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Grishneswar-the 12th Jyotirlingam
Hindus worship Lord Shiva as one of the three trinities, Bramha the creator, Vishnu the protector & Shiva the destroyer. Lord Shiva is usually worshipped in the Ling or Linga form, which is basically the phallic symbol. There are several ideas & volumes of texts in the Hindu holy scriptures explaining the significance of the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. The phallic symbol has been described variously as a symbol of Male power (PURUSH ) as distinct from the female power (Prakriti or Shakti), the combined form of the five levels of matter (Pancha Kosha) & the core Atman, the symbol of infinity etc. As per their own spiritual & intellectual levels, Hindus worship the phallic symbol as Lord Shiva’s material expression.
India is dotted with countless millions of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, & almost without exception everywhere Lord Shiva is worshipped in His Linga or phallic form. However, according to the scriptures, 12 of those countless millions are Jyotirlingams, which are given special status by the scriptures. There is a famous Sloka in which these 12 special Shivalingams are praised & their locations described. The sloka goes thus :
“Sourashtre Somnatham Cha/ Shree Saile Mallikarjunam
Ujjayeno Mahakalam/ Omkaram Amaleshwaram
Paralyam Baidyanatham cha/Dakinyam Bhimashankaram
Setubandhe tu Ramesham/ Nagesham Dwarka bane
Varanaishyam tu Vishweswaram/ Trambakam Gotami tate
Himalaye tu Kedaram/ Grishnesam Shivalaye.”
(The names in bold are the names of the 12 jyotirlingams.)
It is a dream of every devout Hindu to visit these shrines at least once in life.
These shrines are dispersed as widely as possible throughout India. The state of Maharashtra is blessed by the presence of 5 such shrines. These are Trambakeswar near Nasik, Bhimashankar near Pune, Grishneswar near Aurangabad, Oundha nagnath & Parali Vaijnath near Nanded.
With this preamble, let me describe the shrine of Grishneswar, the 12th Jyotirlingam.
The shrine is situated about 34 km from Aurangabad, a major city of Maharashtra, at a place called Ilapur which is very near to the world famous Ellora caves. It is only a couple of hundred metres from the main highway & is easily approachable by road from Aurangabad.
The temple complex is surrounded by a high stone wall. On entering the temple complex, the tall pinnacle of the shrine catches the eyes. The courtyard is barricaded with iron railings, which is essential for crowd control, particularly during major festivals. There are several small temples dedicated to various gods & goddesses of the Hinduism.
The main temple is at the centre. On entering the main temple, the first thing that attracts attention is a beautiful pavilion (mandap) with 18 pillars with exquisite art works. The stone figure of Nandi, the sacred bull, is positioned in the centre of this mandap.
The Jyotirlinga is situated in the Garvagriha (sanctum sanctorum). All male devotees are to remove their upper body garments before entering the garvagriha.
Outside the main temple, there is a deep well (Kund). One can get down a flight of broken stone steps to touch the water of the well, which is a standard ritual.
The main temple is made of stone (red basalt which is locally available). Originally constructed in a distant past, it has been renovated by several kings, & latest by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar in the 18th century A.D. The lower portion of the temple is of reddish color, but the upper portion including the pinnacle (Shikhara) is covered with a white plaster.
The red basalt stones are decorated with hundreds of human & animal figures. Scenes from Hindu mythology are also engraved there. The Shikhara is decorated with floral & geometric designs as well as with images of bulls & monkeys.The Grishneswar Shiva is also known as Kusumeswara, Grushmeswara & Ghushumeswar