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According to Shiv purana, Lord Shiva appeared for the first time in front of Lord Vishnu and Brahma in from of a fiery column, when the latter two were fighting for their supremacy.
Vishnu took the form of a boar while Brahma took the form of a bird and both of them searched for the two ends for eons, but were unable to find so. They then accepted His supremacy and Shiva appeared in his normal form.
The puranans also state that Shiva left 12 Jyotir lingas on earth. One who is spiritually attained, can see a column of light emancipating from these lingas going to heaven. For lesser mortals, it gives us great virtues by visiting and worshiping them, washing our sins, and helping us to escape the cycle of rebirth. Even by chanting the names of the 12 Jyotir lingams, we can attain powers of nirvana and wash away our sins.
However, due to the long course of time, and lack of proper documentation, some of the Jyotir lingas are is dispute, that is to say, more than one location claim for a particular yotir ling location.
As a pious Hindu, to be on the same side, it is prudent to complete pilgrimage of all the locations, disputed or undisputed.
It is difficult in modern life to complete all the destination at one journey. It would be prudent to break up the journey in parts.
Here we are listing the Jyotir lingams, disputed and undisputed, by proximity. Visit each of the links, study, and make your travel plans:
This state has 4 Jyotirlingas, 3 of which are undisputed. The neighboring states that has Jyotiringas are Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Read on:
BhimaShankar: Close to Pune, this is located in the serene reserve forests of Bhima Shankar. One should make Pune their base to visit Bhimashamkar. Click here to plan your journey
Vaijnath temple, Parli: Though this is disputed with Baidyanath of Jharkhand and Baijnath of Himachal, a lot many believes it to be one of th true twelve. Visit this link to plan out how to visit this temple http://www.indiatravelcompanion.com/maharashtra/parli-vaijnath
Trayambakeswar . This is near Nasik, and it is also famous for cleaning the sarpa dosh found in horoscopes of many. One would need to create base a Nashik to visit the temple. Click here to visit our Nashik page. It is also spelled as Trimbakeshwar or Trambakeshwar nad is lovingly called Kashi of West.
Grishneshwar : This is situated in the Ellora district and a visit here is always combines with the visit to Ellora abd Ajanta caves. Aurangabad serves as a good base. Check out our Ellora page for details on visit. http://www.indiatravelcompanion.com/maharashtra/ellora-caves
Nageshvara : Gujarat has two Yotirlings of which one is disputed. The Nageshwara temple as a yotirlingam temple is disputed and most identify the 'Jageswara' temple in Almora, Uttarkhand as Nageshvara Jyotirlinga
Never-the-less, you can click here to plan your visit to Nageshwar, Dwarka by clicking here.
Somnath: The supreme Somnath temple, ancient and undisputed, is situated at Somnath, Gujarat. Click here to know about one of richest and most looted temple of India, and a prime Yotirlingam. It also house the biggest lingam. http://www.indiatravelcompanion.com/gujarat/somnath
Madhya pradesh has its fair share of yotir lingams too, counting to two. They are:
Mahakaleshwar temple, near Ujjain or Audh, is a prime Jyotirlingam, and one needs to base a Ujjain for the same. It is unique for it is believed tht the lingam here has been created by its own self. 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). Shakti peeta and Jyotirlingam are together here, giving it the most powerful divinity
Click here for our Ujjain page http://www.indiatravelcompanion.com/madhya_pradesh/ujjain
Omkareshwar at Mamaleshwar temple : Situated beside the Narmada river, this lingam is on two parts. One half is called Omkareshwara and the other Mamaleshwar
Click here for travel directions ot Omkareshwar http://www.indiatravelcompanion.com/madhya_pradesh/omkareshwar
Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi
One of the most well known Shiva temples of India, this is an undisputed of the 12. Varanasi is also world's oldest living city, and a hub of Hinduism. The temple is bang in the middle of the city. Click here to know more about Varanasi or Benaras and the temple.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kedarnath: The most revered and most remote, it is open for only about half of the year, the rest of the period being inaacssible due to snow. Visiting Kedarnath requires trekking or travelling by pony. It is also a trekker's delight. Click here to know about the Kedarnath journey
Jageswara temple in Almora: Though some dispute it to the Nageshwar temple of Dwarka, most believe this to the Yotirlingam, owing to the descriptive texts found in puranas that it is situated amongst Daruvana, or forests of Daru trees, found only here. The location is beautiful and heavenly, abounding natural Himalayan beauty. Click here for a complete travel guide and directions.
Baijnath temple,Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh
It is a 1000 year old temple, nestled in the picturesque hills of Baijnath. The place boasts of tranquality and serinity. Some dispute her Yotirlingam with Baidyanath dham and Vaijnath of Parli. Which is true is difficult to decide, but a visit is always recommended. Click here for travel guide to this place of Himachal.
Vaidyanath Dham, Jharkhand: As mentioned earlier, this is disputed, but the majority believes it to be a true Yotirling. As the revered Adi Shankara puts it
Poorvo thare prajwalika nidhane
sada vasantham girija sametham
sura suraradhitha padapadmam
sri vaidyanatham thamaham namami
This states that Vaidyanath jyotirlinga is located at Prajwalika nidhanam (meaning funeral place i.e., chithabhoomi) in the North-Eastern part of the country. Deoghar is far located in east compared to Parli which is in west central part of the country. Also Chidabhoomi indicates that, in olden days, this was a funeral place, where corpses are burnt and post-death ceremonies were performed. This place could have been a centre of tantric cults like Kapalika/Bhairava whereLord Shiva is worshipped significantly as smasan vasin (meaning, residing in crematorium), sava bhasma bhushita (meaning, smearing body with ashes of burnt bodies).
Interestingly, the same shrine of Vaidyanath is considered as on of 51 Shakti Peethas, where 'yoni peetham' of jyotirlinga itself is considered as the Shakti Peetha
Deoghar is the place for Baidyanath dham, click here for travel information to Deoghar
SriShailam Mallikarjuna: Situated on a mountain on the river Krishna, it is fondly called the Kashi Vishwanath of South India. It is a beautiful temple, with an undisputed Yotir lingam. Click here for travel information to this place.
Rameshwaram. Situated in southernmost India it is home to the spraling Ramalingeswarar Jyotirlinga temple. There are a lot of other religious tourist destinations too, in the area. Click here for a travel guide of the area