in India which are considered to be Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. As a matter of fact, Jyotirlingas are the radiant mark of the Lord, manifested by himself. As a person reaches a higher level of transcendence he gets to witness the jyotirlingas as columns of fire piercing in the earth. Legends of Lord Shiva are also associated with Shakti Peethas of Devi Sati (Shakti). The immense belief of people in Lord Shiva is a testimony of his miracles and legends.
Let’s take a step forward to sharpen our knowledge about the most famous Shiva temples in India and what is unique about each one of them.
1 . Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Kedarnath Temple of Lord Shiva is settled near the banks of the Mandakini River in the Garhwal Himalayan Range. The highly-venerated pilgrimage circuits of Hindus, Char Dham includes Kedarnath Temple of Shiva. Along with this, the temple also happens to be one of the twelve jyotirlingas of the lord.
The temple is accessible for six months (April-November/ Akshaya Tritiya- Kartik Poornima) due to extreme weather conditions. During the winter season, the deity is brought to Ukhimath for the other six months. In order to reach Kedarnath Temple, you have to take a 14-kilometer-long trek from Gaurikund.
- Kedarnath yatra Starts from 14th July till 06th November 2022.
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2 . Amarnath Temple, Kashmir
Amarnath is a cave shrine perched at an altitude of 3888 meters in Kashmir. Owing to this height, the temple is surrounded by snow and it itself gets covered in snow for a significant amount of time during the year. Amarnath is an important pilgrimage destination for the followers of Lord Shiva.
Every year, when the temple gets accessible, more than thousands of pilgrim makes their way to the temple crossing mountainous terrains. The linga of this temple is a stalagmite formed by freezing of water drops dripping from the floor of the cave.
- Amarnath yatra Starts from 01st July till 22nd August 2021.
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3 . Somnath Temple, Gujarat
Although been destroyed and built several times, but the faith of pilgrims in the Somnath Temple prevails unscathed. The temple is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and dates back to a time earlier than 649 CE. The present-day structure was built in 1947 in the Chalukya style of architecture. If legends are to be believed then this spot is where Lord Krishna concluded his lila on earth and disembarked for his heavenly adobe.
[ Read More about Somnath Jyotirliga Temple ]
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4 . Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Another one out of twelve jyotirlingas, Mallikarjuna Swamy is datable to more than six centuries ago. This also is one of 275 Paadal Petra Sthala, which are revered in the verses of Saiva Nayanars. It is believed that the carrier of Lord Shiva, Vrishbha performed penance here and Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati appeared before him. Furthermore, this beautiful temple is built by Vijayanagar Empire in their signature architecture. There are many other temples near Mallikarjuna Swamy, dedicared to Hindu Gods like Nataraja, Nandi, and Sahasralinga.
5 . Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain
Mahakaleshwar Temple too is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, which means this is a temple of great significance. The lord is worshipped in the form of Shivalinga, believed to be a swayambu (emerged on its own). Sultan Shas-ud-din Iltutmish destroyed the older temple and the present-day structure was built in 1736 AD. Moreover, Sri Mahakaleshwar also happens to be one of 18 Maha Shaktpeethas, where different body parts of Sati Devi’s bodies fell.
[ Read More about Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga ]
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6 . Omkareshwar Temple, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar Temple is located on an island that roughly looks like the “Om” (ॐ) symbol. The island is located on the Narmada River, near the confluence of Narmada and Kaveri. The temple is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. It already is a significant pilgrimage point for Hindus, but the number of visitors ascends especially during Mahashivratri.
Here, Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Shivalinga, which displays a beautiful blend of human and nature’s artistry. Many other temples are located near Omkareshwar Temple, which too are of great reverence; like Satmatrika Temple, Siddhnath Temple and Kajal Rani Cave.
[ Read More about Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga ]
7 . Bhimashankar Temple, Maharashtra
Bhimashankar, the source of the Bhima River, is a jyotirlinga temple of Lord Shiva. The shrine is datable to 13th-century and the temple is built in the Nagara style of architecture. Excellency and dedicated on ancient Vishwakarma sculptors is portrayed in this temple.
A shrine of Kamalaja (an incarnation of Goddess parvati) is located in close proximity. It is located in the Sahyadri Mountain Range and proffers a brilliant view of the pristine nature.
[ Read More about Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga ]
8 . Madhyamaheshwar Temple, Uttarakhand
Mention of Madhyameshwar Temple is found in the hundredth chapter of Kashi Khand, where it is written the devotees must take a dip in Mandakini Teerth and worship in Madhyameshwar Temple. Ancient topography suggests that Madhyameshwar (as its name suggests) was situated at the center of Kashi, which was a very large area. But with the passing time, Kashi started constricting and the temple is thus no longer in the center. The name of this temple is also mentioned in Kurma Puran.
[ Explore more about the The Dev Bhoomi – Uttarakhand ]
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9 . Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi
Kashi Vishwanath is located in one of the holiest and oldest cities of the world, Varanasi. This jyotirlinga temple’s main deity is Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara, which means the ruler of the universe. Just like Somnath Temple, this too has been destroyed and built a lot of times. The last time it was demolished was by Aurangzeb, when he commissioned the Gyanvapi mosque here. However, the current structure was built in 1780 by the Maratha monarch, Ahilya Bai Holkar.
[ Read More about Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi ]
10 . Trimbakeshwar Temple, Maharashtra
One of twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, Trimbakeshwar Temple also happens to be the source of the Godavari River, which is the longest river in India peninsular. Main deity of the temple is a Shivalinga and it has started eroding. People believe that this erosion represents the nature of human society.
Other extraordinary attribute of this temple is its three faces that embody Lord Brahma, Lord Rudra, and Lord Vishnu. A jeweled crown is placed on the gold mask of Tridev. This crown is embedded with emeralds, diamond, and other precious stones. It is believed that this crown dates back to the time of Pandavas.
11 . Vaidyanath Temple, Deoghar, Jharkhand
Vaidyanath Jyoritlinga is also known as Baba Dham or Baidyanath Dham. As per the beliefs, Ravana (the devil from the epic of Ramayana) worshipped Lord Shiva here and offered the sacred water of Ganga as a ritual. Another name of the temple is Kama Lingam which addressed to the deity as a wish-fulfiller.
12 . Nageshwar, Dwarka, Gujarat
Nageshwar Temple is believed to be the first ever jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva on earth. It is impossible to overlook the beautiful 25-meter-tall Lord Shiva statue. The jyotirlinga of Nagnath is known as Nageshwar Mahadeva. A huge number of pilgrims visit this shrine to offer prayers to the almighty. It is believed that those who worship Nagnath or Nageshwar Mahadev (forms of Lord Shiva), become free from poison. The temple is located on an island on the coast of Saurashtra.
13 . Ramanathaswamy Temple, Tamil Nadu
Ramanasthaswamy Jyotirlinga is datable to a time way before the 12th century when it was expanded by the Pandya Dynasty. Of all temples in India, Ramanathaswamy temple has the longest corridor. It is located on an island town, Rameshwaram, which is a holy site for not just the followers of Lord Shiva (Shaivites) but for the followers of Lord Vishnu (Vaishanavites) and followers of Panchayatna (Smarthas) too.
As per beliefs, Lord Rama prayed to Lord Shiva here in order to absolve his sin of killing a brahmana whilst on his war with the demon king, Ravana. Lord Ram asked Lord Hanuman and his monkey army to bring the largest lingam for worshipping Shiva. For the time being Goddess Sita built a small lingam from the sand on the seashore.
[ Read more about Ramanasthaswamy Jyotorlinga ]
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14 . Grishneshwar Temple, Maharashtra
The twelfth and last jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva is built upon a bed of rocks. The shikhara is five-tiered and the temple as a whole is 240×185 feet tall. Though the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, but sculptures and figurines of other gods and goddesses add a touch of beauty to it. The spring inside the temple is considered as a holy water. Ghushma a staunch follower of Lord Shiva found a treasure in a snake pit and used that money to renovate the temple and build a lake.
15 . Brihadeeswarar Temple, Tamil Nadu
Brihadeeswarar Temple has several other names, such as Peruvudaiyar Kovil, RajaRajeswara Temple, and Periya Kovil, among others. This Shiva temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other monuments which are collectively known as Great Living Chola Temples. The temple is more than a thousand-year-old and portrays a spectacular work of architecture.
At the entrance, a 16×13 statue of Nandi Bull welcomes the devotees. This statue is carved out of a single stone. The temple is built mainly of granite. The prime deity of this temple is of course Lord Shiva, who is known as Moolavar. This is one of the few temples which have idols for the Guardians of Direction, Ashta-dikpaalakas.
16 . Shore Temple, Tamil Nadu
As the name implies, Shore Temple is settled near the Bay of Bengal. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. This rock-cut structure is datable to the time between 700 and 728 AD. Though the main deity of the temple is Shiva Linga but a shrine of Lord Vishnu is also placed here. Large sculptures of the Nandi Bull are extensively used to decorate the temple.
[ Read more about Shore Temple ]
17 . Lingaraj Temple, Odisha
The largest temple of Bhubaneswar, Lingaraja Temple is a major tourist attraction of Odisha State. Though the clear history of this temple is not documented by it is believed that it is at least 1100 years old. Some parts of the temple are considered to have built-in the sixth century CE as some seventh-century Sanskrit texts emphasize on this temple.
[ Read more about Lingaraja Temple ]
The architecture of this temple is similar to Kalinga architecture and it was built by the kings of the Somavamsi Dynasty. It is built in Deula style, which comprises mainly of jagmohana (assembly hall), vimana (structure containing the sanctum), natamandira (festival hall and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offering).
18 . Kotilingeshwara Temple, Karnataka
Kotilingeshwara Temple has a 108-feet-tall Shiva Linga, in front of which a 35-feet-tall statue of Nandi Bull is erected. The temple complex comprises of one crore shiva lingas, along with eleven small temples dedicated to different Hindu gods like Lord Brahma, Lord Maheshwara, and Lord Vishnu. There are two trees in the premises which are of utmost importance, namely the cannonball flower tree and nagalinga flower tree. As a matter of ritual, unmarried girls tie a sacred yellow thread around the tree and wish for a happy married life ahead.
19 . Daksheswara Mahadev Temple, Haridwar
Daksheswara Mahadev, also known as Daksha Mahadev Temple, is a venerated Shiva shrine named after the father of Sati Devi, King Daksha Prajapati. The temple is one of the fourteen Prajapatis. The temple was commissioned by Queen Dhankaur in 1810, but the present-day structure was built in 1962. Other than the main temple, there are other structures of importance too like Das Mahavidya dedicated to Mahavidyas and one dedicated to Goddess Ganga.
[ Explore more about the Gateway of Gods – Haridwar ]
20 . Annamalaiyar Temple, Tamil Nadu
Counted among the largest temple complexes of India, Annamalaiyar covers an area of 10 hectares. There are four gateway towers (gopurams), of which the tallest has a height of 66 meters and is 11-storeyed. There are very few temple towers in India having such an influential height.
And of course, this temple complex houses many shrines; Ammalaiyar and Unnamulai Amman being the most significant ones. The dravidian style of architecture has been adopted in its construction. The gopurams are decorated with fine and vivid sculptures and figurines.
21 . Tarakeshwar Temple, West Bengal
Tarakeshwar Temple or Taraknath Temple is datable to 1729. The legend goes that once Raja Vishnu Das had a dream which led him to a Shiva Linga somewhere amid the woods of Tarakeswarar. This Shiva Linga today is the main deity of the temple and is believed to be swayambhu linga, referred to as Baba Taraknath. A temple was built around the temple in 1729 AD. The temple is thronged with visitors every day, but especially on Mondays and Shivratri festivals, the crowd increases.
[ You may also check-out about 12 Jyotirlinga Tour Package ]