The Grishneshwar Temple is one of the Jyotirlingas, one of twelve Hindu temples of particularly special importance to the deity Shiva. It is traditionally the twelfth temple of the list, though not necessarily in importance. Per the Jyotirlinga legend, Shiva appeared on the spot as a beam of light. Although it is not mandatory that this temple be the last one visited by pilgrims when touring the Jyotirlingas, many aspire to complete their journeys here if possible.
The Grishneshwar Temple is located in one of the oldest inhabited areas of India, and may in fact be the oldest religious site that would later be home to one of the Jyotirlinga shrines. The site was almost certainly sacred to Buddhists even before Hinduism arrived in the area, which is closely tied to the clusters of cave temples at Ajanta and Ellora not too far away.
According to Hindu legend, a Brahmin and his wife lived in the area in very ancient times. The Brahmin’s wife was unable to conceive a child, and in desperation she turned to her sister. Her sister became pregnant by way of the Brahmin, and subsequently gave birth to a son.
The wife, jealous, killed the child and threw him into a sacred lake. This brought a curse of blood upon the family. However, the sister sought the forgiveness of Shiva for her sister. Shiva, impressed by her generosity and piety, took away the curse and left a linga manifested in the area. This story is one of the few Jyotirlinga tales that does not involve a battle with a demon. Some theologians have posed that this story may have similar roots to that of the Biblical Abraham.
The temple site is very ancient, though the building has been rebuilt and renovated several times. The multiple buildings of the complex were clearly built at very different times. Thanks to its proximity to the Ellora and Ajanta cave complexes, which draw increasingly large numbers of visitors, the Grishneshwar Temple is quickly becoming one of the more visited temples on the Jyotirlinga shrine list.
The Grishneshwar Temple may be the all around best of the Jyotirlinga, at least in terms of architecture. Built in stages over many years, the entire site was renovated in the 18th century. It is one of the larger Jyortlinga shrines, with a magnificently carved, brilliant white pyramid dome that is arguably the best of the twelve temples.
The main sanctuary, built of reddish-brown brick, boasts a magnificent collection of carved figures and reliefs on the walls. In addition to the linga on site, which is the temple’s center of worship, there is a spring which empties inside of the temple, the waters of which are considered to be sacred.
The Grishneshwar Temple stands in the center of the town of Ellora a few miles northwest of Aurangabad, approximately 130 miles northeast of Mumbai. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.mahashivratri.org/grishneshwar-temple (official website).
The Grishneshwar Temple is located within walking distance of one of India’s most magnificent Buddhist shrines, the Ellora Cave Temples. The two religious sites are often visited together.