Chandra and Somanatha Twenty-seven of Daksha's daughters were married to the moon-god Chandra. One of these wives was named Rohini and Chandra loved Rohini more than he loved the other wives. The other wives felt neglected and they complained to their father. Daksha repeatedly warned his son-in-law to devote himself equally to all twenty-seven wives. But Chandra was in no mood to listen.Daksha thereupon cursed Chandra that he would gradually fade away. Chandra didn't know what to do. He went and sought advice from Brahma and Brahma told him that the only rescourse was to pray to Shiva. Chandra went to Prabhasa tirtha and made a linga on the banks of the river Sarasvati. He prayed to Shiva for six months. At the end of the tapasya Shiva appeared before Chandra and offered to grant him a boon. Chandra explained what the problem was.Well, said Shiva, Daksha's curse cannot be entirely ignored. Let us have a compromise. During krishnapaksha you will wane. And during shuklapaksha (the bright part of the lunar fortnight) you will wax. That should satisfy everybody.Chandra was delighted. The linga to which Chandra prayed is Somantha, the first of the jyotirlingas. Shiva is always present at that tirtha. Mallikarjuna What about the second jyotirlinga. Mallikarjuna? You already know that Kartikeya felt cheated when Ganesha got married. He decided that he would not live with Shiva and Parvati any longer, and began to live on the mountain Krouncha.Parvati was miserable that her son had left her. She sent gods, sages, gandharvas and apsaras to bring her son back. But Kartikeya would not return. Shiva and Parvati then went to visit Kartikeya themselves, but Kartikeya would not let them get too close.Shiva and Parvati started to live at a place that was about six miles away from where their son was living. They are always there, so as to be near their son. This place is known as Mallikarjuna. Dushana and Mahakala The third of the jyotirlingas is Mahakala. The city of Avanti is on the banks of the river Kshipra (Shipra).A brahmana named Vedapriya used to lived in the city of Avanti. He used to worship Shiva everyday and he had brought up his four sons to do the same. These sons were named Devapriya, Priyamedha, Suvrita and Suvrata.Not very far away, on a hill named Ratnamala, there used to live an asura named Dushana. Dushana was evil, he could not stand the idea of the Vedas being read and the religion prescribed in them followed. He went about destroying this righteous religon wherever he could. Dushana got to know that in the city of Avanti there lived four brahmanas who followed the righteous religion and worshipped Shiva.These were Devapriya, Priyamedha, Suvrita and Suvrata. Their father Vedapriya had died by then.Dushana and his cohorts came and attacked the city of Avanti. They threatened to kill the four brahmanas, but the brothers were not at all perturbed. They continued to pray to Shiva. They bowed in obeisance before the linga.Suddenly a tremendous sound was heard and a pit appeared in the ground in front of the linga. Shiva himself appeared in this pit. Dushana was burnt into ashes from the force of Shiva's roar. And Shiva put all of Dushana's soldiers to flight.The brahmanas prayed that Shiva might always be present at that place and Shiva agreed. This is the place that is known as Mahakala. Vindhya and Omkara The fourth of the jyotirlingas is Omkara. Narada had once gone on a visit to the mountain Vindhya. Vindhya worshipped Narada. But because Vindhya was slightly proud, he also said. I am full of all the desirable objects that one can think of.Perhaps, replied Narada. But Mount Sumeru is superior to you, becaue the gods are always there.Vindhya decided to become the equal of Sumeru. He began to pray to Shiva. For six months he prayed. When Shiva appeared, Vindhya desired that Shiva might always be present there so that he might become the equal of Sumeru.The linga that Vindhya worshipped as called Omkara. Naranarayana and Kedara The fifth of the jyotirlingas is Kedara. In one of Vishnu's incarnations, he revealed himself as the two sages, Nara and Narayana. These two sages prayed for a long time in the hermitage known as vadrikashrama. Near this hermitage there was a peak of the Himalayas named Kedara.After the two sages had prayed to Shiva for a very long time, Shiva appeared and said, I don'tunderstand why the two of you worshipping me. It is you who should be worshipped. But since you have been praying to me, let me grant you a boon.Nara and Narayana desred that Shiva should always be present in the form of a linga on the peak Kedara. Bhimashankara The sixth of the jyotirlingas is Bhimashankara. You know about Rama and Ravana from the Ramayana and you also know that Rama killed not only Ravana, but also his brother Kumbahakarna.A rakshasa woman named Karkati used to live on the mountains named Sahya. Karkati had been married to Kumbhakarna and her son was named Bhima. One day, Bhima asked Karkati, Mother, whose son am I? Why do we live alone in this forest?Karkati said, Let me tell you my sad story. I used to be married to the rakshasa Viradha. But Rama killed Viradha. Later on, Kumbhakarna came and married me here and you were born. Kumbhakarna had promised to take me to Lanka. But he was killed by Rama and I never got to see Lanka. That is the reason we live here alone. We have nowhere else to go.Bhima was very sorry to hear this story. He resolved to avenge himself on Vishnu because he knew that Rama had been an incarnation of Vishnu. For a thousand years he prayed to Brahma with his hands raised up to the sky. When Brahma appeared, Bhima wished for the boon that he might become very strong. This boon Brahma granted.The first target of Bhima's attention was the king of Kamarupa. The king's crime was that he was devoted to Vishnu. Bhima attacked the king, stole all his belongings, conquered his kingdom and imprisoned him and his wife. He then proceeded to conquer the rest of the world.In their prison, the king and his wife started to pray to Shiva. This news was brought to Bhima by the rakshasa guards and Bhima decided to kill the king. He found the king praying before a Shiva linga. When Bhima raised his sword to cut off the the king's head, Shiva appeared from the linga and repelled the sword with his trident. Bhima flung a spear at Shiva, but this too was driven back by the trident. Whatever weapon was used by Bhima, Shiva's trident destroyed them all. Finally, Shiva killed Bhima and all his rakshasa cohorts.The gods were gratified and they craved that Shiva might always remain in the place in the form of the linga. Vishvanatha and Varanasi The seventh of the jyotirlingas is named Vishvanatha and it is located in the city of Varanasi or Kashi. Varanasi is a very sacred place. Brahma himself performed difficult tapasya there. So difficult was the tapasya that Vishnu shook his head in disbelief. When Vishnu shook his head, a jewel (mani) fell down from Vishnu’ ear (karna).The place where the jewel fall is known as Manikarnika and it is a famous tirtha.Varanasi is not destroyed when the rest of the world is destroyed. Shiva himself raises it on the point of his trident and protects it while destruction rages all around. When the world is re-created. Shiva replaces Varanasi to its appointed place. Shiva and Parvati once went to visit Brahma. Brahma began to chant hymns in Shiva's praise with all of his five mouths. One of the mouths however made mistakes in the pronunciation of the hymns. This angered Shiva and Shiva severed the offending head with a gaze of his third eye. But this effectively amounted to the killing of a brahmana and Shiva committed a crime. The severed head therefore got stuck to Shiva's back would would not come off, no matter where Siva went. But when Shiva arrived in Varanasi, the head fell off his back. Shiva realized that Varanasi was a special place and he resolved that he would always be present there. Goutama and Trymbaka Towards the south of the country there was a mountain named Brahmaparvata. There the sage Goutama and his wife Ahalya performed tapasya for ten tousand years. While they were meditating, there were no rains in the forest for a hundred years and there was a shortage of water. Living beings died from the drought. Goutama prayed to Varuna, the god of the ocean and the rain. Varuna appeared and offered to grant a boon.Please grant the boon that it might rain, said Goutama.I can'tdo that, replied Varuna. That is beyond my powers. Ask for something else instead. Then let us have a pond in the forest that will always be full of water, said Goutama.This was within Varuna's powers and the pond was created. The other sages also began to use water from this pond. Normally, Goutama sent his disciples to fetch water. But the disciples complained that the wives of the other sages did not let them take the water. So Ahalya herself started to fetch the water. The wives of the other sages annoyed and pestered Ahyalya, but she never reacted. These wives then complained to their husbands about Ahalya and Goutama. At first the sages did not listen, but eventually, they were convinced that Ahalya and Goutama were wicked. They therefore sought to devise a plan so that these two might punished. They began to pray to Ganesha.When Ganesha arrived, the sages said, Please grant us the boon that Goutama and Ahalya might be banished from the hermitage.Although Ganesha realized that this was an unfair boon, he decided to grant it because he realized that the sages and their evil wives needed to be punished.Goutama had some fields of paddy and grain. Ganesha adopted the form of a lean and starving cow and began to eat up the crop. Goutama tried to drive away the cow with a blade of grass. But as soon as he struck the cow with the blade of grass, the cow fell down and died. This was a terrible calamity. It was the killing of a cow. The other sages banished Goutama and Ahalya from the hermitage. They had to set up an ashrama (hermitage) that was a fair distance away. The other sages completely disassociated themselves from Goutama and Ahalya. Goutama began to think of ways of performing prayashchitta (penance) for the crime that he had committed. The other sages told him that he would first have to travel around the world. After that, he would have to pray very hard for an entire month. The next task was to circle Brahmaparvata a hundred times and bathe in a hundred pots of water. This would complete the penance. All this Goutama and Ahalya did. They also prayed for a long time to Shiva.Shiva appeared before them and offered them a boon. Goutama desired the boon that the river Ganga might always be present in the hermitage. Ganga said that she would agree subject to the condition that Shiva and Parvati were also always present in the hermitage. Parvati and Shiva agreed to do this. This established Trymbaka, the eighth of the jyotirlingas. The river Ganga which flowed there came to be known as the Godavari. So Trymbaka is on the banks of the Godavari. What happened to the evil sages and their wives? Goutama asked that they might be pardoned. They performed penance by circling Brahmaparvata one hundred and one times, and begged forgiveness from Goutama and Ahalya. Ravana and Vaidyanatha The ninth of the jyotirlingas is named Vaidyanatha. Ravana, the king of the rakshasas, meditated in the Himalayas so as to please Shiva. First he prayed on Mount Kailasa, but Shiva did not appear. He then went to a place named Vrikshakhandaka which was a little towards the south. He prayed there, but Shiva did not appear. Ravana next dug a pit in the earth and started to pray inside the pit. He established a Shiva linga inside the pit. Shiva still not appear. Ravana therefore decided that he would immolate himself. Ravana, as you know, had ten heads. He lit a fire and severing his heads, began to offer them one by one to the fire. When nine of the heads had thus been offered, Shiva appeared.Enough is enough, said Shiva. What boon do you want?Please grant me the boon that I may be very strong. And please restore my nine heads, replied Ravana.These boons Shiva granted and the place where Ravana prayed is known as Vaidyanatha.The gods were not at all happy that Ravana had become so strong. They were afraid tha the rakshasa might start to oppress them. They therefore sent Narada to create some mischief. Narada met Ravana and asked him why he was looking so happy. Ravana related the story of the boon.Boon, exclaimed Narada. Who believes in Shiva? Let me see if you can lift up Mount Kailasa. If you can do that, I shall indeed believe that you have become strong.Incited by Narada, Ravana returned to Kailasa and lifted up the mountain. As the mountain shook, Shiva and Parvati were disturbed. Shiva cursed Ravana that soon a being would be born who would kill Ravana. This being was of course Rama, Vishnu's incarnation.