One of only 12 Jyotirlingas in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this one is located in Aurangabad and sits near the Ellora Caves. This one is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the site is considered an important pilgrimage site for Hindus, and it's the seat of the Grishneshwar Temple.
The Grishneshwar Temple is open to everyone, but only men with bare chests can enter the Garbhagriha. This is one of the only Jyotirlingas in India where devotees are allowed to touch the Shiva Linga with their bare hands.
The temple architecture is designed in the South Indian style and consists of five levels of structures. Carved out of granite, the most impressive feature of this temple is the five-tiered shikhara at the top. The current form of this temple was built by Queen Ahlyabai Holkar in the 18th century.
The Grishneshwar Temple has its origins in a Hindu belief that the temple would bring health and longevity to those who visited. It was believed to have been built before the 13th century, but its exact date of origin is unknown. In the 14th Century, the Mughal Empire ruled over the region where it is located, so it became a victim of sectarian violence.
The Zenana Mahal was built by Maloji Bhosale, the Grandfather of Shivaji Maharaj, in the 16th century. It is said that he also found a hidden treasure which he used to contribute to reconstruction projects and build an artificial lake at Shani Shingnapur.
Grishneshwar temple was attacked by the Mughals several more times during its history. It required rebuilding a few more times during the Mughal-Maratha wars, which happened between 1680 and 1707. In the 18th Century, it was rebuilt for the last time when the Mughal Empire was defeated by the Marathas. Today, with help from the queen of Indore, Rani Ahilyabai, one of India's most important Hindu temples is well-preserved.
The legend of Grishneshwar tells a tale about Ghushma, whose husband and sister became childless to the point that her sister asked her to replace him with Ghushma. This is the reason why the sister was paranoid and advised Ghushma to pray to Lord Shiva in hopes that he would give them a baby boy. The sister also said that they should make 101 Shivalingas and immerse them into a body of water as it would be answered by their prayers. It's said that this act of love led to her giving birth to a healthy son who she then arranged for Sudeha's son and eventually his daughter to marry. After she had killed the son, she threw him into the same body of water and later married him herself.
One day, Ghushma's daughter-in-law came to tell her that her son is missing. Ghushma didn't let this news disturb her, and continued with her usual rituals. She believed Lord Shiva would help her save her son from the terrible fate he was about to meet. When she finished the prayers, she noticed Ghushma with a Shivalinga in the water and asked if any other deities have surfaced since then. The mighty Jyotirlinga appeared to Ghushma and they gave him another boon to stay there eternally as Lord Shiva.
Grishneshwar Temple has a traditional South Indian Temple architecture.
The temple complex consists of inner chambers and a sanctum sanctorum.
The structure is made up of red-colored stones and occupies an area of 44,400 square feet. With these dimensions also, the Grishneshwar Temple is the smallest Jyotirlinga temple.
The temple has a 5-layered tall shikhara and several pillars which bear intricate mythological carvings.
The red-stone walls mostly depict the legends of Lord Shiva and the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum has the Shivalinga facing east. It measures about 289 square feet and has a statue of Nandi in the passageway.
Broad daylight is 06:00 am to 10:30 pm during the year and 03:00 am to 11:00 pm during the month of Shravan. The time required for Darshan at Grishneshwar is 1 to 2 hours depending on the crowd.
One ritual is performed after the noon-time aarti, which is called the afternoon or evening arati.
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