The new moon day in the Hindu month of Magha is celebrated as Maha Shivratri. This year, Maha Shivratri is on Friday.
One of the holy trinities in the Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is worshipped across the country on this day.
To celebrate the day, devotees chant prayers, observe fast and pay obeisance to the god of destruction. A visit to the 12 Jyotirlingas, the holiest places for Shiva worship, is considered to be pious. The Jyotirlingas are spread across the country.
1. Somnath: Located on the western coast of Gujarat, in Prabhas Patan, Saurashtra, the Somnath temple is thronged by devotees. Lord Shiva is believed to have appeared as a fiery column of light here.
2. Nageshwar: This jyotirlinga is also located in Gujarat. This shrine of Mahadev is located in an underground sanctum. The Nageshwar Jyotirlinga symbolizes protection of all types of poisons.
3. Bhimashankar – On the banks of River Bhima in Pune is Bhimashankar temple, where the Jyotirlinga is said to be built by Kumbhakarna’s son Bheema. However, there is a debate over the place of the jyotirlinga, as Shiva Purana considers the Bhimshankar temple near Guwahati to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, while Linga Puran calls the Bhim Shankar temple in Bhimpur in Orissa to be one of the 12 shrines.
4. Trimbakeshwar – The holy city of Nashik is home to one of the jyotirlingas, Trimbakeshwar. This shrine is famous of the three-headed linga, representing the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva).
5. Grishneshwar – Another jyotirlinga in Maharashtra is located in the city of Aurangabad. The Grishneshwar linga is associated with a legend when Lord Shiva helped a mother get back her dead son.
6. Vaidyanath – While the exact location of the Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is also debated. It believed that the main shrine is the one located in Deoghar, Jharkhand. It is believed that Ravana worshipped Lord Shiva for years and made him agree to go to Sri Lanka. On the way, Lord Vishnu asked Ravana to keep the Shiva linga to rest for some time in Deoghar, marking it as one of the jyotirlingas.
7. Mahakaleshwar – The Mahakal forest in Ujjain houses the Mahakaleshwar temple. According to a popular legend, the shrine was built by a five-year-old boy Srikar. The jyotirlinga is also among the seven mukti-sthal (place to achieve liberation of human soul) in India.
8. Omkareshwar – The Omkareshwar shrine is located in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh. According to the Hindu scriptures, when Gods lost to Demons in the great war, they worshipped to Lord Shiva, who emerged as the Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga.
9. Kashi Vishwanath – The Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, is one of the famous jyotirlingas in India. The shrine also marks its importance due to its location on the shores of holy river Ganga.
10. Kedarnath – The temple in Uttarakhand remains open for just 6 months in a year. Legend has it that Lord Shiva settled here as a jyotirlinga on the request of the twin avatar of Vishnu Nara and Narayana.
11. Rameshwaram – Located in Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu, the jyotirlinga is also associated with Lord Rama. It is believed that Lord Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped Lord Shiva, who has since resided here.
12. Mallikarjuna: Known as the “Kailash of the South”, the temple in Srisailam town of Andhra Pradesh serves as the home to Mallikarjuna (Shiva) and Bhramaramba (Devi).