Shiva Maha Purana
There was a forest named Kamada. It did not rain there for a hundred years. The leaves dried up and the dwellers of the forest started to suffer.
The sage Atri decided that he would meditate to try and bring the rains. Atri’s wife was Anasuya and she thought that she might as well perform tapasya together with her husband. Both of them started to pray to Shiva and it was very difficult to decide whose tapasya was the more difficult. Fifty-four passed and they meditated without eating or drinking anything.
Atri’s meditation was finally over and he felt thirsty. He therefore asked his wife to go and fetch some water so that he might quench his thirst. While Anasuya was going to fetch the water, the river Gang appeared before her.
I am pleased with your tapasya, said Ganga. What boon do you desire?
If you are pleased with me, replied Anasuya, please make a pond here and fill the pond with your water.
Ganga obliged. Anasuya filled her water-pot from the pond and brought the water to her husband. Atri drank the water and found that it was far tastier than the water they were used to. When he asked Anasuya why this was so, she told him what happened. Both husband and wife came back to the pond. Anasuya had earned a lot of punya (store of merit) thanks to her tapasya. Ganga agreed to stay on provided Anasuya handed over to Ganga whatever punya she had acquired in one year of tapasya. This conditon Anasuya agreed to.
Meanwhile, Shiva appeared and offered to grant Anasuya a boon. Anasuya desire the boon that Shiva would always be present in that forest. Shiva consented.
This sacred place is known as Atrishvara tirtha.
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.
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’t understand 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.