Jyotirlinga is a shrine by which Lord Shiva is worshipped as a Linggam, Pillar of Light,
There are twelve Jyotirlinga Shrines in India.
They are in Somnath in Gujarat,
Mallikarjuna at Srisailam,
Mahakaleswar at Ujjain,
Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh,
Kedarnath in Himalayas,
Bhimashankar in Maharastra,
Vaisvanath at Varanasi,
Triambakeshwar in Maharastra,
Vaidynath at Deoghar,
Nageswar at Dwarka,
Rameshwar at Rameshwaram
Grishneshwar at Aurangabad.
Each of the twelve Jyotirlinga take the name of the residing deity being a different manifestation of Lord Shiva. The primary image is the Linggam divinely representing the infinite nature of Shiva’s beginingless and endlessness.
According to the Shiva Purana, Brahma and Vishnu engaged in a dispute as to their supremacy of creation. Hearing this, Lord Shiva pierced the three lokhas as a gigantic endless pillar of light. Brahma and Vishnu each try to find the beginning and the end. Vishnu concedes defeat while Brahma cheats and earns Siva’s wrath. He is cursed not to have a place in religious ceremonies. Vishnu is credited to be worshipped till the end of eternity. The Jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality of Lord Shiva. The Jyotirlinga shrines are places where the Lord appeared as the column of light.
The legend relating to Mahakaleshwarar takes place in Avati. There lived a Brahmin and his four sons. They were devotees of Lord Shiva. It was a time, the demon Dushanan was creating havoc. King Chandrasena and Shiva-bhaktas performed a puja and prayed to Siva. They had dug a pond and used the mud to make a Linggam. The demon appears to interrupt the puja. Seeing this Lord Shiva rose from the pond as Mahakaleswarar to destroy Dushanan. Thereafter He remained at this sthalam as one of the Jyotirlingams. As the Lingam was formed from its own powers, Mother Parvathi declared that bhaktas worshiping this formless pillar of light would be free from death and disease.
The city of Ujjain is also known as Indrapuri Amaravati, and Avantika. It is also called ‘Swarga Sringa’ as it has a number of golden towers of several temples. Mahakal, Ujjain in Madya Pradesh is where Mahalaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple is situated. The temple is located near a lake. The shikhara of this temple soars into the skies and evokes a primordial awe and reverence.The Lingam at Mahakal is believed to be the only Swayambhu Jyotirlinga. This means the shrine was self-manifested, that is which is created by its own accord. The Lingam derives Shakti, the currents of power from within itself. Do not get mixed up with Swayambhunath as that is a reference to a monkey temple in Katmandu! Altogether, there are five levels of the temple.
The temple also has a Shree Yantra perched upside down at the ceiling of Garbhagriha. Garvhagriva literally means ‘womb chamber’ implying the interior of the sanctum sanctorum where the Murthi of the primary deity resides. In Ujjain, the Swayambhu is known as Daksinamurthi, meaning it is facing south. This position is unique and is in accordance with Tantric Shivnetra. Shivnetra is pineal gland between the two eyebrows, the third eye of Shiva, of tantra. Those pursuing this should do so at the feet of a guru.
The Moola lingam is very small & is located underground. The pathway to the underground sanctum is lit with brass lamps. Here prasada may be re-offered. The idol of Omkareshwar Mahadev is consecrated in the sanctum above the Mahakal shrine. The west, north and east of the sanctum sanctorum has the images of Ganesha, Parvathi and Karthikeya. Nandi, Shiva’s vahana is in the south. The deity of Nagachandreswar is open for darshan only on Naga Panchami and this is on the third storey.
Abisheka Puja takes place at 4 am. The Bhasma Aarti is one that involves smearing the Linga with hot ashes from the burning ghats or cremation grounds. Shiva is believed to dwell in cremation grounds, and the ash-smearing ceremony is homage to the Destroyer of the Universe himself. Hence Chitbhasm or Ash of Cemetery is applied all over the Mahakal. This form of worship is symbolic of Death and Life being inseperable, an idea that is inherent to most of the Hindu schools fo thought. According to tradition, Chitabhasm is unholy and inauspicious. Touching it by mistake warrants a bath to purify oneself. But its application on the Mahakal renders it holy because Shiva is ‘Nishkam’ or lustless. Shiva is Mangalmaya or auspicious, one that is not affected by material desires. It is always believed that those visiting Mahakal temple and take a darshan, will be relieved of sorrows even in their dreams. It is a conceited belief also that prayers to Mahakal Jyotirlinga is a way to attain salvation.
This myth describes the grandeur of Mahakaleswar. The King of Ujjain at the material time is King Chandrasena. He was a staunch Shiva bhakta and a scholar. Once he came in possession of a brilliant gemstone, the Sundara Chintamani. Chandrasena was on par with celestial gods wearing the Chinamani. This caused envy amidst neighboring kings. He was asked to part with it and upon refusal was threatened to attack. Over time he was surrounded with enemies eyeing the gemstone. The King prayed to Lord Shiva and a solution was pointed to.
There was a parallel story that developed in the city. An illiterate boy sees the King performing puja for a stone deity. He too installs a stone in his house. He imagines it to be a Shiva Linga and devotingly prays to the Linga. He becomes too engrossed and abandons every other chore. In his was the feeling that the stone was an incarnation of Shiva. He even forgets about his food. The outside world had no affect on him and he appeared crazy to the others. His mother, for all her love, could not control her anger, threw away the Shivalinga.
The mother also destroyed all the other objects of worship. The disappointed boy did not give up. He brought the stone elsewhere. He paid more attention and concentrated only on the prayer. Lord Shiva casts his eyes on the boy. The Linga soon became adorned with gemstones and turned into a JyotirLinga. After singing in praise of Lord Siva, when the boy returned to his house, he found that he was blessed with a beautiful palatial home instead. Thus, with the Grace and Blessings of Lord Siva, the boy became rich and led a very happy life.
In the mean time, the enemy kings who attached ceased Chandrasena’s empire, began to fight among themselves. They began to say king Chandrasena is a Siva devotee and ujjain itself is the city of Mahakal. It is therefore, impossible to anyone to win it. Further, Lord Hanuman appears to reveal the secret that only Siva could grant salvation to mankind and nobody else. The Lord is pleased with any form of worship to his Formless form. Thus the Lord is pleased with worship done even without chanting any mantras. Then Hanuman looked at Chandrasena with eyes filled with affection and benevolence and disappeared. Everyone understood that blessing. They then decided to extend a hand of friendship to king Chandrasena and together they all worshipped Mahakal.
Lingam worship is more of an idea of worshiping the Divine rather than worshiping a deity. It is there as saguna for convenience and focusing and attention. Even if one sees a Lingam represented with a yoni, the symbol of Shakti, it is representative of the indivisible two-in-Oneness of the passive space and active time from which all life originates. That is also a way to pour love and devotion. The entire Saguna and Nirguna worship of the Lingam is beautiful indeed. Bhaktas could aspire and move beyond the Lingam to realize Gods as Formless. It is a mistake to make thoughtless sweeping statements of Shiva-Parvathi or lingam-yoni with sexual overtones. Even if there is a remote connection, that Tantric science of Divine Union is to be learnt at the holy feet of a guru to be aware that Lingam is not a phallic symbol at all. Om Namah Sivaya, Sivaya Namah Om.
Hari Om by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi