Lord Shiva is the Supreme God of the whole Universe and Sanatan Dharma (Hindu Religion). He is one of the famous trinity of Hinduism; Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha (Shiva). As per the Sanatan Dharma, the trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, is responsible for the creation, protection and destruction of the world, respectively.
Who is Lord Shiva?
Lord Shiva, who is known as the destroyer of the world, is omnipotent and omnipresent. Prima facie, Shiva is responsible for destruction in the universe. But since, ‘all that lives is born to die’, and thus end is an integral part of all beginnings, Shiva is responsible for bringing this universe back to its genesis.
Shiva is symbolic of auspiciousness, as he is the one who destroys evil and casts away sorrows from this world. Hence, it is believed that evils and Shiva can’t exist simultaneously and that where the Lord resides there is no room for negativity and wickedness around him.
Shiva is depicted as a dark-skinned ascetic with river Ganga cascading out of his matted hair and a serpent coiled around his neck. He carries a trishul (trident) in one hand and has ashes all over his body. He stays at mountain Kailasa with his family (pariwara). His consort Parvati, sons Ganesh and Kartikeya, vehicle Nandi and other Ganas (troops) are included in his pariwara.
Various forms of Lord Shiva
Shiva is said to have eight forms which is known as Ashtamurthi.
Suryo jalam mahi vahnirvayurakashameva cha
dikshito brahmanashchandra ityeta ashtamurtayah
These eight forms of Shiva; Sharva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bhima, Pashupati, Ishana and Mahadeva are said to be the earth, water, fire, wind, sky, yogi, sun and moon respectively.
Basically, Shiva means the one who is auspicious and removes all sorrows. However, the etymology of word Shiva can also be given from root ‘√vash’ which means ‘to light’. Hence, Shiva is the one who glows and makes others glow.
Shiva is also known as Rudra, Mahadeva, Pashupati which were gods of different communities and assembled in the one great personality of Shiva.
Rudra is the proto form of Shiva who was the principal deity of Vedic period. Rudra was prominently known as the destructive god of Vedic society. Puranic Shiva is a developed structure of Vedic Rudra in which so many other minor deities were assimilated.
Pashupati is that form of Rudra whose existence is attributed to Shiva. Pashupati is the Lord of beasts. He received the epithet Nilakanta because his throat became blue due to the consumption of poison which arose from the churning of the Great Ocean.
Following verse mentions various forms of Shiva,
mahadevaaya te namaha
(I pray to Lord Mahadeva who has conquered death, who is the destroyer of the Universe, who has a blue neck and who gives happiness to all.)
Worship of Shiva
Lord Shiva is worshipped mainly in two forms. The first form of worshipping is that of a Shivalinga and the other form is Murti (statue) form. The Linga worship of the Lord is most common and believed to be extremely sacred amongst the Hindus.
Shiva is usually worshiped in the form of Shivalinga which is the most popular manifestation of Lord Shiva and is represented by phallus. It is the most important symbol of Shiva.
One account says that, once Shiva was fascinated by seeing a charming woman and started following her. That woman was Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini. As Shiva ran, his semen fell at various places and formed the drops to produce Lingas. This indicates that Linga is the very essence of Shiva’s personality. In Skanda Purana, Linga is said to be the abode of Shiva.
The Shivalinga symbolizes creation and cosmic energy. The worship of Shivalinga represents the union of Shiva and Shakti-Parvati resulting in the creation of the universe. Hence, he is worshipped in Shivalinga form.
What makes Shiva delighted?
Usually Lord Shiva is depicted as extremely ferocious and destructive in nature. However, Shiva is known for his benevolence at the same time. Even the slightest of devotion from the devotees make this god extremely happy.
Shiva Purana mentions the list of the things which make Shiva happy. These are, chanting of Mula mantra and Mahamrutyunjaya mantra; performing Abhishek (spiritual baths to him) by offering Bilva patra leaves (bel leaves), Rudraksha leaves, Dhotara flower and leaves.
Mantras for Chanting
Shiva is pleased by the chanting of nama: Sivaaya’ (Om Nama Shivaya) which is known as Mula mantra of Shiva. Again, Shiva is also pleased by Mahamrutyunjaya mantra.
Shiva is supposed to be the conqueror of Death as symbolized by the Hindu Lord of Death, Yama Raja. The Mahamrutyunjaya mantra has been taken from the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita III. 60. The mantra is addressed to Lord Shiva and is a centuries old technique of connecting one to pure consciousness and bliss.
Om Tryambhakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam |
Mrityormukshiya Maamritat ||
(Om. We worship The Three-Eyed Lord Shiva who is fragrant and who increasingly nourishes the devotees. Worshiping him, may we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality just as the ripe cucumber easily separates itself from the binding stalk.)
Shiva is pleased by Abhisheka. The meaning of Abhisheka is Snan or Holy Bath to Lord Shiva. Abhisheka is included in the sixteen steps of worship. Some of the common items used for Shiva Abhisheka are curd, milk, honey, tender Coconut water, vibhuti (holy ash), panchamruta, bananas, sandalwood paste, ghee, and haldi.
Mainly water, milk, panchamruta (combination of five nectars; sugar, curd, honey, milk and ghee), etc. are used regularly for spiritual bath of Shiva. Usually, devotee use milk and water for daily Abhisheka and panchamruta is used during special occasions.
In many temples, one finds a vessel hung over the Linga, called dhaarapaathra, continuously dripping water or water and milk onto the Linga in deference to Shiva’s desire for Abhisheka.
Water which should be used for the spiritual bath of Shiva should preferably be Ganga water. The reason for pouring Ganga water over the Shivalinga is that it represents Ganga’s descending from heaven on to Shiva’s head. If it is not possible to use Ganga water for worshipping, then water of any river is advisable for the worship.
One should offer pure milk for the Abhisheka of Shiva. Cow’s milk is considered very pure and is mainly offered to him. Cow’s milk should be offered to Shiva by reciting the following verse,
Madhuram gopayah punyam pataputam purskrutam
snanartham devadevesha gruhana parameshwara
Mainly milk and milk products are offered for the Shiva Abhisheka because all these products are cool in nature. All soothing objects are offered to him to keep him cool. White color is very dear to Shiva hence white objects, like all milk products, are offered to Lord Shiva.
Milk, curd or panchamruta should never be poured in utensil made of bronze, as this is equal to wine. Fingers should not be put in water, milk and ghee, etc because the touching of nails makes these things inauspicious.
Bilva Patra offerings to Shiva
Another offering which is especially suggested for Shiva is Bilva patra, leaf of Bilva. Bilva is very auspicious tree which is mentioned in Atharvaveda, Iatareya Brahman and Shatapatha Brahman.
It is believed that the Bilva tree was created by Lord Brahma. However, the tree originated from the right hand of Lakshmi due to her long penance.
There is a legend which talks about the origin of this tree. Lakshmi used to offer 1000 lotuses to Lord Shiva on every puja. Once, two lotuses went missing from those thousand ones. At the time of worship when Lakshmi became extremely worried, Lord Vishnu said that Lakshmi’s two breasts are as pious and auspicious as lotus and that she can offer those to Shiva. Then she cut off her breasts and offered them to Shiva. Shiva was pleased by her devotion and blessed her that, now onwards her breasts will be there on the Bilva tree as fruits.
The triangular leaves or 3 leaflets of the Bilva tree are offered to Shiva as they are very dear to him. Bilva tree is considered as the form of Shiva. It is also said that the worship of Shiva which is done without offering Bilva leaf is fruitless.
Bilva Patra Slokas
Mulatobhavarupaya madhyato mrudurupine
agratah shivarupaya patrairvedasvarupine
skandhe vedantarupaya tarurajaya te namah
(O Bilva tree, in the root you are the Bhava form of Shiva, very soft and kind in the middle, at starting point you are like Shiva. Your dala which has three leaves are like three Vedas and your branches are like Upanishads. O king of trees we salute you.)
Sarvakamapradam bilvam daridryasya pranashanam
bilvatpatram nasti yena tushyati shankara
(Bilva tree fulfils the wishes and removes poverty. No other object pleases Shiva or makes him happier other than Bilva.)
Bilva leaf should be offered by reciting following verse,
Bilvapatram suvarnena trishulakarameva cha
mayarpitam mahadeva bilvapatram gruhana me
trijanma trigunakara trinetram cha triyayudham
tridalam papasamharam bilvapatrashivarpanam
How to select a good Bilva Patra?
While selecting Bilva leaves make sure the Chakra and the Bajra are not present on them. The Chakra is a white mark made by insects on the Bilva leaves, while the Bajra is the thick portion towards the stalk. The Bilva leaves used in pooja should be of 3 leaflets even if one of the leaves gets detached of three leaves then it is of no use.