Important aspects of Shiva worship
- The Abhisheka
Abhisheka is the worshipping ritual of the God in which substances like Cow's milk, Ghee (clarified butter), curds (Yogurt), honey, finely ground sugar, sugar cane juice, coconut water, water, rice and similar items, which are believed to be dearer to Shiva are poured on the Shiva Linga. It is believed that Lord Shiva will be pleased to have more and more of these items to be poured on the Shiva Linga. Lord Shiva will bless his devotees with wealth, health etc depending on the substances they offer him in the Abhisheka.
- Importance of Rudrabhisheka
One kind of abhisheka is called Rudrabhisheka, which is considered to be the most important. By performing this abhisheka, it is believed that they will be spared from untimely death. More over, the mantra's (religious chant) for this abhisheka includes mantra's for being spared from Navagraha's (nine planets) wrath. Hence from this abhisheka, the wrath of the Navagraha's will dissipate. People suffering from seven-year animosity of Sani, or people having Sani dosham (ill effects) should perform this abhisheka. There is belief that women should not touch the Shiva Linga during the Abhisheka.
On the Maha ShivaRathri day all the devotees observe Upavas, which means fasting or staying away from food for the day. It is said that Shiva will be pleased if one observes Upavas on this day. Scholars say that the term Upavas has an inner and more profound meaning and that is staying near to or with the thoughts of God. So they say that God will be really pleased when the devotees observe Upavas in its real sense.
- Bilva Pooja
It is believed that Shiva is fond of Bilva (one kind of tree). This tree is also named SriVruksh and SriParli. As per the mythologies Vishnu created this tree, in order to perform puja to Shiva. It is believed that when the leaves of this tree are used to perform pooja, all the yearnings come true. So all the devotees on this day invariably place the leaves of the Bilva tree on the Shiva Linga.
It is said that who ever places these leaves on the Shiva Linga on this day, whether knowingly or unknowingly will be sent to heaven after death and all his earlier wrong doings will be pardoned by Lord Shiva.
The Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. According to one, during the Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. This terrified the gods and demons as the poison was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects, Shiva drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. Because of it, his throat turned blue, and he was given the name Nilkantha, the blue-throated one. Shivratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.
According to one legend, once a hunter was roaming in the jungle on the bank of the
According to a legend in the Ramayana, King Bhagirath once left his kingdom to meditate for the salvation of the souls of his ancestors. He observed a penance to Brahma for a thousand years, requesting
According to another legend in the Shiva Purana, once Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over who was the superior of the two. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Shiva assumed the form of a huge column of fire in between Brahma and Vishnu. Awestruck by its magnitude, they decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and went upwards and Vishnu as Varaha went into the earth. Nevertheless, light has no limit and though they searched for thousands of miles, neither could find the end. On his journey upwards, Brahma came across a ketaki flower wafting down slowly. When asked where she had come from, the ketaki replied that she had been placed at the top of the fiery column as an offering. Unable to find the uppermost limit, Brahma decided to end his search and take the flower as a witness. At this, the angry Shiva revealed his true form. He punished Brahma for telling a lie, and cursed him that no one would ever pray to him. The ketaki flower too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship, as she had testified falsely. Since it was on the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a linga, the day is especially auspicious and is celebrated as Maha Shivratri. Worshipping Shiva on this day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity.
There is another possible reason for the origin of the all-night worship. Maha Shivratri being a moonless night, people worship the god who wears the crescent moon as an adornment in his hair, Shiva. This was probably to ensure that the moon rose the next night.