Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra, India

Deities: Lord Shiva
Location: ½ km from Ellora Caves, Maharashtra
Built in: 18th Century
Built By: Queen Ahilyabai Holkar
Significance: Enshrines one of the twelve Jyotirlingas in India
Best time to visit: October to March
STD Code: 0240

Grishneshwar temple, built by Rani Ahillyabai Holkar (a Maratha princess) this important Hindu pilgrim place located in the village of Verul, near Ellora caves. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of India, where Lord Shiva is worshipped. It is the most superb example of medieval temple architecture. This Jyotirlinga is said to be self – oriented. It is the last Jyotirlinga without which the journey to the Jyotirlingas is considered incomplete. The temple walls are richly sculptured. Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, who ruled Indore from 1765 to 1795, built both the temple and its masonry tank.

Giant banyan trees, whose innumerable epiphytic roots possess an almost sculptural beauty, flank the road from Aurangabad to Ghrishneshwar. A little under an hour after we leave Aurangabad, the temple stands before us on a bowl of flat land fringed by ancient basaltic hills in the distance. Devotees duck under a low door in the boundary wall to enter the last among India’s revered Jyotirlinga shrines.

This Shiva temple is rich, with beautiful carvings and is a fine example of medieval architecture. The temple is made of spotted red sandstone. Decorative friezes and sculpture depict a pantheon of Indian gods including Brahma, Vishnu, Ganesh, the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, celestial beings, and even Maratha heroes.

The temple is managed by a trust. Arti (prayer) is carried out at dawn and dusk here, accompanied by drums and horns. Poor people are fed once a day. Sheds are provided along the wall for resting. Hundreds of devotees come here every day, while this number goes to thousands on Mondays. While entering the Gabhara (the chamber where Shiva Linga resides) men have to take off their tops.

The emergence of linga is explained in the Shivapurana. On a mountain named Devagiri, lived a Brahmin – Brahmavetta Sudharm along with his wife Sudeha, teaching Vedas. The couple did not have children because of which Sudeha was sad and would often pray for a child. After trying all the possible remedies she got her sister Ghushma married to her husband by force. She would serve Sudharm along with Ghushma her sister.

On advice by her sister Ghushma used to make 101 lingas and worship them. In the lake, near by, the Lingas were discharged. With Lord Shiva’s blessings she was blessed with a beautiful fortunate baby boy. Because of this, Ghushma became proud and Sudeha started feeling jealous towards her sister. Out of jealously, one night she killed Ghushma’s son and threw him in the lake where Ghushma used to discharge the lingas.

The next day Ghushma’s daughter-in-law saw stains of blood of her husband on the bed. She also noticed parts of the body drenched in blood and was horrified and came to her mother-in-law, crying and told her everything. Ghushma was absorbed in worshipping Shiva and did not deter. Even her husband Sudharma did not move an inch. When Ghushma saw the bed drenched in blood she did not break down, instead said, “He who has given me this child shall protect him”, and started chanting the name of Lord reciting Shiva continuously.

When she went to discharge the Shivalingas after prayers she saw her son coming. Seeing her son she was neither happy nor sad. Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before her and said – “I am pleased with your devotion. Your sister had killed your son”. Ghushma prostrated before Shiva and asked Him to forgive Sudeha and emancipate her. Lord Shiva asked her another boon. Ghushma said that if he was really happy with her devotion then he should reside there eternally for the benefit of the multitudes in form of a Jyotirlinga and may He be known by her name. On her sincere request He manifested in the form of a Jyotirlinga and assumed the name Ghushmeshwar. There are various versions of the name itself, such as Kusumeswara Jyotirlinga, Grushmeswara Jyotirlinga and Grishneswara Jyotirlinga.

Fine architecture and great artistry of stone carvers characterize this impressive structure. The Shivlinga resides inside the inner chamber of the temple. Outside this chamber a large statue of Nandi is present. Covering Nandi is the Sabha Mandap of the temple. It occupies the major portion of the temple and offers seats made from stone. Various tales can be seen carved on the pillars of the Sabha Mandap. These carvings feature fine details and notable artistic ability. The exterior walls of the temple are full of various carvings.

Several mythological tales are carved here. Amongst these the statues showing ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu stand out. The conical top of the temple, which was probably built later, also has carvings with fine details. The figures here are masterfully carved and possess very expressive gestures. The temple has a gilded crest made of copper. Resting inside a square shaped ground, having pavement and a surrounding stonewall, and the Ghrishneshwar temple is a fine example of ancient building work.

Devotees of Hindu rush to the place during Maha Shivratri to get blessings since it enshrines a jyotirlinga. The best time to visit Grishneshwar is during the Maha Shivratri.

Almost unceasingly various ceremonies are carried out from visiting devotees, a number of Pujaris (men of god, who say prayers for you) could be found at hand.

Other Attraction:
Aurangabad Caves
Bibi – Ka – Maqbara
Pan Chakki
Bani Begum Garden

How to reach:
by Air: The nearest airport is the Aurangabad airport, 10 kms from the city centre. Have a regular flight to/from Mumbai.
by Rail: The city is easily accessible by rail from major cities of the country. Regular trains are available on South Central Railway to reach Aurangabad.
by Road: Aurangabad can also be reached by well maintained roads. The distances of some of the major cities of the state from Aurangabad are given below.

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Omkareswar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh, India

Deities: Lord Shiva
Location: Omkareshwara, Madhya Pradesh
Famous for: One of the twelve jyotilinga of Lord Shiva
Best time to visit: July toMarch

Gods of all the Gods Lord Shiva’s Omkareshwar linga is situated on the mountain Mandhata.Shri Omkareshwar temple stands on a one mile long, half a mile wide island that has been formed by the fork of the Narmada.

The sacred island, shaped like the holiest of all Hindu symbols, `Om’, has drawn a hundred generations of pilgrims. The white dome of the temple is constructed of soft soap stone displaying intricate carvings on the upper portions and stone roof of the temple. Verandhas with columns which are carved in circles, polygons and squares encircle the shrine. The tower or Shikhar was built in Nagara style and consists of 5 layers, each representing a different deity.

Before entering the temple one has to pass through 2 rooms. The Omkareshwar is not affixed to the ground, but is naturally installed there. There is always water around it. The significance of this linga is that the linga is not situated below the cupola. The idol of Lord Shiva is situated on the top of the temple.

Situated on the banks of the Narmada, Omkareshwar is one of the 12 revered Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is located at a distance of about 12 miles from Mortakka in Madhya Pradesh. The river Narmada spits into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The shape of the island resembles that of the visual representation of the Omkara sound, Om. There are two temples here, one to Omkareshwar and one to Amareshwar.

Legend has it that the Vindhya mountain prayed to Shiva – Omkareshwara and was blessed here. Legend also has it that upon the request of the Devas, the Shivalinga split into two, one half being Omkareshwara and the other Amaleshwara or Amareshwar. King Mandhatha of the Ishvaku clan is believed to have worshiped Shiva here.

The name Omkareshwar derives from the word Om, which signifies the most sacred Hindu symbol. This island is shaped like the Om and is about 2km long and 1km wide. As you probably know by now, the lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva and there must be simply thousands of them in India. The jyotirlingam or the lingam of light, however, is special. It is believed to derive currents of power from within itself as opposed to an ordinary lingam which is ritually invested with mantra shakti (power invested by chants) by the priests.

Structure and Significance of Omkareshwar Temple
A special feature of the location of Omkareshwar Temple is that the river Narmada branches into two and forms an island Mandhata or Shivapuri in the center. The Omkareshawar temple is built in the North Indian style of architecture, with high spires. Devotees consider worship to Panchamuga Ganesha, to be very auspicious.

The Omkareshwar Temple is built in the Nagara style and is characterized by a lofty shikhara. There are also shrines to Annapurna and Ganesha here. The Omkareshwar is not affixed to the ground but is naturally installed there. There is always water around it. The significance of this linga is that the linga is not situated below the cupola. The idol of Lord Shiva is situated on the top of the temple.

Other Attraction:
Despite the damage done by Muslim invaders in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni (11th century), there are still many temples on this island, both Hindu and Jain. You can spot a huge Nandi Bull (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) carved in the hillside opposite the temple to Gauri Somnath at the western end of the island. Don’t miss the 24 Avatars, a group of Hindu and Jain temples, the 10th century Satmatrika Temples (6km) and the Kajal Rani Cave (9km), a lovely picnic spot with a great view and Shri Omkar Mandhata, Siddhnath Temple, 24 Avatars, Satmatrika Temples, Kajal Rani Cave.

The Temple can be reached by ferry from the banks of the river. A huge fair is organised here on the day of Kartik Poornima.

How to reach:
By Air: Nearest airport is at Indore which is around 77 km away from here. You can take a bus or hire a cab to get here in around 2 hrs.
By Rail: Omkareshwar railhead is the nearest station from here at a distance of 12 km,hiring a taxi is the best way of commuting from station to the Omkareshwar city center.
By Road: There are regular buses in and out of Omkareshwar to all major cities of Madhya Pradesh.

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Baijnath Mandir, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, IN

Deities: Lord Shiva
Location: At a distance of 16 km from Palampur in the Beas valley, Himachal Pradesh
Built by: Ahuka and Manyuka
Built in: 1204 A.D
Significance: Water of this temple has medicinal properties.

Baijnath Temple is a revered shrine of Himachal Pradesh. Baijnath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to the inscriptions on the walls, Baijnath Mandir was built by the two native merchants by the name of Ahuka and Manyuka in 1204 A.D. In the porch of the temple, the two long inscriptions state that before the present temple, there was a shrine of Lord Shiva at the same spot.

The structure of this temple gives the hints of the early medieval North Indian style of architecture. This type of structure used to be known as ‘Nagara’ style of temple. The architectural style has been imbibed from Orissan style, which is very much unique in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The exterior walls of the temple have numerous alcoves with images of gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon.In order to enter the temple, one has to cross the vestibule that has a large ‘Mandap’ in the centre and two huge balconies on either side. The temple has fortifications, leaving space for two entrances in the north and the south. Just before the Mandapam, there is small porch placed on four columns. Here, a huge image of Nandi (the bull of Lord Shiva) is placed. The door leading to the sanctum is speckled with many images of artistic nature.

Lord Shiva is commemorated here as Vaidyanath (the Lord of Physician) and is placed in the form of ‘Lingam’ (phallic form of Lord Shiva). The main sanctum comprises five projections on every side and a tall curved Shikhar (spire). The history of Baijnath temple is inscribed on the stone slabs inside the complex. As per the beliefs, Ravana (King of Lanka) had worshipped Lord Shiva in this temple.

According to the legend, it is believed that during the Treta Yuga, Ravana in order to have invincible powers worshiped Lord Shiva in the Kailash. In the same process, to please the almighty he offered his ten heads in the Havan Kund. Influenced by this extra ordinary deed of the Ravana, the Lord Shiva not only restored his heads but also bestowed him with powers of invincibility and immortality.

On attaining this incomparable boon, Ravana also requested the Lord Shiva to accompany him to Lanka. Shiva consented to the request of Ravana and converted himself into ling. The Lord Shiva asked him to carry the ling and told him that he should not place the ling down on the ground on his way. Ravana started moving in south direction and reached Baijnath where he felt the need to answer the nature’s call. On seeing a shepherd, Ravana handed over the ling to him and went away to get himself relieved. On finding the linga very heavy, shepherd kept the ling on the ground and the ling got established there and the same is in the form of Ardhnarishwar.

In the town of Baijnath, Dusshera festival in which traditionally the effigy of the Ravana is consigned to flames is not celebrated as a mark of respect to the devotion of Ravana towards Lord Shiva. Another interesting thing about the town of Baijnath is that there is no shop of goldsmiths.

The water of this temple is believed to contain medicinal properties, which can cure diseases of people. Due to this reason too, Baijnath Temple receives thousands of people every year. Shivaratri is the major festival that is observed at this temple with full gusto and fervour. Devotees visit the temple during this time to seek the blessings from the God.

Besides the shrine of Lord Shiva, there are many other small shrines dedicated to Gods and Goddesses. In the early 20th century, the temple was suffered from an earthquake. Raja Sansar Chand made an effort to renovate the temple after the calamity. The temple complex acquires lush green gardens, which makes a perfect foreground to the ancient and unique structure of this temple. Baijnath temple is considered as a part of Indian Heritage, so security arrangements are made here to avoid any unwanted element.

How to reach:
One can easily reach Baijnath Temple by taking regular Buses or by hiring taxis from anywhere in Himachal Pradesh.

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Sri Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh, India

Deities: Mallikarjuna (Shiva)
Location: Srisailam, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh
Best time to visit: All year around
Festival & Event: Mahashivaratri

“Jay Mallikarjuna! Jay Mallikarjuna”

Srisailam is located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. This whole area is full of forests of Kadali, Bilva trees, mountain ranges and Patalaganga (Krishnaveni river). All of them echo from these joyous voices of devotees.

When Kumar Kartikeya returned to Kailash after completing his trip around the earth, he heard about Ganesha’s marriage from Narada. This angered him. In spite of being restrained by his parents, he touched their feet in obeisance and left for Krounch Mountain. Parvati was very distraught at having to be away from her son, implored Lord Shiva to look for their son. Together, they went to Kumara. But, Kumara went away a further three Yojanas, after learning about his parents coming after him to Krouncha Mountain. Before embarking on a further search for their son on each mountain, they decided to leave a light on every mountain they visited. From that day, that place came to be known as JyotirLinga Mallikarjuna. It is believed that Shiva and Parvati visit this place on Amavasya (No moon day) and Poornima (full Moon day) respectively. Visiting this JyotirLinag not only blesses one with innumerable wealth, but also name and fame and fulfils all the desires.

Once, a princess named Chandravati decided to go to the Jungles to do penance and meditation. She chose Kadali Vana for this purpose. One day, she witnessed a miracle. A Kapila cow was standing under a Bilwa tree and milk was flowing from all of its four udders, sinking into the ground. The cow kept doing this as a routine chore everyday. Chandravati dug up that area and was dumb founded at what she saw. There was a self-raising Swyambhu Shivalinga. It was bright and shining like the sun rays, and looked like it was burning, throwing flames in all directions. Chandravati prayed to Siva in this JyotirLinga. She built a huge Shiva Temple there. Lord Shankara was very pleased with her. Chandravati went to Kailash wind borne. She received salvation and Mukti. On one of the stone-inscriptions of the temple, Chandravati’s story can be seen carved out.

Location and Development:
Shaila Mallikarjuna’s holy place is located on the banks of River Krishna. Here River Krishna is in the form of Patalaganga (underground spring). Lakhs of devotees take a holy dip here and then go for the Darshan of the JyotirLinga.

During the Karnataka Movement, Chatrapati Shivaji used to come to take a Darshan of the JyotirLinga during the Maharatri. He built a tower on the right side of the Temple and also opened a free-meal center.

The kings of the Vijaya Nagar Dynasty too built a Temple, Tower, Portico and a pond. Ahelyadevi Holkar, a great devotee of Siva built a strong bathing wharf consisting of 852 steps on the banks of the Patalganga.

Earlier, this part of the Shaila mountains was an unreachable tough terrain and fraught with danger. Even then, devotees, with their sheer will power, used to reach there in large numbers. Hiranyakashipa, Narada, Pandavas, Shri Ram are some of the great mythological personalities who have visited this holy shrine.

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