Dwadasha Jyotirlingam

1. Somnath Jyotir Lingam

Somnath-Jyotir-LingamThe temple of Somnath, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva is situated 79 Kms. from Junagadh and 25 Kms. from Chorwad. According to the legend, Somnath is as old as creation, built by none other than the Moon God himself. This pilgrimage is one of the oldest and find its reference in the ancient texts like Skandpuran, Shreemad Bhagvat, Shivpuran etc. The remains of the temple of Somanath “withstood the shocks of time and survived the attacks of destroyers. The temple has imposing architecture and is a beautiful sight facing the blue expanse of the Arabian Sea.

Prajapati by the blessings of Bhagvan Somnath. This is the first among the twelve holy Shiv Jyotirlings. It has withstood the six repeated desecration by the Muslim invadors. The very existance of this temple is symbole of reconstructive spirit and cultural unity of our society. The seventh existing temple is built in the Kailas Mahameru Prasad style. The Iron man of India Sardar Shri Vallabhbhai Patel is the pioneer of the existing temple. The temple is consisting of Garbhgruh, Sabhamandap and Nrityamandap with a 150 feet high Shikhar. The Kalash at the top of the Shikhar weighs 10 tons and the Dhwajdand is 27 feet tall and 1 foot in circumference. The Abadhit Samudra Marg Tirsthambh indicates the unobstructed sea route to the south pole. This is a wonderful indicator of the ancient Indian wisdom of geography and strategic location of the Jyotirling.

This is the Hari Har Tirthdham. This is the holy place of Bhagvan Shri Krishna’s Neejdham Prasthan Leela. The place where Bhagvan Shri Krishna was hit by an arrow of a poacher is known as Bhalka Tirth. After being hit by the arrow, Bhagvan Shri Krishna arrived at the holy confluence of Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati and their Sangam with the ocean. He performed his divine Neejdham Prasthan Leela at the sacred and peaceful banks of river Hiran. The Geetamandir is built here where the divine message of Shrimad Bhagvat Geeta is carved on eighteen marble pillars. Shri Lakshminarayan Mandir is closeby. The Balramjiki Gufa is the place from where Bhagwan Shrikrishna’s elder brother Balaramji took journey to his nijdham-patal. We have the Parshuram Tapobhumi here, where Bhagvan Parshuramji carried out penance and he was relieved from the sin of Kshatriya killings. The Pandavas have said to have visited this place and taken holy bath in the Jalprabhas and built five Shiv temples.

Somnath The temple is dedicated to Someshwara, the Lord Shiva, with moon on his head. In its external design the Somnath temple compares well with the temple of Rudramala at Siddhapur and is more or less of the same size in length. The dome, however, is as large as any other built in this period. The temple faces to east and once had an enormous central hall with three entrances, each protected by a lofty porch. The fragments that lie scattered at a short distance from the site give some idea of the sculpture decorating the temple. The richly carved doorways, the sculptured representations of Nandi, Sivas bull, and the figures of goddesses and their female attendants must once have presented a grand ensemble of great beauty. In the recesses of the balconied corridor, there is a mutilated form of Nataraja, the dancing Shiva. Although essentially a Brahmanical temple, the influence of Jain architecture is clearly discernible.

OTHER SACRED PLACES

BHALKA TEERTH

This sacred teerth is located 5 km on Prabhas Veraval highway. Bhagwan Shree Krishna was hit with the arrow of the poacher named Jara at this spot. Bhagwan Shree Krishna was resting in meditation under a pippal tree when the poacher misread the foot of Bhagwan Shree Krishna as a deer and hit from a distance. Bhagwan generously pardoned the poacher and blessed him. This divined leela of Bhagwan Shree Krishna is immortalised by a beautiful temple and an ancient pippal tree. The spot is under development with the assistance of the Central Government. Bhagwan Shree Krishana then walked a small distance and arrived at the holy banks of river Hiran from where he took his last journey to his Neejdham.

SHREE KRISHNA NEEJDHAM PRASTHAN TEERTH (DEHOTSARG TEERTH)

This teerth is located on the banks of Hiran at a distance of 1.5km from Somnath temple. Bhagwan Shree Krishna took his divine journey to Neejdham from this sacred soil. Rich accounts of the divined Shree Krishna Neejdham Prasthan Leela are maintained by the authentic traditions of Mahabhart, Shrimad Bhagwat, Vishnu Puran etc. Swami Shri Gjananand Saraswatiji has critically examined the aforesaid classical indian traditions and suggested the time of Neejdham Prasthan. He suggested that Shre Krishna departed on the first day of bright fortnight of Chaitra month (which correspondes with 18th February of English calendar)in the year 3102 B.C. at 2:27:30 hours. The footprint of Bhagwan Shree Krishna is carved here to mark the divine memory of Shree Krishna Neejdham Prasthan Leela. Baldevji, the elder brother of Shree Krishna also took his last journey from here in his original serpent form. This is marked by an ancient holy cave called “Dauji-ni Gufa” .

SHREE PRABHAS TEERTH

The Gitamandir and Laxminarayan mandir are located in Dehotsarg campus. The divine massage of Bhagwan Shree Krishna in form of Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta is carved here on eighteen marble pillars. Laxminarayan Mandir houses divine shreevigraha of Bhagwan Laxminarayan.

SHREE PARSHURAM TEMPLE

This is a sacred spot at the holy banks of Triveni where Bhagwan Parshuram conducted his long penance and he was relieved from the curse of Kshatriya killings by Bhagwan Somnath. Divine leela Parshuram is perpetnated here by a beautiful Parshuram Temple and two ancient kunds.

TREEVENI SANGAM SNANGHAT

The holy confluence of three river Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati and their sangam with ocean is very sacred moksha tirtha for Hindus. The bathing facilities are being renovated by Shree Somnath Trust with the assistance of State Government in the fond memory of Shree Morarjibhai Desai, the Ex-Prime Minister and Chairman of Shree Somnath Trust.

SHREE SHASHIBHUSHAN MAHADEV & BHIDBHANJAN GANAPATIJI

The holy temple of Shashibhushan is located at a distance of 4 km on the Somnath-Veraval highway with a beautiful sea-shore. The Jara poacher is said to have taken aim from this spot while hitting an arrow towards Bhagwan Shree Krishna. The ancient Somnath Poojacharya Shri Bhav Brihaspati is said to have built this temple. Bhagwan Shashibhushan with Bhidbhanjan (Saviour form of) Ganesh is worshipped here with traditional spiritual traditions.

SHREE VENESHWAR MAHADEV TEMPLE

The Rajputa “Vaja”clan was in charge of Somnath during the Muslim desecrations. The devotional episode of the princess “Veni” is depicted in the novel by Shri K.M.Munshi. The temple was outside of the fort wall of Prabhaspatan at the time of holy war with Gazani.The soldiers of Gazani attempted an abduction of “Veni” who regularly visited the temple to offer her services to Shiva. The traditions maintain that the Shivling was sportaneously got divided and the princess got burried into it. The Shiv temple here is knows as “Veneshwar” temple after the fond memory of divine episode of Veni.

 

2. Srisailam Jyotir Lingam

Srisailam-Jyotirlinga

Srisailam is located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Located 210 kms from Hyderbad. The shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna situated picturesqely on a flat top of Nallamalai Hills, Srisailam is reputed to be one of the most ancient Kshetras in India. The presiding deities of this ksheteam Lord Mallikarjuna Swamy is one of the twelve Jyothirlingas and Goddess Bhramaramba Devi is one of the eighteen Maha Sakthi’s and both are self manifested.

The hill temple looks like a large fort and is known for its wealth of sculptures. The temple is situated facing East. The centre mandapam has sveral pillars, with a huge idol of Nadikeswarar. There are rows of sculptures on the walls, giving one the impression of a gallery. Then there are a large number of bass reliefs, which are a symbolic representation of the various legends. A sculpture of sage Bringi standing on three legs is noteworthy. The sage was cursed by Goddess Parvathi to become a skeleton because he was worshipping only Shiva. The Lord pacified Parvathi and gave the sage one more leg to stand.

Early inscriptions speak of how rulers of different dynasties like the Satavahanas, Vakatakas, Kakatiyas and Vijayanagar rulers were ardent devotees of Lord Mallikarjuna and enriched the shrine in terms of construction and other gifts. In later years, Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji is known to have constructed a gopuram of the shrine.

The sanctum enshrining Lord Mallikarjuna is a shell-like structure. The Mukhamandapa is a well-sculptured pillared hall in Vijayanagar style. Nandi, Shiva’s mount, is enshrined in a separate mandapa. There are smaller shrines for Nataraja and Sahasra Linga. The Sahasra Linga is an interesting aspect . The main Linga is divided into 25 facets, each of them again representing 40 Lingas, making a total of 1,000 Lingas. A three-hooded cobra is carved as entwined round the Linga. Another Linga of Mallikarjuna under a Vata vriksha (tree) is considered the original Linga.

Slightly away from these shrines is the sanctum of Goddess Bhramarambika, the consort of Mallikarjuna. The Goddess is believed to have assumed the form of a bee and worshipped Shiva here. Adi Shankara had visited the temple and sung in praise of Lord Mallikarjuna in his famous hymn Shivananda Lahari and of the Goddess in Bhramarambika Ashtakam.

PLACES OF INTEREST
THE PANCHAMATHAMS : These are popular as the Panchamathas namely Ghantha Matham, Bheemasankara Matham, Vibhoothi Matham, Rudraksha Matham and Sarangadhara Matham.

SIKHARAM: This most sacred spot is located at about 8 Km from the main temple at a height of 2830 feet above the mean sea level. It is the highest peak of Srisailam Hills. The Skanda Purana proclains that a mere glance of this Sikharam frees the human soul from the fitters of rebirth. (Srisaila Sikharam Drustva Punarjanma Na Vidyathe). The Sikhareswaram temple is an ancient stone structure consisting of Garbhagriha, Antaralaya and 16 pillered Mukhamanda. The deity here is named as Veera Sankara Swamy and locally popularized as Sikhareswara Swamy.

HATAKESWARAM: This picturesque spot is on the way to Srisailam of about 5 Km away in a serine atmosphere. Tradition hopes that at this place God Siva appeared to a potter devotee in Atika (Piece of Pot) and hence named as Atikeswaram and later it became as Hatakeswaram. Another tradition gives the name to this place from a particular yogic school known as Hatayoga, one of the form of Astangayogas (the eight yogas). Some historians located a laboratory of Akhemy (Rasayoga) at this place during medieval times. The present temple dedicated to Hatakeswara Swamy is stone structure datable to 11th – 13th century A.D. and is consists of a Garbhagriha and opened pillered Mukhamandapa.

PHALADHARA – PANCHADHARA: This most beautiful scene spot in surroundings of Srisailam is located about 4 Km from the main temple. Tradition records that Bhagavan Adisankara performed penance at this place and composed the famous Sivanandalahari here. His Holiness Kanchi Paramacharya confirmed this and marble statues of Sarada Devi and Sankaracharya installed there. According to local folk these streams are known as Phaladhara Panchadhara and these two signify their origin from the fore head of God Siva the Phaladhara (Phala = fore head, dhara = Stream) and denote the five aspects of Siva, the Panchadhara (Pancha = five, dhara = Stream). The water from this stream flows in interrupted at all seasons. The Skanda Purana describes the flow as ‘Bhogavathi’ and it joins in the river Krishna.

SAKSHI GANAPATHI: This small shrine located about 3 Kms from Srisailam and is one of the sacred spots frequented by pilgrims since times immemorial. The traditional belief is that the Ganapathi in this temple keeps regular account of all the pilgrims to tender ‘Sakshyam’ (evidence) of their visit to this Kshetram and so named as Sakshi Ganapathi. The sculpture of this deity is exquisitely made holding a book in the left hand and a pen in the right hand in such a way as noting down the names of devotees. It is in practice that devotees during their return had the darshan of this Ganapathi and informed their name and gotra to him. Srinatha the renowed poet of 14th Century A.D. in his Kasikhandam states that this Sakshi Ganapathi is visualized by sage Agasthya during his pilgrimage to Srisailam.

KAILASADWARAM : Kailasadwaram is about 5 K.M from Srisailam to the South-West of Hatakeswaram which is the dwaram (entrance) of path-way leading to Srisailam. In present days also people of Karnataka and Maharastra and Sivadeeksha Devotees are reached Srisailam on foot through this Kailasadwaram.

BHEEMUNI KOLANU: This is one of the most important and historical spot through which the ancient foot path of Srisailam from the southern and western sides pass. Located between two steep hills this rock ledge endowed with spectacular water falls, particularly in rainy. It is at an attitude of 585 meters above the Sea level at attitude of 160031 north and longitude of 780511 east. Traditionally this place is said to have acquired its name through an epic episode. During the exile of Pandavas, Bheema while passing through this place was said to have broken the sheet rock with his mace and brought this spring water, and hence its name Bheemunikolanu (Kolanu = Pond). Pleased by this flow of water Bheema is said to have consecrated a Sivalinga at this place which was later referred to the Srisaila Khanda of Skanda Purana as Bheema Linga and the Spring as Bheema Kunda.

THE TEMPLE OF ISTAKAMESWARI : The ancient temple of Istakameswari is located in a dense and picturesque forest environment about 21 Km to the east of Srisailam. Datable to the 8th – 9th Centuries A.D, this small shrine appears to have wide popular significance during medieval times. The sculpture of the deity is very unique and have no parallel anywhere in India. The Goddess has a serene and beautiful smiling face which at once captures the attention of one and all.

AKKAMAHADEVI CAVES : The Nallamalai Hill ranges are studded with innumerable natural caves and caverns which were known to human beings since the prehistoric times, some of them became more famous and played a role in the significance of Srisailam. One such among them is the Akkamahadevi Caves. This naturally formed cave just above the flow of the river Krishna upstream is of about at a distance of 10 Km from Srisailam.

KADALIVANAM : This spiritually and historically famous sacred spot is endowed with many exclusive and interesting features. There is a huge cave like natural rock shelter which can accommodate nearly 500 persons comfortably at a time. Near the rock shelter flows a perennial stream close to which evidences of prehistoric man in the form of stone tools were discovered. The place derived its name dell to wild plantain grooves. This excellent spot is considered to be extremely sacred by devotees. The people of Karnataka and Maharastra make it a point of visit in their pilgrimage of Srisailam. It is said that Bhagavan Dattatreya and his other incarnations is believed to have dwelling at this place. Akkamahadevi is said to have breathend her last at this place. After reaching to Akkamaha Devi caves through A.P. Tourism Motor Boat and there on there is a foot path to reach the said place.

NAGALOOTY : Nagalooty, where a complex of temples are located is of about 28 Km from Srisailam. In historical inscriptions of medieval period, this place is referred as ‘Longalooty’. It is the place from which the ancient foot path to Srisailam begins and is the most popular route to Srisailam as it connects the region of Karnataka, the strong hold of Veerasaiva Cult. Pilgrims from south and western sides to Srisailam, particularly Kannada people use this pathway even today. Located in a dense forest setting Nagalooty stands as a testimony to the ravages of time and man. Many dilapidated temples, Gopuras, Pushkarinis, and broken idols speaks about it’s once glorious past. On architectural grounds and iconographical features the temple and sculpture of this place can be dated to a period between 13th – 15th Centuries.

BHRAMARAMBA CHERUVU : This place is of about 70 Km from Srisailam and located in the ancient northern pathway to Srisailam from Umamaheswaram. This place houses one of the most beautiful man made huge water storage tank amidst wild and beautiful forest environment. The tank appears to have been enlarged and renovated in 16th Century A.D. the historical remains at this place consist of a temple dedicated to Siva, Devi Shrine, and a hero stone. The temples of this place have a huge compound wall probably constructed in 16th – 17th Centuries A.D. Those who are interested in observing the ethnographic present can not miss the place where a small group of Chenchus, the local tribal still leading a primitive way of life.

SARVESWARAM : Variously known as Saleswaram and Saileswaram this place is one of the sacret spots of Nallamalais, nearly of about 90 Km from Srisailam. This place is popular not only in folk tradition but also in the puranic lore also. The Sriparvatha Purana, a celebrated literary work of Seshanatha in 16th Century about Srisailam speaks glorifyingly with regard to this place. It is endowed with a cave temple dedicated to God Siva and two ponds named as Sarvesa theertham and Pushkara theertham. This temple seems to be datable to 6th – 7th Centuries A.D., and constructed within the shallow cave with bricks and mortor. Infront of the temple there is a huge water fall from a height of about 200 meters cascade down the hill holding the visitor spellbound with its raw beauty. This place is the most beautiful one which has natural picturesque locales and it is a sight to be seen.

GUPTHA MALLIKARJUNAM: This place known to the local folk as ‘Loddi’ is one of the most beautiful picturesque and treacherous spot which gives immorable pleasant and happiness at the sight of tremendous water fall located there. It is of about 36 Km from Srisailam. The sacred complex of Srisailam during medieval times provided shelter to many secret saivaite sects who performed their ritual acts in such inaccessible spots such as this. Hence such places derived the name such as ‘Guptha’ meaning secret. This place contain a small shrine of Siva in a shallow cave along with a broken idol of Ganapathi. The Srisaila Khanda of Skanda Purana speaks about this place and named it as Guptha Mallikarjunam. It is said that by mere seeing this place one can get free off from his sins.

GATEWAYSTradition, literature as well as epigraphical sources states that the sacred Hill of Srisailam has four GATE WAYS in the four cardinal directions

Tripuranthakam:
in Prakasam District in the East where God Tripuranthakeswara Swamy and Goddess Tripurasundari Devi are Presiding Deities.

Siddhavatam : on the bank of the river Penna in Kadapa District in the south where Jyothisideswara Swamy and Goddess Kamakshi Devi are the presiding Deities.

Alampur: on the bank of the river Tungabhadra in Mahaboobnagar District in the west where Navabrahma Alayas – A group of nine temples of Chalukya period are situated. This Kshetram is also the seat of Goddess Jogulamba, the one of the Eighteen Mahasakthis.

Umamaheswaram:of Mahaboobnagar District in the North where God Umamaheswara Swamy and Goddess Umamaheswari Devi are the presiding deities.

SECONDARY GATE WAYS
Beside the main gateways four more Secondary Gateways in the four corner directions are also popularly known.

Eleswaram:
in Mahaboobnagar District now submerged in the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam in the North – East with Eleswara Swamy and Katyani as presiding Deities.

Somasila: on the bank of the river Penna in South – East with Skanda Someswara as the presiding Deity.

Pushpagiri: in Kadapa District in the South-West with Santhana Malleswara as Presiding Deity.

Sangameswaram: at the confluence of the River Krishna and Tungabhadra in Kurnool District on the North-West and submerged at Srisailam Dam with Sangameswara as presiding Deity. This temple has been re-built at Alampur.

3. Ujjain Mahakaleswar Jyotir Lingam

PLACES OF INTEREST

Ujjain-Mahakaleshwar-JyotirLingam

Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir:

This temple situated above the tank near the Mahakaleshwar temple, enshrines a huge artistic sculpture of Ganesh, the son of Shiva. The middle of the temple is adorned by an idol of the pancha-mukhi (five faced) Hanuman. There is provision for learning of Sanskrit and Astrology in the temple.

Chintaman Ganesh: The temple is built across the Shipra on the Fatehabad railway line. The Ganesh idol enshrined here is supposed to be swayambhu. The temple itself is believed to be of considerable antiquity. Riddhi and Siddhi, the consorts of Ganesha, are seated on either side of Ganesha. The artistically carved pillars in the assembly hall date back to the Paramara period. Worshippers throng to this temple because the deity here is traditionally known as Chintaharan Ganesh meaning “the assurer of freedom from worldly anxieties”.

Pir Matsyendranath: This is an extremely attractive spot on the banks of the Shipra quite close to the Bhartihari Caves and the Gadkalika Temple. It is dedicated to the memory of one of the great leaders of the Natha sect of Saivism-Matsyendranath. Since muslims as well as the followers of the Natha sect call their saints ‘pir’, the ancient site of Pir Matsyendranath is venerated by both. Excavations at this site have yielded some antiquities which date back to the 6th and 7th century BC.

Bhartrihari Caves: These caves are situated just above the bank of the Shipra near the temple of Gadkalika. According to popular tradition, this is the spot where Bhartrihari, who is said to have been the step brother of Vikramaditya, lived and meditated after renouncing worldly life. He is believed to have been a great scholar and poet. His famous works, Shringarshatak, Vairagyashatak, and Nitishatak, are known for the exquisite use of the Sanskrit meter.

Kaliadeh Palace: Situated on the banks of the Shipra, the island-like site immediately conjures up the natural beauty of ancient Ujjain which poets down the ages have waxed lyrical. The glorious landscape of the flowing river on both sides of the palace and the man-made tanks and channels, with water gurgling through them, provide a spectacular backdrop to the imposing building.

Durgadas Ki Chhatri: This distinctive monument glows like a small jewel in the surrounding lush landscape. Vir Durgadas earned a secure niche for himself in the history of Marwad by his undaunting, selfless service to the State. He fought for the independence of Jodhpur after the death of Maharaj Jaswant Singh and helped Ajit Singh to ascend the throne against the wishes of Aurangzeb.

Harsiddhi Temple: This temple occupies a special place in the galaxy of ancient sacred spots of Ujjain. Seated between the idols of Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati, the idol of Annapurna is painted in dark vermilion colour. The Sri Yantra, the symbol of power or shakti, is also enshrined in the temple. According to the Shiva Purana, when Shiva carried away the burning body of Sati from the sacrificial fire, her elbow dropped at this place. There is an interesting legend in the Skanda Purana about the manner in which the Goddess Chandi acquired the epithet of Harsiddhi. Once when Shiva and Parvati were alone on Mount Kailash, two demons called Chand and Prachand tried to force their way in. Shiva called upon Chandi to destroy them which she did. Pleased, Shiva bestowed upon her the epithet of ‘one who vanquishes all’.

Siddhavat: This enormous banyan tree on the banks of the Shipra, has been vested with religious sanctity as the Akashyavat in Prayag and Gaya, Vanshivat of Vrindavan and the Panchavata of Nasik. Thousands of pilgrims take a dip in the Shipra from the bathing ghat built here. According to one tradition, Parvati is believed to have performed her penance here. It used to be a place of worship for the followers of Natha sect. One legend has it that some Mughal rulers had cut off the Banyan tree and covered the site with iron sheets to prevent its roots from growing. But the tree pierced the iron sheets and grew and flourished. The little village of Bhairogarh near Siddhavat is famous for its tie and dye painting for centuries. In ancient times when trade with other countries flourished, exquisitely printed cloth from Bhairogarh used to find its way to Rome and China.

Kal Bhairava: The worship of the eight Bhairavas is a part of Saivite tradition and the chief among them is Kal Bhairava, believed to have been built by King Bhadresen, on the banks of the Shipra. There is mention of a Kal Bhairva temple in the Avanti Khanda of the Skanda Purana. Worship of Kal Bhairava is believed to have been a part of the Kapalika and Aghora sects. Ujjain was a prominent centre of these two sects. Even today, liquor is offered as a part of the ritual to Kal Bhairava Beautiful paintings in the Malwa style once decorated the temple walls, only traces of which are visible.

Sandipani Ashram: The fact that ancient Ujjain apart from its political and religious importance, enjoyed the reputation of being a great seat of learning as early as the Mahabharata period is borne out by the fact that, Lord Krishna and Sudama received regular instruction in the ashram of Guru Sandipani. The area near the ashram is known as Ankapata, popularly believed to have been the place used by Lord Krishna for washing his writing tablet. The numerals 1 to 100 found on a stone are believed to have been engraved by Guru Sandipani.

Gadkalika: Situated about 2 miles from the city of Ujjain, the deity in this temple is believed to have been worshipped by Kalidasa. The legend goes that he was an idiot and it is by his devotion to the goddess Kalika that he acquired great literary skills. Emperor Harshavardhan had this temple renovated in the 7th century AD. There is further evidence of renovation during the Paramara period. The temple has been rebuilt in the modern times by the erstwhile Gwalior State.

Mangalnath: This temple is situated away from the bustle of the city and can be reached through a winding road. The temple looks upon a vast expanse of the Shipra waters and fills the onlooker with an indescribable sense of peace. Mangalnath is regarded as the birth place of Mars, according to the Matsya Purana. In ancient times, it was famous for a clear view of the planet and hence suitable for astronomical studies. Mahadev or Shiva is the deity which is worshipped in the temple of Mangalnath.

Gopal Mandir: This huge temple is situated in the middle of the big market square. It was constructed by Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde in the 19th century. It is a beautiful example of Maratha architecture. The sanctum sanctorum is inlaid with marble and doors are silver plated. The door in the inner sanctum is said to have been carried to Ghazni from the Somnath temple and from thence by Mahmud Shah Abdali to Lahore. Mahadji Scindia recovered it and now it has been installed in this temple.

Navagraha Mandir (Triveni): Situated on the Triveni Ghat of the Shipra, the temple is located away from the old site of Ujjaini town. It is dedicated to the nine planets, attracts large crowds on new moon days falling on Saturdays. Its religious importance has increased in recent years though there is no known reference to it in the ancient texts.


The Vedha Shala (Observatory):
Ujjain enjoyed a position of considerable importance in the field of astronomy. Great works on astronomy such as the Surya Siddhanta and the Panch Siddhanta were written in Ujjain. According to Indian astronomers, the Tropic of Cancer is supposed to pass through Ujjain. It is also the fist meridian of longitude of the Hindu geographers. From about the 4th century BC, Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being India’s Greenwich. The observatory extant today was built by Raja Jai Singh (1686-1743), who was a great scholar. He translated the works of Ptolemy and Euclid into Sanskrit from Arabic. Of the many observatories built by him at Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi, Mathura, and Ujjain, the one at Ujjain is still in use actively. Astronomical studies are conducted through the Department of Education and the ephemeris is published every year. There is a small planetarium and a telescope to observe the moon, Mars, Jupiter and their satellites. The observatory is also used for weather forecasts.

Vikram Kirti Mandir: Established on the occasion of the second millennium of the Vikram era, as the cultural centre to perpetuate the memory of Vikramaditya, the Vikram Kirti Mandir houses the Scindia Oriental Research Institute, an archaeological museum, an art gallery and an auditorium. The Scindia Oriental Research Institute has an invaluable collection of 18,000 manuscripts on various subjects and runs a reference library of important oriental publications. Rare manuscripts in Prakrit, Arabic, Persian and other Indian languages cover a wide range of subjects from Vedic literature and philosophy to dance and music. Palm leaf and bark leaf (Bhurja Patra) manuscripts are also preserved in this institute. Apart from an illustrated manuscript of Shrimad Bhagavata in which actual gold and silver have been employed for the paintings, the Institute has a rich collection of old paintings in the Rajput and Mughal style. The museum also exhibits a rich array of images, inscriptions, copper plates and fossils discovered in the Narmada valley. A huge skull of a primitive elephant is of special interest.


Vikram University:
A famous centre of learning in the past, Ujjain continues to uphold that tradition. The establishment of the Vikram University in 1957 was an important landmark. Situated on the Dewas Road, this university plays a significant role in the literary and cultural activities of the city.

Kalidasa Academy: This academy was set up in Ujjain by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to immortalize the memory of the great poet dramatist-Kalidasa, and to create a multi-disciplinary institution to project the genius of the entire classical tradition, with Kalidasa as the apex, enable research and study in Sanskrit classical and traditional performing arts, and facilitate its adaptation for contemporary stage in different cultural settings and language groups. The Academy complex consists of a theatre, museum, library, lecture and seminary halls, mini stage for rehearsals, research facilities for scholars, and a large open air theater.

4. Sri Omakara Mamaleshwaram Jyotir Lingam

Sri-Omakara-Mamaleshwaram-Jyotir-Lingam

Situated at 77 km from Indore, 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. It is one of the holiest Hindu sites in India by virtue of the presence a jyotirlingam, one of the twelve in India. 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.

Omkareshwar rests at the meeting point of the Narmada and the Kaveri rivers. It is divided north to south by a deep gully. The ground slopes gently along the northern edge but in the south and east there are cliffs over 150m high forming a gorge. The village spreads to the southern bank from the island, now linked by a new bridge, and the river between is said to be very deep and full of crocodiles.
STHALA PURAN

In the ancient times the Demons defeated the gods or divines. Indra was worried. The Danavas or Demons have wrecked havoc in all the three worlds, i.e., Trilokas. In order to empower the Devas once again, Lord Shiva assumed the form of Jyotirmaya Omkararoop. He came out of the nether world or Patala. Lord Shankar came out in the form of Linga on the banks of river Narmada. The gods or Devas have worshipped the Linga which made them powerful once again. This time they were able to destroy the demons and re-acquiesced their empire in Heavens.

Brahma and Vishnu also lived in the same place as Omkar Amaleshwar. That is why on the banks of Narmada Brahmapuri, Vishnupuri and Rudrapuri are built which are known as Tripuri Kshetra. The Amareshwar JyotiraLinga is situated in Rudrapuri.

Later on, in the mythological era or Purana Kala, Yavanaswa Putra Mandhata came into power here with the blessings of Indra. He served Lord Shankara with great devotion. Lord Shankara was pleased with him. The waters of Narmada emanated from the Arghya (holy water) or Jalahari of the Omkar JyotirLinga and flown through the mountains, downward and later on flow unseen. Narmada joins the deep-water spring located near the Linga idol of Omkareshwar. It flows there eternally. When some bubbles appear at the bottom of this spring, it is said, that Lord Shankar is pleased.

King Mandhata made this holy place his capital. Therefore, this place is also known as Omkar Mandhata. The descendents of Mandhata live here even today. The Vindhya mountain also performed a severe penance and pleased Omkar-Amareshwar. As a result of which, the whole place turned beautiful. Many hermits like Agastya have performed severe penances and japas at Omkar-Amaleshwaram JyotirLingam. They had built their hermitages.

This place of pilgrimage became famous in the historical times too. In 1063 AD, Paramarking Udayaditya installed four stone inscriptions with four Sanskrit Stotras and dedicated them to the Amaleshwar Temple. Pushpadanta’s “Shiva Mahima Stotra” can also be seen as a stone inscription.

Initially aboriginals used to live here on Omkareshwar island as a settlement. It belonged to Kalika devi. Devotees of this goddess were known as Bhairavgan and used to harass pilgrims. They used to sacrifice them. After sometime, a saint by the name Dariyayinath took charge of that place and stopped the atrocities of the Bhairavgan. Since then, pilgrims started moving there freely.

After that, Bhil reign began there. In 1195 AD, King Bharat Singh Cahuhan won over the Bhils and improved the grandeur of the Omkar Mandhata. Even today the palace ruins of Raja Bahrat Singh Chauhan can be seen. The heirs of Bharat Singh Chauhan call themselves the ‘Kings’ of Omkar island, even now staking their right.

The temple was renovated by Peshwa Baji Rao, the second. After Peshwa, Punyashlok Ahilya Devi Holkar, has made several improvements in this ancient shrine. She built strong, expansive and beautiful ghats. The important one among there is the KotirLingarchana schedule.

PLACES OF INTEREST
Sri Omkareshwar Mahadeo Temple: Also known as the Temple of Shri Omkar Mandhata, it enshrines the jyotirlingam. The temple is made from a locally available soft stone which made possible intricate detailing in the façade, especially in the friezes on the upper parts of the structure.

The Siddnath Temple: A classic example of early medieval Brahminic architecture, this one is well worth a visit. Its most eye-catching feature is a frieze of elephants over 1.5m high carved on a stone slab at its outer perimeter. Elaborate carved figures decorate the upper portion and the roof of the temple. The shrine is encircled by verandahs with columns carved in circles, polygons and squares.

24 Avatars: A cluster of Hindu and Jain temples, remarkable for their skillful use of varied architectural modes.

Satmatrika Temple: 6 km from Omkareshwar, a group of 10th century temples.

Kajal Rani Cave: 9 km from Omkareshwar a particularly picturesque scenic spot, with a panoramic view of broad acres and gently undulating landscape that stretches in unbroken harmony till the horizon

5. Vaidyanath Jyotir Lingam

Vaidyanath-Jyotir-Lingam

The temple is situated in a spacious courtyard bounded by stone walls. In the temple complex are twenty two other temples. The Baijnath or Vaidyanath temple faces east. The top of the Shiva Lingam is slightly broken, keeping with the legend that it chipped away when Ravana tried to uproot it. Near the temple is the Sivaganga lake. The Chandrakoopa well, near the main entrance is said to have been built and consecrated with water from several thirthams by Ravana.

This shrine represents one of the 12 Jyotirlingams of Shiva held in reverence throughout the country. Vaidyanath is located at Deogarh in the Santal Parganas region of Bihar.

Deogarh is also known as Vaidyanath, Haritaki Vana, Ketaki Vana, Ravana Vana, Chitabhoomi and Hardapeetha. Some schools of thought believe Vaidyanath near Parali in Andhra Pradesh to be the Vaidyanatha Jyotirlingam. Other schools of thought claim that Kiragram in Punjab and Dabhoi in Gujarat are the Vaidyanatha Jyotirlinga temples. The Vaideeswaran Koyil temple in Tamilnadu (which is not a Jyotirlingam temple) enshrines Vaidyanathar.

Legend has it that Ravana meditated upon Shiva, and requested him to come over to Sri Lanka, in order that his capital may become invincible. It is said that he attempted to lift Mount Kailash and take it with him to his capital; however Shiva crushed him with his finger, and Ravana prayed to him and sought his mercy, after which Shiva gave him one of the twelve Jyotirlingams with the condition that if it was placed on the ground it would take root immediately.

Ravana carried the Jyotirlingam and began his trek back to his capital. Varuna the God of water, entered his belly, and caused him to feel the need to relieve himself. Vishnu then came down in the form of a lad and volunteered to hold the Jyotirlingam as he relieved himself. Before Ravana returned, Vishnu placed the Jyotirlingam on the ground, and it became rooted to the spot. A disappointed Ravana offered severe penances to Shiva here, and cut off nine of his heads. Shiva revived him and joined the heads to the body, as if by the work of a Vaidya or a physician, hence this Jyotirlingam goes by the name Vaidyanath. The same legend holds at Gokarnam in Karnataka.

Another legend has it that this temple was re-discovered by a cowherd Baiju, and hence the name Baijnath.

Vaidyanath is also considered to be one of the 52 Shakti Pitha shrines of Sati. It is believed that the heart of Sati fell here, when her half burnt body being carried by Shiva at the end of Daksha’s yagna, was chopped to pieces by Vishnu’s discus.

6. Bhimashankar Jyotir Lingam

Bhimashankar-Jyotir-Lingam

Bhimashankar, one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. The dense forests surrounding the high ranges also play an abode to the rare species of flora and fauna. Situated at the extreme end of the Sahayadri Ranges, this place gives a wonderful view of the world around you, the forts, the rivers and the hill stations around. Bhimashankar is also the source of the River Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the river Krishna.

Bhimashanker is seventy-four miles or 110 Kms. from Pune by road. State buses go there from Pune twice a week with more than five hours of bus journey. During the Mahasivaratri festival, when there is a great fair at the temple, buses ply to and fro daily. It is also accessible from Kariat on the Pune – Bombay section of the Central railway. There is not a proper road from karjat to Bhimashankar and only the devotees who wish to go to the temple on foot during festivals use this road.

The temple is built in the Nagara style of architecture, this temple dates back to the 18th century. One can also find borrowed influences from the Indo Aryan style of architecture. It is believed that the ancient shrine was erected over a Swayambhu Linga. Thus the Linga is exactly in the centre of the floor of the Garbagriha or the Sanctum. Intricate carvings of divinities interspersed with human figurines adorn the pillars and the doorframes of the temple. Scenes from mythology find itself captured in these magnificient carvings. Within the temple precincts there is also a small shrine dedicated to Lord Shani. The image of Nandi is installed just at the entrance of the temple.

STHALA PRUANA
Eons ago in the dense forests of Dakini, on the lofty ranges of the Sahaydris lived the evil Asura by the name Bhima with his mother Karkati. Compassion and kindness shivered in the presence of Bhima. The divine and the mortals were scared of him alike. But certain questions about his own existence tormented him. Bhima could no longer sustain his curiosity and finally he asked his mother to unveil the mysteries of his life. He urged his mother to tell him who his father was and why had he abandoned them in the wilderness of the forest. It was then revealed to him that he was the son of Kumbhakarna, the younger brother of the mighty King Ravana – the King of Lanka. Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Lord Rama annihilated Kumbhakarna. This infuriated Bhima and he vowed to avenge Lord Vishnu. He embarked on a severe penance to please Lord Brahma. The compassionate creator was pleased by the dedicated devotee and granted him immense prowess. This was a terrible mistake. The evil tyrant caused havoc in the three worlds. He defeated King Indra and conquered the heavens. He also defeated a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva – Kamrupeshwar and put him in the dungeons. All this angered the Gods and they along with Lord Brahma beseeched Lord Shiva to come for their rescue. Lord Shiva consoled the Gods and agreed to rescue them from the tyrants. On the other hand Bhima asks Kamrupeshwar to worship him instead of Lord Shiva. When Kamrupeshwar denied doing that, he raised his sword to strike the Shiva Linga. No longer he managed to raise his sword, Lord Shiva appeared before him in all his magnificence. Then the terrible war began. But then the holy sage Narad appeared and requested Lord Shiva to put an end to this war. It was then that Lord Shiva reduced the evil demon to ashes and thus concluded the saga of tyranny. All the Gods and the holy sages present there requested Lord Shiva to make this place his abode. Lord Shiva thus manifested himself in the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga..

PLACES OF INTEREST
Bhimashankar wild life sanctuary: Tucked away in the Sahayadris, the Bhimashankar Sanmctuary is home to a variety of endangered species of flora and fauna. The dominant species of flora are Mango, Hirda, Behda, various medicinal herbs, bamboo and fern. The Giant Indian Squirrel is one of the major attractions of the sanctuary. The other species found in the dense forests are Panther, Sambar, Mouse Deer, Hyena and the Wild boar.

7. Rameshwaram Jyotir Lingam

Rameshwaram-Jyotir-Lingam

Rameshwaram is an island situated in the gulf of manner at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. A very important pilgrim centre of the Indians. Rameshwaram is the place from where Lord Rama, built a bridge across the sea to rescue his consort Sita, from her abductor, Ravana. This is also the place where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva to cleanse away the sin of killing Ravana. Both the Vaishnavites and Shaivites visit this pilgrimage which is known as the Varanasi the south.

The nearest airport is Madurai, 173 kms away. Rameswaram has rail connections with all major cities like Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Tanjavur. Connected with all the important towns of Tamil Nadu, buses and taxis ply regularly. The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation also operates buses to Rameswaram.

Taking the Ganga water to Rameshwar, is considered as a very auspicious and pious thing to do after the pilgrimage of the four holy shrines. After taking a holy bath in Ganga water, the holy water is carried and offered to Lord shiva of Rameshwaram. After this a little sand from here is carried to Ganga and immersed there. Completing this ritual is believed to make one’s pilgrimage complete and successful.

The religious island is spread in an area of 61.8 square kilometers and happens to be in the shape of a conch. The Ramanatha Swamy Temple occupies major area of Rameshwaram. The masterpiece of Dravidian architecture boasts of the largest temple corridor in India. Different rulers built the Ramanatha Swamy Temple over a period of time starting from the 12th century. The temple comprises of twenty-two wells where the taste of the water of each well is different from the other.

The jyotirlingam was worshipped by Lord Rama to atone the sin of killing Ravana. Hanuman flew to bring the Linga from Kailasa, for Lord Rama to wroship. As it was getting late, Rama worshipped the Lingam that was made of sand by Sita Devi. This Lingam worshipped by Lord Rama is known as Ramanathar. When Hanuman returned he was disappointed that his Lord had not used the Lingam that he had brought. Lord Rama pacified Hanuman & named this Lingam Kasi Viswanathar. Devotees have to worship Kasi Viswanathar before worshipping Ramanathar.

SHRINES WITHIN THE TEMPLE
In the principal sanctum there is the Linga of Sri Ranganatha. This is the one, which Sita made and Sri Rama sanctified. There is much delicate artistry in many parts of the sanctum. The Vimana, of three storeys, contains images of Hanuman, the Gandhamadhana Linga, and the Agastya Linga. The Linga of Vishwanatha, which Hanuman brought, is enshrined in another sanctum to the north.

In yet another shrine there is an image of Visalakshi, the Consort of Visvanatha, Ramanatha’s Consort, Parvathavardhani, is enshrined in a sanctum to the right of His. Usually, in Shiva temples, the Goddess is enshrined to the left of the Lord. But here, as in Madurai, this location has not been followed.

Behind the Sri Ramanatha shrine, and between the second and third prakaras, there is a sanctum for Lord Vishnu as “Sethumadhava”.

Thirthas Within The Temple
There are no less than twenty-two “thirthas” (also spelt as Teertha or Tirtha), or bathing places, mainly within, but a few also outside, the temple. According to time-honoured tradition, the pilgrim bathes first in Agni Tirtha (also spelt Theertham), as the sea to the east of the temple is called (nearby there is a Shankara Matha), and finally in the Kodi tirtha, which is within the temple. The importance of bathing in these “thirthas” derives from the tradition that Sri Krishna Himself did so.

PLACES OF INTERESTRamanathaswamy Temple: was built in the 17th century. Situated close to the sea on the eastern side of the island, this temple is famous for its 1200 gigantic granite columns. The 54 metre tall gopuram (gate-tower), 1220 metres of magnificent corridors and the flamboyant columns embellish and render fame to the temple. The water in each of the 22 sacred wells in the temple tastes different.

Agnitheertham: 100 metres away from the temple is Agnitheertham, where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva, to absolve himself from the killing Ravana.

Gandamadana Parvatham: The imprint of Lord Rama’s feet placed on a Chakra (wheel) is found in this shrine which is at the highest point on the island at 2 km from Rameswaram.

Dhanushkodi: Dhanushkodi named after Rama’s bow, is at the eastern end of the island at a distance of 8 kms from Rameshwaram. The boulders around the sea between Srilanka and this place known as Adam’s bridge, are believed to be used by Hanuman to reach across Srilanka. Dhhanushkodi was completely destroyed by the cyclones of 1964. Kothandaramaswamy temple is the only salvage of the cyclone. Idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibhishana (brother of Ravana), surrendered to Rama, here.

Erwadi: An important site for Muslim pilgrims, Erwadi houses the tomb of Ibrahim Sahid Aulia. At a distance of 24 kilometers from Rameshwaram is Erwadi. Muslims from across the globe visit Erwadi especially during the month of December to participate in the annual festival celebrated as a tribute to the saint.

Ramanathapuram: This ancient town is the district headquarters. The Ram Vilas Palace of the Sethupati Rajas is a must visit place. The oil portraits of the Rajas of the past centuries and the articulately designed ceilings and walls embellished with eighteenth century murals, the subjects of which vary from business. Meetings with the English to battles with the Marathas, make this place more interesting.

Tirupullani: Outside the island, there are three other sites traditionally connected with Sri Rama’s expedition to Sri Lanka. A big temple in Tiruppullani commemorates the tradition that there the Lord obtained a bow and arrows to use in the impending war from its presiding Deity and also that the Lord of the Ocean who had refused to help Him finally submitted.

Uthirakosamangai: 16-km southwest of Ramanathapuram stands the renowed Shiva temple of Uttarakosamangai. Manikkavachagar has sung of it. The Lord is Mangaleshvara and the Goddess Mangalesvari. The temple has inspired many Tamil works of devotion. So, of course, has the Ramanatha temple in Rameshwaram.

Sethu: 5-km south of the temple is Sethu, where there is a celebrated temple of Sri Anjaneya, and where, tradition holds, Sri Rama built a bridge to Sri Lanka. In Devipatnam, or Navapashanam, also by the sea, there are nine stones visible at low tide. It is believed that they were set up by Sri Rama to represent the nine planets, the Navagrahas.

8. Nageshwar Jyotir Lingam

Nageshwar-Jyotir-Lingam

On the way from Gomati Dwarka to Bait Dwarkas nearly 13 miles in the north east Shri Nageshwarnath Jyotirlinga is situated. According to the Shiv Purana, there was a she-demon by the name Daruka in ancient times. Before of Parvati’s blessings had turned proud and obstinate. A mighty demon named Daruk was her husband. He had collected a huge army of demons and had started harassing all the innocent people there. He would destroy all the religious sacrifices performed there. On the western bank of the ocean, there was a forest, which was abundant with all the good things. The forest was spread across 192 kms. Wherever Daruka would go, the forest with all its good things would go along with her.

Goddess Parvati had appointed Daruka as the caretaker of the forest. Daruka and her husband Daruk both would stay there and terrify people. People tired of this terror went to Maharishi Aurva and told them their sorrow. Aurva, for the security of the refugees, cursed the demons that if they would harass people or destroy religious sacrifice they would instantly die. When the gods came to know about this, they attacked the demons. Even though the demons would kill the gods, they became frightened because, they could be killed because of the curse of the sage. If they did not kill, they would get defeated. Seeing the state of the demons, Daruka said that because of the blessing of Bhavani, he could take the forest whenever he wanted. He went and entered the sea. Now all the demons started residing in the sea and started harassing creatures there also.

Many a boats having many people seated came there. All the demons caught hold of the people and put them in prison. Amongst the prisoners, there was a prisoner by the name Supriya. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He advised all prisoners to recite the mantra ‘AUM NAMAHA SHIVAYA.’ When Daruk came to know about this, he ran to kill Supriya. Supriya out right started to call out to Lord Shiva the Saviour. Instantly Lord Shiva appeared through a small hole and a beautiful temple with walls was formed. In the middle of the temple, a lustrous Jyotirlinga was installed. Lord Shiva destroyed all the demons and saved the life of Supriya. Daruka started praying to Goddess Parvati for mercy. The Goddess was pleased with her devotion and blessed her. In this way, Lord Shiva stays and resides there eternally by the name of Nageshwar and Goddess Parvati by the Nageshwari. According to the Shiv Purana who ever with devotion reads the birth and greatness of this Jyotirlinga. He shall be getting all material happiness and shall get divine status in the end

The architectural beauty of the Nagesh Temple is simply exquisite. This temple built with stones during the Pandava period is strong. The four walls of the temple are very strong and the corridors are large. The court hall is supported by eight pillars. It is oval shaped. Both this and the Nagesha Lingamurthy is located in the small internal Garbhagriha.

Here, there is no Nandi idol in front of Mahadeva. There is separate Nandikeshwara temple back of the main temple. On all the four sides of the main temple, smaller temples for the twelve JyotirLingas are constructed. Apart from these, VedavyasaLinga, bhandareshwar, Nilakanteshwar, Ganapati, Dattatreya, Muralimanohar, Dasavatar temple and idols etc., are there. In all, there are 108 Shiva temples and 68 shrines are located here.

The structure of the Naganath temple is very beautiful. Inside it, there is another shrine called Runamochan teerth. Both these shrines are called “Mother-in-law- Daughter-in-law” shrines. Every 12 years, at the time of Kapila Shashti, kashi Ganga offering as “Padarpan” is performed. During this the water in the teerth kund looks crystal clear. Again at a specific time it becomes ‘Shivala Yukt”.

Close to the Naganath temple, there are several statues of various divines. Besides these there are many more idols of animals, soldiers relating some stories. These stones idols are very beautiful to look at. At a huge corner, there is an idol of Paravti, who is sulking with Shiva trying to pacify her. This statue is amazing to look at with its stunning features. It is unmatched in its expression of emotions.

9. Kashi Vishvanath Jyotir Lingam

KashiVishvanath-Jyotir-Lingam

The Kashi Vishwanath temple is located in the heart of the cultural capital of India, Varanasi. It stands on the western bank of India’s holiest river Ganges. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is the center of faith for millions of Hindus. The Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is enshrined in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, considered as one of the holiest temples of India. In Hindu religion it is believed that a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and Bhakti (devotion). A single darshan of Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than the darshan of other jyotirlingas, scattered in various parts of India.

The oldest living city in the world, Varanasi is the ultimate destination of all Hindu pilgrims searching for moksha from the cycle of birth and re-birth. It is held sacred for being the home of Lord Shiva and Parvati as also the presence of the mighty river, Ganges that in Varanasi is said to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.No one knows when Varanasi was found, a city whose status as the foremost place of Hindu pilgrimage cannot be questioned. Located in the modern-day state of Uttar Pradesh, in the Uttaranchal region, its beginnings are lost in the mists of time. However, it is said that Shiva and Parvati were its first citizens. Ganga (the Ganges) the ‘River of Life’, is said to have acquired the boon to wash away the sins of the human race, when it flowed from the tresses of Lord Shiva. And Varanasi is the place where she turns into the mighty river. Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims flock to this eternal city to expiate their sins.

Varanasi, which was a pious place of pilgrimage for the hindus, soon became an eyesore and source of jealousy for the Muslims. From 1033 to 1669 AD Kashi came under several destructive attacks. Temples were demolished and Masjids built there instead. But due to the dedication of the Hindu devotees, the JyotirLinag pilgrimage place continued to develop. During the reign of the British and the Marathas, this place really developed well. Even the Jaina and Boudha monks helped to keep the place of the city intact.

The Kashi Vishweshwar temple as we see it now was built by Ahalya Devi Holkar in 1777 AD. In 1785 AD, the then King of Kashi, Mansaram and his son Belvant Singh built many more temples near Varanasi. In 1755 AD, the Avadh pantof pratinidhi (representative) got the old temple of Bindumadhava repaired and renovated it beautifully. The kalabhairava temple was built by Srimant Baji Rao Peshwa in 1852 AD.

King Ranjit Singh had the Kashi Vishwanath temple towers covered in gold. A huge bell hangs in the temple. It was donated by the King of Nepal. Surrounding Saranath, there are many Budhhist stupas, Viharas and Chaitra grihas. In 1931 AD the mahabodhi society had built a very beautiful Buddha temple in Saranath.

Varanasi is also renowned for its rich tapestry of music, arts, crafts and education. Some of the world renowned exponents India has produced in these fields were schooled in Varanasi’s cultural ethos. Luminaries apart, Varanasi abounds in the art of silk weaving, an exotic work of art which manifests itself in precious Banarasi Silk Sarees and Silk brocades which are cherished as collector’s items across the world today.

PLACES OF INTERESTTHE KASHI VISHWANATH TEMPLE: Also known as the Golden Temple, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city. Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested has supremacy over others gods, broke through the Earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Ghats and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varanasi.

ANNAPURNA TEMPLE: Near the Kashi Vishwanath temple, there is a nice temple of Devi Annapurna , believed as the “Godess of Fooding”.

SANKATHA TEMPLE: Near the Sindhia Ghat , there is a important temple of “Godess of Remedy” Devi Sankatha. Inside its premises there is a huge statue of a Lion. Also there is nine temples of nine planets nearby to this temple.

KALBHAIRAV TEMPLE: It is the ancient temple of Varanasi near the Head Post Office, VishesharGanj. God KalBhairav is believed as “Kotwal Of Varanasi” , without his permission no one can stay in Kashi.

MRITUNJAY MAHADEV TEMPLE: On the route of Daranagar to Kalbhairav temple this temple of Lord Shiva is situated . Just besides this temple there is a Well of much religious importance , whose water is said to be mixture of several underground streams and good for eliminating several diseases.

NEW VISHWANATH TEMPLE: Situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, a modern place of worship planned by Pandit Malviya and built by the Birlas. Open to all, irrespective of caste or creed.

DURGA TEMPLE: Commonly called the ‘Monkey temple’, it was built in the 18th century. Although it is one of the best-known temple. There is nice stonework done of the temple , it is the nice example of NAGRA Shilp. Godess DURGA is believed as the symbol of Strength and Power which govern the entire world. There is a pond adjacent to the temple called “Durgakund”.

TULSI MANAS TEMPLE: Constructed by family of Varanasi, this modern temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place where Tulisdas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic “Shri Ramcharitmanas”, which narrates the life of Lord Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. Verses from Tulidas’s epic are inscribed on the walls. It is just nearby to Durga Temple.

SANKATMOCHAN TEMPLE: Besides the Assi river stream, on the way of Durga Temple to Banaras Hindu Temple this well known temple of Lord Hanuman is situated. Lord Hanuman is also known as “Sankatmochan” the god who protects from the troubles. This temple is founded by Goswami Tulsidas. This temple is also known as “Monkey” temple, as lot of monkeys are there inside the premises.

BHARAT MATA TEMPLE: This Temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936 and houses one perfect relief maps of India carved out of marble.The Temple was gifted by the nationalists Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta (Barat Ratana ) and shri Durga Prasad Khatri, leading numismatists and antiquarians.

10. Tryambakeshwar Jyotir Lingam

Tryambakeshwar-Jyotir-Lingam

Tryambakeshwar, 30 km from Nasik in Maharashtra is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. It is here that the river Godavari is born. This is an ancient shrine, but what we see today built by the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in mid 18th century. This great JyotirLinga on the banks of Gautami has a unique form. The Lord in this temple’s Grabhagriha is not worshipped with Abhisheka with water (Jalahari) unlike others. There is just a bottom part of the pounding stone (Ukhali), instead, like a hole. In that hole there are three Lingas shaped like the Thumbs. Hence Tryambakeshwara. Of these three Lingas, the Linga of Mahesha has a constant shower of water from an orifice above. It is a natural source of water coming down as Abhisheka for the Lord.

Legend has it that sage Gowtama resided on the Brahmagiri hill here with his wife Ahalya, and seeing his unflinching devotion received a boon from Varuna – a bottomless pit from which he received an inexhaustible supply of foodgrains. This of course enraged other sages who conspired for a cow to enter his granary, and caused it to die as Gowtama attempted to ward it off with a bunch of Darbha grass. Because of this misfortune Gowtama therefore worshipped Shiva, to invoke the Goddess Ganga down to his hermitage to purify the premises. Ganga came down as Godavari, and Shiva took up an abode here in the form of Tryambaka. Interestingly, locals refer to the river here as Ganga and not as Godavari.

Legend has it that Brahma and Vishnu searched in vain to discover the origin of Shiva who manifested himself as a cosmic column of fire. Brahma lied that he had seen the top of the column of fire, and was hence cursed that he would not be worshipped on earth. In turn Brahma cursed Shiva that he would be pushed underground. Accordingly, Shiva came down under the Brahmagiri hill in the form of Tryambakeshwar. The shrine enjoyed the patronage of the Peshwas.

The Nagara style of architecture is what typifies this temple made of black stone. It is enclosed in a spacious courtyard and the sanctum (internally a square and externally a stellar structure) houses a small Shivalingam – Tryambaka. The sanctum is crowned with a graceful tower ,a giant amalaka and a golden kalasha.

In front of the garbagriha and the antarala is a mandap with doors on all four sides. Three out of the four doorways are covered with porches, and the openings of these porches are ornamented with pillars and arches. The roof of the mandapam is formed by curvilinear slabs rising in steps. The entire structure is ornamented with sculptural work featuring running scrolls, floral designs, figures of gods, yakshas, humans and animals. The Shivalingam is seen in a depression on the floor of the sanctum with water constantly oozing out from the top of the Shivalingam. Usually, the Shivalingam is covered with a silver mask, and on festive occasions with a golden mask with five faces, each with a golden crown. The silver mask is equivalent to the processional images seen in South Indian temples.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Brahmagiri: Original Ganges and Trimbak Tirtha are on Brahmagiri mountain adjacent to Trimbakeshwar temple. Brahmagiri is considered as a huge form of Lord Shiva and hence the mountain climbing was considered as a sin. Godavari is flowing in three directions on the mountain. The one flowing towards east is called Godavari, one flowing towards the south is called Vaitarna and the one flowing towards the west is called the west-flowing Ganga and meets Godavari near Chakra Tirth. River Ahilya meets Godavari in front of the Trimbakeshwar temple. Childless families worship at the Ahilya sangam and it is believed that they do get a child The first peak of Sahyadri is called Brahmadri. The mountain is 1800 feet high . Its height from sea level is 4248 feet. Five peaks of this mountain are called Sadyo-Jata, Vamdev, Aghora, Ishana and Tat-Purusha and are considered as five mouths of the Lord Shiva and they are worshipped.

Gangadwar: Gangadwar is half way to Brahmagiri mountain. There is a temple of Ganga, now known as Godavari River. Ganga appears first time here, after it vanishes from Brahmagiri Mountain. Godavari comes to Gangadwar from Brahmadri. Gangadwar is one of the five tirthas. There is an idol of Ganga and near her feet is a stone of the shape of cow’s head through which Ganga water is flowing drop by drop.

Nearby is Kolambika Devi, Varah tirtha further on is the cave of Gautam for practicing penance where there are 108 Shivalingas. A little further on is Gorakh Gumpha, a place where Gorakhnath practiced penance, the idol is worth seeing. After descending a few steps, Ganga flows from the roots of Audumbar tree. This is known as Rama-Laxman tirtha. Here Rama stopped for a few days and did Shraddha ceremony in memory of Dasharatha. There is Rama temple and Gopalrao Ghanekar built in 1857. Ganga Sagar is a big tank in the flow of river.

Bilwa Tirtha: Bilwa Tirtha is to the north of Nila mountain. It is one of the five tirthas. There is a temple of Bilvakeshwar Mahadev.

Gautam Tirtha: Gautam Tirtha is to the south of the Ganges and the Trimbakeshwar temple. Varun being pleased with Gautam gave this tirtha as a permanent source of water. To the north is Gautameshwar and to the south is Rameshwar Mahadev.

Indra Tirtha: Indra Tirtha is to the east and near Kushavarta. This is known as Shakra-Kupa for Indra wiped off his curse given by sage Gautam for enjoying Ahilya, by a bath in this tirtha. On the bank of the tirtha is a beautiful temple of Indreshwar Mahadev with an idol of Indra seated on an Airavata elephant. Besides this there are Vishwanath tirtha, Nilambar tirtha or Moti-tank, Mukund tirtha, Prayag tirtha and Veni-Madhav and other Mahadev temples on the bank of Prayag tirtha. Here is a matha of Nirvana Sampradaya (sect) Nilganga tirtha and nilsangameshwar Mahadev temple are on the north bank of Godavati.

Ahilya Sangam tirtha: To force Gautam to give up his penance, a friend of Ganga named Jatila took the form of Ahilya, Gautam’s wife. Gautam could make it out and cursed her to be transformed into a river. Then she begged his pardon. Gautam granted her pardon and said that she will be freed of her curse on her joining with Godavari river. This is the Ahilya-Sangam tirtha where Ganga and Godavari join. There is a temple of Sangmeshwar Mahadev.

Ashta tirtha yatra and pancha tirtha yatra: Two yatras (pilgrimage) are performed here.

Ashta tirtha yatra including Ballal tirtha, the sacred place of Gunesh Ganapati, Varansi tirtha, Manakarnika tirtha, Ganga sagar, Rama-Laxman tirtha, Shali tirtha, Kanchan tirtha and Ahilya-Sangam tirtha.

Pancha tirtha yatra includes Gangadwar, Kushavarta, Bilwaka, Nilparavata and Kanakhala tirtha. It is believed that one who takes a bath in the above is never reborn.

To Nil mountain, Shreemant Seth Kapol has built about 200 steps. On the summit is the temple of Nilamba Matamba Devi, further on is an ancient temple of Nilkantheshwar Mahadev and an idol of Parashuram. There is an old akhada or matha of the Gosavi sect and an ancient temple of Sadguru Dattatreya.

Pradakshina: There are two pradakshinas (ring routes) in this kshetra – one round the Brahmagiri and the other one round Hariharagiri. Pilgrim has to go for pradakshina with holy garment early in the morning visiting and bathing in various tirthas. The tour is to be completed in either a day, three days or five days.

11. Kedarnath Jyotir Lingam

Kedarnath-Jyotir-Lingam

Kedarnath is situated in the Uttar Kashi district of the northern state of Uttaranchal. Very close to the Indo-Chinese border, it is the source of the Mandakini River. It is couched in the scenic locales of the Garhwal Himalayas at 3583 meters above sea level. It is very cold in the winters with the ground being covered with snow. In the summers, the mercury barely crosses the 20°C mark. The place experiences about 150 cm of rainfall during the monsoons and so the best time to visit is between May and October. Kedarnath is near to Rishikesh (234 km) and Dehradun (250 km).

Kedarnath is accessible after a steep 13 km trek over a paved path from Gaurikund. Untrained persons are likely to take all day for the walk. There are places en route like Janglechatti, Rambara and Garurchatti where you can rest a while or spend the night. Just one kilometer before Rambara is a high and beautiful cascading waterfall.

Kedarnath is a majestic sight, standing in the middle of a wide plateau surrounded by lofty snow covered peaks. The present temple, built in the 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya, stands adjacent to the site of an earlier temple built by the Pandavas. The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the exquisitely architectured Kedarnath temple is said to be more than a 1000 years old. Built of extremely large, heavy and evenly cut gray slabs of stones. The temple has a ” Garbha Griha” for worship and a Mandap apt for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form.

According to Hindu mythology, the Pandavas wanted to wash off their sins of killing their own brothers in the battle of Kurukshetra by seeking the blessings of the Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva continuously eluded them and took refuge in the form of a bull at Kedarnath. When Pandavas followed him to that place, he dived into the ground leaving behind his hump on the surface. The remaining parts of bull like the arms showed at Tungnath, mouth at Rudranath, navel at Madmaheshwar and hair at Kalpeshwar. All these places together with Kedarnath are known as the Panch Kedar. All of these (barring Kalpeshwar) are in mountain meadows at higher altitudes than Kedarnath. The climb to Rudranath is the most strenuous though worth the trouble, as this meadow is one of the finest in Garhwal.

The temple has a Garbha Griha for worship and a Mandap, apt for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form.

Besides its affiliation with Shiva, Kedarnath is also believed to be the site of Shankaracharya’s samadhi.


PLACES OF INTEREST
Tungnath (90 kms.): Shiva’s arms came out at Tungnath. The Tungnath temple is at an altitude of 3,680 m and is the highest Shiva shrine among the Panch Kedars. However it is the easiest to reach from Chopta, the nearest road head.

Rudranath (142 kms.): Shiva’s face is worshipped at the Rudranath temple. It is about 2,286 m above sea level and is 23 km from Gopeshwar. 5 km of the distance is motor able and 18 km is on foot. The trek passes through wild orchards and picturesque bugyals (meadows) and involves trekking over high ridges (sometimes 4,000 m). The temple site provides magnificent views of Hathi Parvat, Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghungti, Trishuli and many other peaks. There are a number of holy kunds or ponds near the Rudranath temple like Suryakund, Chandrakund, Tarakund. The entire area is utterly enchanting and unmatched in scenic beauty. Anusuya Devi temple is located on the trek to Rudranath involving an additional trek of 3km.

Kalpeshwar: (160 kms.): Located in the Urgam valley at an altitude of 2,134 mts. above sea level, the temple is a 10 kms. trek from Helong – the motorhead on Rishikesh-Badrinath route. Here the locks (hair) with head of Lord Shiva are worshipped.

Shankaracharya Samadhi: Behind the Kedarnath Temple lies the samadhi or the final resting place of Adi Guru Shankaracharya. It is believed, after establishing the four dhams in India, he went for his samadhi at an early age of 32 years.

Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar) (2 kms.): A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is believed to have departed to heaven. The floating ice on the sparkling waters of the lake is a fascinating sight. Vasuki Tal (6 kms.) A picturesque lake, 4,135 mts. above sea level is encircled by lofty mountains and offers a commanding view of the


Chaukhamba peaks. Gaurikund (14 kms.):
The trekking base to Kedarnath. A temple dedicated to Gauri and thermal springs of medicinal value are noteworthy.

Sonprayag (20 kms.): The confluence of Son Ganga and Mandakini rivers. The road to Triyuginarayan diverts from here.

Triyuginarayan (25 kms.): A 5 kms. trek from Sonprayag, it is the mythological venue of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.An eternal flame, which is said to have been a witness to the marriage, burns in front of the temple even today.

Guptkashi (49 kms.): The temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanath are noteworthy.

Ukshimath (60 kms): Winter home of the deity of the Kedarnath Temple and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath.

Agastyamuni (73 kms): Famous for the temple dedicated to sage Agastya.

Chandrashila (93 kms.): The Chandrashila peak provides a rare view of snow-clad peaks. The rhododendron Forests and alpine meadows dominate the trek fromTungnath to Chandrashila.

Deoria Tal (68 kms.): Sari village is the last bus terminus on Chopta-Ukhimath road from where a 2 kms. trek leads to Deoria Tal. This beautiful lake at an altitude of 2,438 mts. gives the spectacular reflection of snow capped peaks in the lake water. Ideal spot for angling and bird watching.

12. Grishneshwar Jyotir Lingam

Grishneshwar-Jyotir-Lingam

Grishneshwar is an ancient pilgrimage site revered as the abode of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. It is located at Verul at a distance of 11 km from Daulatabad near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The Lord is also known by several names like Kusumeswarar, Ghushmeswara, Grushmeswara, Grishneswara. The Grishneswar temple was constructed by Ahilyabhai Holkar who also re-constructed the Kasi Viswanatha temple at Varanasi and the Vishnu Paada temple at Gaya. Grishneshwar is also known as Ghushmeshwar

STHALA PURANA

According to Shivapuran, in the southern direction, on a mountain named Devagiri lived a Brahmin called Brahmavetta Sudharm along with his wife Sudeha. The couple did not have a child because of which Sudeha was sad. Sudeha prayed and tried all possible remedies but in vain. Frustrated of being childless, Sudeha got her sister Ghushma married to her husband. On the advice of her sister, Ghushma used to make 101 lingas, worship them and discharge them in the near by lake.

With the blessings of Lord Shiva, Ghushma gave birth to a 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.

Next morning, Ghushmas and Sudharm got involved in daily prayers and ablutions. Sudeha too, got up and started performing her daily choirs. Ghushma’s daughter-in-law, however, saw stains of blood on her husband’s bed and parts of the body drenched in blood. Horrified, she narrated everything to mother-in-law Ghushma who was absorbed in worshipping Shiva. Ghushma did not deter. Even her husband Sudharma did not move an inch. Even when Ghushma saw the bed drenched in blood she did not break down and said he who has given me this child shall protect him and started reciting ‘Shiva-Shiva’. Later, when she went to discharge the Shivalingas after prayers she saw her son coming. Seeing her son Ghushma was neither happy nor sad. At that time Lord Shiv appeared before her and said – I am pleased with your devotion. Your sister had killed your son. Ghushma told Lord to forgive Sudeh and emancipate her. Pleased with her generosity, Lord Shiva asked her another boon. Ghushma said that if he was really happy with her devotion then he should reside here eternally for the benefit of the multitudes in form of a Jyotirling and may you be known by my name. On her request, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Jyotirling and assumed the name Ghushmeshwar and the lake was named as Shivalaya thereafter.

HISTORY OF TEMPLE

The very devout Shiva devotee, Bhosale (The Patel or chief of Verul) once found a treasure hidden in the snake pit (ant hill) by the grace of Lord Grishneshwar. He spent that money to renovate the temple and built a lake in Shikharshinganapur.

Later on, Goutamibal (Bayajabai) and Ahilyadevi Holkar renovated the Grishneshwar temple. This 240ft x 185 ft temple is still there strong and beautiful as ever. Halfway up the temple, Dashavataras are carved in red stone. These are beautiful to look at. There are also other beautiful statutes carved out. A court hall is built on 24 pillars. On these pillars there are wonderful carvings. The scenes and paintings are beautiful. The Garbhagriha measures 17ft x 17 ft. The Lingamurty faces eastward. There is a gorgeous Nandikeshwara in the court hall.

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