Shiva In All His Forms:
Shiva, the destroyer and the ascetic in Hindu mythology has many forms and is yet formless. He is at once the monk at Somnath in Gujrat and the householder, 'shankara' at Vishwanath temple in Kashi. He could be the tiger skin clad, bee hived man with the third eye or just a black stone that is the Shiv linga.
The Shiv Linga:
Literally, Shiv 'linga' looks like a long cylindrical black stone. This phallic symbol is the oldest and the most rudimentary form in which the great deity was worshiped in India. That is why they are found in the oldest Shiva temples in the country.
The Legend Of The Jyotirlinga:
12 Shiv lingas are given a special place in Hindu religion. These are the 12 Jyotirlingas or lingas or light. Although they look like normal shivlingas to the naked eye, they are very special. The legend states that only those human beings who have attained enlightenment can see these lingas encased in a halo of light.
The mythological explanation for the presence of Jyotirlingas too is an interesting one. Some time in the distant past, Lord Vishnu, the Preserver of the Universe and Lord Bramha, the Creator of the world had a huge fight over who is 'greater'. When their ego war threaten to destroy the Universe, Shiva appeared in front of them as a gigantic haloed linga. They decided amongst themselves that whoever finds the end of the linga first would be declared the greatest.
Bramha transformed into a beautiful swan and flew upwards while Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug downwards. In the end, both were defeated. Then the centre of the linga burst open to Shiva in this ethereal form. That is when the duo realised their terrible mistake. The source of this myth is the 'Linga' Purana and there are many variations of the same story with minor alterations.
The Holiest Of Holi Temples:
12 very old Shiva temples are famed to house the great Jyotirlingas. But there is a lot debate over the composition of these 12 Shiva temples. This is the most agreed upon list.
Trimbakeshwar, Nasik in Maharashtra
Parli Vaidyanath in Maharashtra
Bhimashankar, Dakini in Maharashtra
Vishwanath temple, Kashi
Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain
Kedarnath temple, Himachal Pradesh
Vaidyanath, Deogarh in Bihar
Omkareshwar temple in Madhya Pradesh
Rameshwaram temple in Sethusamudram
Nageshwar in Darukavana
Mallikarjun in Srisailam
Each of these Shiva temples and the Jyotirlingas inside them have an interesting and unique story to tell. Would you like to know more about them?