How to Worship the Lord Shiva at Home
Shiva or Shivling lingam connects a devotee with the Supreme Being – Lord Shiva. The lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva and the lingam puja helps the devotee in understanding Lord Shiva. The Lord cannot be described but still we say he is without a beginning and an end and is without a form. It is difficult for a devotee to understand this formless nature. Therefore Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Jyotirlinga before Brahma and Vishnu. The Lingam thus is a symbol of Lord Shiva. Each Lingam puja, step by step, takes the devotee to the eternal truth – that he/she is part of the Supreme Being.
The Lord Shiva (the aspect of God who destroys ignorance) Puja (worship) is of two kinds. One is scriptural and the other is devotional - non-scriptural. The scriptural books of worship are called Agama. The devotional books are called Nigama.
When Lord Shiva explains how to worship himself it is called Agama. When Parvati [the consort of Lord Shiva] explains how to worship Lord Shiva, when she becomes the great questioner and learner, then it is known as Nigama. In one there are technical exercises, scriptural exercises. You read which side you must face, what kind of havan samagari you must use, what kind of a statue you must use, what kind of mantra you must say, and if you make a slight mistake what will happen to you. In this way, out of fear, you have great discipline. The other way is discipline out of love.
An example of this is the hunter who brought dead rabbits and offered them to Lord Shiva. One day he saw Lord Shiva's eye was watering and bleeding so he took out one of his own eyes and put it in place of the watering eye. But he noticed the Lord's other eye was also watering and bleeding so he took out his other eye and offered it to the Lord. Then suddenly both eyes became whole and he had the divine vision of the Lord. Meaning if you offer your all then God becomes alive to you.
Neither method is wrong. The scriptural method needs a little extra caution, while with the non-scriptural method you worship like a little child. Sit on his head or sit on his toes, it does not matter, He knows we are little children. Even Christ said you have to become like little children. Not childish but childlike. Similarly you can worship Christ with all the paraphernalia in the scriptural way, or you can worship him according to the purity of your heart and call upon him wherever you like, whatever you are doing, he is our very own. He will come. He has to come.
Worshipping the Lord Shiva at Home
Before starting the Puja, the devotee takes a bath and wear freshly washed clothes. Hymns pr aising 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 o f 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.’