Updated: Jul 11
Vaidyanatheshwar is believed to be the fifth of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas. Situated in Jharkhand, the Vaidyanath Temple is also known as Baidyanath or Baijnath Dham. Learn more about the origin of this Jyotirlinga and its name.
While Baidyanath being a Jyotirlinga is mentioned in many puranic texts, the location of the Jyotirlinga has been disputed. It is generally accepted that the Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar District in Jharkhand is the home of the Vaidyanatheshwar Jyotirlinga.
According to the Koti Rudra Samhita of Shiva Purana, once Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, started a severe penance to Lord Shiva. Ravana was a devotee of Shiva and wanted to take Shiva to his kingdom, Lanka. Ravana prayed and meditated on Mount Kailash for years, but to no avail. Finally, Ravana dug a hole in the ground and lit a sacrificial fire in the pit, which is called an agnikunda. Then he constructed a shivalinga in front of it. Thus, while praying to Lord Shiva, he started cutting off his heads one by one and offering them into the fire, to appease Lord Shiva. When he finished cutting off nine of his heads and was about to cut off his last and tenth one, Lord Shiva appeared before him and stopped him. Lord Shiva was pleased with the intense devotion of Ravana and put the rest of his heads back on his shoulders, curing him.
Pleased with Ravana’s worship, Lord Shiva asked him what he wanted. When Ravana expressed his desire to take Shiva to Lanka, the Lord said, “You can take my Atmalingam to Lanka, O Ravana, but there is a condition. Wherever you put me down on the ground, I will establish myself there.” Ravana agreed to the condition and started off to Lanka with the Atmalingam in his Pushpak Vimana (a flying chariot of Ravana).
The gods did not want an evil demon to have the Atmalinga with him, because he would do wicked acts with the power from the shivalinga. To stop him, it is said that the gods conspired to create obstacles in his journey. Lord Varuna entered his body and soon Ravana felt the call of nature. Wanting to relieve himself, Ravana came down on the ground and looked around. He saw a cowherd nearby and requested him to hold the Shivalinga while he relieved himself. The cowherd agreed and Ravana went away to relieve himself.
As the cowherd held on to the shivalinga, he started feeling it growing heavier by the minute. Soon, it became impossible for the cowherd to carry the heavy shivalinga in his hands and he put it down on the ground and left. When Ravana returned, the cowherd was nowhere to be seen. When Ravana saw the shivalinga on the ground, he tried to pick it up. But no matter how hard he struggled, he could not even budge the shivalinga an inch. Finally, Ravana had to admit defeat and left without the Atmalinga to Lanka.
Then Brahma, Vishnu and other gods came there and worshipped the Atmalinga, establishing the Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga and went back to their abodes. It was the healing action of Lord Shiva in putting back Ravana’s heads that earned him the name Baidyanath or Vaidyanath, because “vaidya” means a doctor. There is also a local story that speaks of a hunter named Baiju who used to worship the shivalinga daily. And from his devotion, the shivalinga came also to be known as Baijnath, which is the name more popular with the local Santhal community. Another ancient text, the Matsya Purana, mentions this place as Arogya Baidyanath, a sacred place where Shiva and Shakti cure people from incurable diseases.