(Worshipping Lord Shiva)
The Shiva-chaturdashi or, MahaShivaratri
Puja (pronounced: Pooja = worship) has been given tremendous significance
in the Puranas, Tantras and other Hindu mythologies. It is said that, ritual
worship of Lord Shiva on the Shivaratri (also pronounced: Shivratri)
day pleases Lord Shiva the most. Devotees further believe that, by pleasing
Lord Shiva on the auspicious Shivaratri day, a person is absolved of past sins
and is blessed with Moksha or salvation.
Materials Needed for Shiva Puja
Linga / Idol of Lord Shiva
[or, if unavailable, a picture
of Lord Shiva
or, Lord Shiva's Yantra (holy
geometrical depiction of the Lord)]
(sacred thread, tied across the
left shoulder & down below
the right abdomen)
(turmeric dried and powdered
with a bit of slaked lime, which
turns the rich yellow powder
into red color, for offering)
(Holy perfume used for worship)
(sacred ash, generally the residue
of cow dung, that is burned
in a sacred fire- yajna, for
marking the forehead/lingam
of Lord Shiva, as also
using it on the forehead
of the worshipper)
(Garland of Rudraakshas,
to chant the name of Lord Shiva)
[Rudraaksha or, Rudraksha (="Rudra-eyed")
is the name of the dark berries of
used to make prayer beads
The word is a Sanskrit
compound consisting of the
name Rudra (synonymous now
to Lord Shiva) and aksha ("eye")]
(uncooked yellow rice)
(wood apple leaves,
else 1008 or, 28)
[Datura, Milkweed Pearls (aakanda),
Bhaat , Aparajita]
(to offer during puja,
NOT for Naivedya or to be eaten)
- wood apple (must), small-sized bananas,
coconut, berries etc.
(with wicks soaking in oil or ghee)
& Drinking Water
(for Prasaad, or food offerings,
the naivedya consists of uncooked aatap rice
arranged in 4 small heaps round a platter,
and one heap in the middle. Then each of
these 5 heaps is topped with
sliced bananas and sweets)
(water from river Ganges)
Getting Ready for Shivaratri Puja
To perform the worship of Lord Shankara
(Shiva) on Shivratri, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably
in the holy waters of river Ganga. This is followed by worship to Sun God, Vishnu
and Shiva in accordance with the purification rite observed on all-important
Hindu festivals. Devotees then wear fresh new clothes and pay a visit to the
nearest Shiva temple. As a tradition, devotees observe a fast on a Shivaratri
day. Some do not consume even a drop of water.
Performing the Shivaratri Puja
Following the method prescribed in Shiva
Purana, priests perform ritual puja of Shiva Linga every three hours all through
the day and night of Shivaratri Festival. During this pooja, chants of Om Namah
Shivaya and sounds of bells reverberate in the temple. Following the bath with
milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water that helps in the purification of
the soul a vermilion paste is applied on the Linga as it represents virtue.
These six items form an indispensable part of Shivaratri, be it a simple ceremony
at home or grand temple worship.
After this, Bilwa leaves, which have
to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga to cool the
hot-tempered deity. Ber or jujube fruit is also offered to Lord Shiva, as it
is symbolic of longevity and gratification of desires. Some devotees also offer
the auspicious betel leaves to Lord Shiva marking satisfaction with worldly
pleasures. Garlanding of Linga with flowers and garlands is also a part of the
ritual Shivaratri Puja. Devotees also burn incense sticks as is said to yield
wealth. Many also light lamps to symbolize attainment of knowledge. It is said
that by offering water, hugging the Linga, lighting the diya and incense and
ringing the temple bells, devotees call into focus all their senses, making
them acutely aware of themselves and the universe to which they belong.
This ritual worship of Lord Shiva continues
through the day and night of Shivaratri. Devotees stay awake and spent the night
in Shiva temples by chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’
and singing hymns and verses in praise of Lord Shambhu (Shiva). Devotees
observing vrat on Shivaratri break it only the next morning by partaking prasad
offered to Lord Shiva.
Virtues of Shivaratri Puja
The Shiva Purana says
that, performing abhisheka (divine bathing) of Shiva Linga with six
different dravyas including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water while
chanting Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases Lord Shiva the most.
Lord Shiva is bathed by four different items (yoghurt, milk, ghee and honey),
in four different Prahar-s of the night (in Hindu belief, time is a
cyclical rather than linear concept. The day is divided into eight sections
of three hours each, known as 'paher' in Hindi or 'prahar' in Sanskrit.).
According to the mythology, each of these
dravya (materials. here, for Puja), used in the abhisheka, blesses
a unique quality, as follows:
* Sharkaraa (sugar,
or sugar dissolved in water) is for happiness.
* Milk is for the blessing of purity and piousness.
* Yogurt is for prosperity and progeny.
* Honey is for sweet speech.
* Ghee is for victory.
* Water is for purity.
Besides, worship of Lord Shiva on Shivratri
is also considered to be extremely beneficial for women. While, married women
pray to Shiva for the well being of their husbands and sons, unmarried women
pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. According
to the Shiva Purana, sincere worship of Lord Shiva yields merits including
spiritual growth for the devotees. It also provides extensive details on the
right way to perform Shivratri Puja.