A Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam, is a devotional representation of the Supreme God Shiva. Jyoti means "radiance" and lingam the "Image or Sign" of Shiva; Jyotir Lingam thus means the Radiant Sign of The Almighty Shiva. There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India.
According to Siva Mahapura?a, once Brahma (the god of creation) and Vishnu (the form of God during Preservation) had an argument over supremacy of creation. To settle the debate, Supreme God Shiva pierced the three worlds appearing as a huge Infinite Pillar of Light, the Jyotirlinga which later cooled into the Holy Mountain Annamalai (on which the Temple of Arunachaleshvara is located). Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either direction. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. This lie of Brahma angered Shiva making him curse Brahma that even though he is the creator of the universe he would not be worshipped. The jyotirlinga is the Supreme Siva, partless reality, out of which Shiva appeared in another Form, Lingodbhava. The jyothirlinga shrines are Temples 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, symbolising the infinite nature of Shiva.
The Twelve Jyothirlinga are
- Somnath in Gir Somnath, Gujarat
- Mallikarjuna in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
- Mahakaleswar in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
- Omkareshwar in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
- Kedarnath in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand
- Bhimashankar in Maharashtra
- Vishwanath in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra
- Vaidyanath in Deoghar, Jharkhand
- Nageshvara in Dwarka, Gujarat
- Ramanathaswamy in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
- Grishneshwar in Aurangabad, Maharashtra