How to Worship Lord Shiva
The lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva who appeared in the form of Jyotirlinga before Brahma and Vishnu as It is difficult for a devotee to understand this formless nature. The lingam puja helps the devotee in understanding Lord Shiva. Each Lingam puja, step by step, takes the devotee to the eternal truth that he is the part of the Supreme Being.
Shiva Abhishekam is usually performed to a Lingam representing his manifestation as a creator of good by destroying evil. In many temples, one finds a vessel hung over the Lingam that continuously drips water or other offerings onto the Lingam in deference to Shiva’s desire for Abhisheka.
Items required for lord Shiva Abhishekam are:
Milk gives long life
Ghee gives Moksha state
Curd gives good children
Honey gives melodious voice
Rice powder frees from debts
Sugar cane juice gives good health
Panchamrutham gives wealth
Lemon removes fear of death
Sugar removes enmity
Tender coconut gives enjoyment
Panchamruta Curd based delicacy consisting of Panch5 items: Milk, Sugar, Ghee clarified butter, Honey, curd
Since Lord Shiva is said to wear Nageshwara Snake God as an ornament around his neck, it is said that the fragrance of Aloe which attracts snakes is also a very holy item to be used for the worship of Shiva
Before starting the Puja, the devotee takes a bath and wear freshly washed clothes. Hymns praising Lord Shiva or the mantra ‘om namaha shivayaa’ are repeated to create a mood for worship. Then, the devotee sits in front of the lingam and blows conch or ring bells. This indicates the beginning of the Puja.
First it is the panchamrit abhishek – the libation of five holy liquids over the lingam. The libation can consist of any five of the following – water from river Ganga, honey, sugarcane juice, milk, yogurt, ghee, seawater, coconut water or milk, fragrant oils, rose water or other precious liquids. Usually, only milk of cow is used. While pouring the liquid, om namah shivaya is uttered. Some devotees utter the Lord’s name 108 times and some 1008 times. There is no fixed rule.
After the panchamrit abhishek, the lingam is cleaned with water from Ganga. (This is might not be possible always so just normal water.) After this the lingam is smeared with sandalwood paste and is decked with flowers. Water and sandalwood paste is used to keep the lingam cool, as Lord Shiva is always in a highly inflammable state. In some Shiva temples, cooling liquid constantly drops from pot hung above the Lingam.
Next, sweets, coconut and fruits are offered to the Lord. Camphor and incense are lit and ‘arati’ is conducted. Some devotees fan the lingam and sing praises of the lord.
Finally, ringing of bells or blowing of conch indicates the end of Puja. White ash (vibhuti) is rubbed on the forehead and it is also distributed. Fruits, sweets and coconut are distributed as ‘prasad.’