God Shiva - a huge pillar of fire - ''jyotiswarupam''

God .Shiva, a column of fire reaching heaven and earth. facebook.com/

12 Jyothirlinga shrines. across India. indiamart.com

There are 12 important Jyotirlinga shrines located across India where Lord Shiva, the famous cosmic dancer, is worshiped in Jyotiswarupam - in the form of a column of Agni or fire. Bhimashankar, near Pune, Malligarjuna Swami, Andhra, Mahakaleswar, Ujjain, M.P., Kedarnath, Uttrakhand, Kasi Viswanath temple, Varanasi, Omkareswar, M.P., Vaidyanath near Parli, Maharastra, and Assam, Trimbakeshwara near Nashik, Maharashtra, Nageswara, Gujarat Ramaeswar, Tamil Nadu, etc., are some of other Jyotilinga shrines.

12-jyotirlingas,india, devshoppe.com

Shiva -pillar of light in.pinterest.com

Above image:  Gods appears as a column of light  in the mythologies of some religions. Example Christianity  and Judaism.  Remember the Hollywood classic movie  ''The Ten  Commandments'' (1956) directed by Cecil B. DeMille, in which the Holy Spirit appears as a huge column of fire to let the  enslaved Hebrews led by Moses escape from tailing  Pharaoh and his army..............

Jyothilina or Jyothilingam is an ultimate divine object of the Almighty - a supreme form of God Shiva. Jyoti here implies 'radiance' or fire and lingam means the 'image or Sign' of Shiva - beginning-less and endless cosmic pillar (Stampha) of fire which proves his superiority over other gods. This is referred to as Lingodbhava, embodying infinite nature. The endless sky is the linga and the Earth is the base. Hence he is called Mahadeva - the Great God Shiva.

The story of Jyothilinga is, indeed, quite fascinating According to Indian mythology, Shivapurana, if a man has intense trust in Shiva who is the manifestation of everything, he will attain liberation and be free from the bondage of birth-death cycles. Even, if he does not follow three important activities i.e. Shravana, Kirtan and Manan, it does not matter, he can still get salvation - Moksha (salvation). He is a creator, destroyer and protector - all rolled into one. Since he himself is the creator - Brahma, for this very reason he is known as Nishkal. Shiva is called Saguna (God with form) because of his beauty. He is also called Nirguna (without any qualities). Being a cosmic dancer whose stage is the cosmos, while drumming the Ooduku, a small drum and dancing to his ecstasy, he keeps the universe active with his rhythm and sound.

When subduing the pride and enmity of Vishnu and Brahma Shiva, being simple in form, showed them his resplendent divine form and prowess and preached the mantra "OM". Since then worship of Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga has become common and Shivaratri - the ritual of whole night worship of Shiva is widely observed across India in all Shiva temples.

Nandikeshwar, Lord Shiva's mount narrates the battle of lords Brahma and Lord Vishnu:
Once a serious verbal dual brewed between Lord Brahma, the Hindu God of Creator and Lord Vishnu, the God of Protector over a trivial matter related to 'self-esteem'. When Brahma called on Vishnu at his abode, he was not properly received and it was unintentional on the part of Vishnu. However, what started out as a serious argument, slowly simmered and ultimately boiled over to a big issue and both were ready to fight it out to prove their superiority. Celestial beings and Demi - gods tried to pacify them, but it ended in vein and the dual continued without any solution in sight. Finally, they sought the help of Lord Shiva to intervene and put an end to the enmity between Brahma and Vishnu.

Brahma, a Trinity God with 4 heads.indianyug.com

Above image: One of the Trinity Gods Brahma with four heads.  The philosophy behind this image og god is very simple. Originally God Brahma had 5 heads representing 4 Yugas knowledge of 4 Vedas, 5th being ego over his knowledge of the Vedas. So 5th head representing ego had to be removed. A sort of punishment for dereliction of duty assigned to him.......................

Feigning ignorance, Shiva asked the celestial and others about the purpose of their visit to his place at the same time. The deities told him about the battle fought between Brahma and Vishnu...........................   

Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, accompanied by his one hundred Ganas reached there, where both Brahma and Vishnu were standing against each other with their deadly weapons - Maheshwar and Pashupat drawn respectively. Fearing the gravity of the situation and consequent destruction that might befall the world, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of 'Analstamba' (pillar or column of fire) between them. Brahma and Vishnu, who had already released their weapons - Maheshwar and Pashupat, saw their deadly weapons fall into that pillar of fire and got destroyed.

Both Brahma and Vishnu stood there aghast and dumbfounded as the pillar of fire was so gigantic in size that it reached the entire sky and penetrated deep down the earth - patalalogam. Lord Shiva said, "Whoever finds the base or crest of the fire column will be the winner". Vishnu transformed himself into a boar and went to the 'Patal' (nether world) to find the base of that 'Pillar of fire'. Having dug so many miles below the earth, Vishnu realized the futility of his attempt and accepted that he could not see the base of the fire column.

On the other hand, Brahma took the form of a swan / hamsa and flew up in the sky to reach the crest of the fire column / pillar. En route, he met a withered, but flagrant 'Ketaki' flower ( screw pine flower or Thazhampoo in Tamil) that was falling down. When he asked him about the crest of the fire column he told him that he had been falling downward for several eons and and told Brahma it was impossible to see the crest.
Shiva- a column of fire quora.com

Above image:  According to the Hindu mythology. God Brahma going up to find the summit of Shiva and God Vishnu going down to Pathal to find the base of Shiva. The implication is God is form less and is omnipresent. Crown-less and end less form

However, Brahma keen to win the contest at any cost, stooped to the level of requesting the Ketaki flower to give a false witness before lord Vishnu, that he (Brahma) had seen the summit of the fire column, to which Ketaki flower agreed. Accordingly Kekati flower told Vishnu that Brahma had seen the crown of the Pillar of fire. Ketaki flower gave witness in favor of Brahma. Vishnu accepted the superiority of Brahma and admitted to lord Shiva that he could not find the base of the pillar of fire.

Upon Brahma giving false witness, Lord Shiva was in rage with Brahma and decided to punish him for his falsehood. Lord Vishnu requested Lord Shiva to spare the life of Brahma. As Lord Shiva became pleased with Vishnu he accorded him the same status as before. Now lord opened his third eye from which manifested 'Bhairav'. Lord ordered Bhairav to kill Brahma. Bhairav severed the fifth head of Lord Brahma with his sword. Brahma became very terrified upon which Lord Vishnu pleaded Shiva to spare him and Shiva spared the life of Brahma.  Lord Shiva said," As you are a liar and gave false witness, your are not worthy of worship and there shall be no temple on the earth dedicated to you. You will posses only four heads."

Brahma begged for his forgiveness. Lord Shiva became pacified and accorded Brahma the status of being the presiding deity of all the Yagya. As for the Ketaki flower (Thazhampoo), it will not be used for worship at many temples. As the flower asked for his forgiveness, he became worship-able in the Vishnu temple.

. An idol of Shiva performing cosmic danceabc.net.au

Above image: Smuggled and sold to an Australian Art Gallery; the Indian govt. recovered in the recent past. Theft occurred in Tamil Nadu.  Shiva's dance keeps the universe going in rhyme .......

Lord Vishnu and Brahma now understood the prowess of Shiva behind his unassuming simple appearance. They then worshiped him. This was the first time Brahma and Vishnu had worshiped lord Shiva. Since then Shivaratri has been continued to be celebrated in all Shivastalams - temples and it is the most auspicious day for the worship of Lord Shiva. Through out night in all Shiva temples, there will be prayers, bhajans and meditations. Ardent devotees will fast on this day. He appears as a column of fire in the month of Agahan and during the constellation on the night of Aridra
Nakshatra. The place where, he manifested in the form of Pillar of fire became famous as Lingasthan Jyothisthalam. Because of its resemblance with the 'Mountain of Fire', is known as Arunachal. Hence Shiva is often referred to as Arunachaleswar.

Lord Shiva then preached Brahma and Vishnu on importance of five duties or Panchakritya - 'Srishti' (creation), 'Sthiti' (position), Samhar (annihilation), Tirobhav (concealment) and 'Anugrah' (obligation or kindness) are the five duties by which this world functions.

The main source of this world in 'Sarga' or Nature that has pancha boothas - five elements essential for life. 'Sthit' refers to creation of living things, non living things. Samhar or destruction in the form of death, natural calamity, etc. The feeling of absence of this world is Tirobhav or concealment and Anugrah - attaining Moksha or salvation.

Lord Shiva also told them (Brahma and Vishnu) that he (Shiva) had blessed both of them to look after the two duties i.e. Srishti and Sthiti. Rudra and Mahesh have been entrusted with the job of Samhar and Tiribhav. "The fifth duty 'Anugrah' has been kept by him. After explaining the three important duties - Creation, Protection and Destruction, to get the universe going, Lord Shiva expounded the meaning of 'OMKAR' to Lord Vishnu and Brahma - meaning and the power of Shiva-Shakti and its relevance to the world - the oneness of man and woman in the worldly accomplishment as well as salvation. The universe is non-functional without Shakthi and Shivam. Thus OM or OMKAR' mantra preached by Lord Shiva breathes life into this universe.