As per the Shiva Purana, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of Preservation) had an argument about who was supreme.
To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. To determine who was mightier Vishnu took the form of Varaha and sought out the bottom while Brahma took the form of a swan to fly to the pillar’s top.
Brahma out of arrogance lied that he had found out the end, offering a katuki flower as witness. Vishnu modestly confessed to being unable to find the bottom. Shiva then took the form of the wrathful Bhairava, cut off Brahma’s lying fifth head, and cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped. Vishnu for his honesty would be worshiped as equal to Shiva with his own temples for all eternity.
The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light.
There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve jyotirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity – each considered different manifestation of Shiva.
At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.
The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh in Deoghar, Jharkhand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of Ganges near to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha, a revered place of worship for the Shaktism sect. The Daksha Yajna, a Shaivite literature is considered as an important literature which is the story about the origin of Shakti Peethas.
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