Worship of Lord Shiva is prevailing in Hindu philosophy since time immemorial perhaps since Vedic times on par with Lord Vishnu. There are several historical and pouranic references to the worship of Lord Shiva and we find several divine personalities having worshiped Lord Shiva on different occasions for various reasons. Lord Vishnu in his incarnations (human form) also worshiped Lord Shiva for Loka Kalyana; welfare of the mankind and to maintain the loka-reeti (local conventions). Without delving into scriptural intricacies let us try to understand Lord Shiva the modest God in modest form.
One of the Trinity Lords (Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara) ruling Thamasa guna (Ahankaara Tattva); Shiva is entrusted with the role of destruction (Layakaraka). Shiva means mangalakara, subha, one who is incredibly and ever auspicious (Sadashiva); pure, sacred and selfless.
He is called Shambhuh because he is full of bliss (Satyam-Sivam-Sundaram); bestower of peace, prosperity and happiness. As Maha Rudra, he is eliminator of all agonies and sorrows.
In Vishnu Sahasranama Stothram we find Lord Vishnu eulogized as Shiva and Rudra. In Bhagawadgita-Vibhoothi Yoga, Lord Sri Krishna says that He is Sankara among the Ekaadasa Rudras.
Lord Shiva is popularly called as Hara the one who destroys the evil. Hara (Haraye Namah) forms part of 24 Kesava naamaas that we recite during Aachamanam.
As Laya-kaaraka he is Maha Rudra a great (Ughra) destroyer, fear less, Shiva is Shatru Bhayankara who not only destroys creation as per directions of the supreme Lord Vishnu but also destroys both internal and external enemies; provides cure for all maladies.
He is Mahadeva (great God); though his tattva is Thamasa guna, He is Sattvik and serene in nature and worshiped by one and all irrespective of their temperament. Lord Vishnu also in his incarnations (human form) worshiped Lord Shiva for Loka Kalyana, welfare of the mankind and to maintain the Loka-reeti (local conventions).
Initially Lord Shiva married Sati Devi daughter of Daksha Prajapathi; after the episode of Daksha Yajna He married Parvathi Devi (manifestation of Goddess Durga).
Shiva is also called as Vamadeva which literally means the one who is very handsome, fair and pleasant. Vaama also means left; and left side for any Purusha is the seat of female energy (Sthree Shakti). It is also said that Lord Shiva always has Lord Vishnu to his left; that’s why he is called Vamadeva.
We find him being worshiped in Linga roopa due to a curse from Sage Brugu. Since then Shiva Linga has become a symbol of Lord Shiva that is being worshiped in temples. His abode is Kailasa Parvatha–Mount Kailash.
What is the symbolism of Lord Shiva?
Though Lord Shiva is worshiped in Linga roopa He is depicted as… a gigantic; dynamic and charming personality (Sundara);
pure white (Suddha Sphatika) crystal clear in colour; having serene looks in a yogic posture; always in meditation; wearing the skin of a tiger; body smeared with Bhasma (white ash) with mendicant/detached demeanor having… Three eyes (Thrinethra): Surya in his right eye and Chandra in his left eye and Agni in his third eye in between the eye brows.
Five faces (Panchaanana)
Eeshaana (facing skyward);
Tatpurusha (facing east);
Aghora (facing south);
Vaamadeva (facing north) and
Sadyojatha (facing west);
with each face having three eyes;
Long matter hair spread in the vast sky (Vyomakesha) holding Vishnu Padodbhavi holy Ganga on his head (Gangadhara); Throat in blue colour (Neelakantha/Neelagreeva) because he swallowed poison;
Adored with serpent around his neck (Sarpabhooshana)
Crescent Moon on his head (Chandrasekhara)
Nandi Vaahana (mount/vehicle): Vrushabha (sacred Bull)
Thrisoola (Trident) as his weapon
Holding a small drum (Damru) in his hand…
Lord Shiva is always depicted as both a Yogi as well as a householder with Goddess Parvathi always by his side inseparable.
Lord Rudra is also depicted as Chaturbhuja having four hands with Varada mudra; Abhaya mudra in two hands; Thrisoola in one hand and Deer in another.
What are the incarnations of Lord Shiva?
Some of the incarnations (avathara/amsha) of Lord Shiva are Dakshinamurthy; Veerabhadra, Durvasa; Ashwattama, Sukha (son of Lord & Sage Vedavyaasa)…
Who are Ekadasa Rudras?
They are a class of Vedic deities eleven (11) in number along with Dwaadasa (12) Aadityas + Ashta (8) Vasus + Prajapathi + Vashatkara they form a significant group of 33 principal demi-gods. Their nomenclatures differ in different sacred texts and puranas and there is no unanimity in the list. May be they are the same set known by various names. These Ekaadasa Rudras represent Lord Shiva the Maha Rudra. In Bhagawadgita (Vibhoothi Yoga), Lord Sri Krishna says that He is Sankara among Ekaadasa Rudras.
List of Ekaadasa Rudras according to Padma Purana/Srimad Bhagavata are…
Manyu; Manu; Mahanasa; Mahan; Siva; Rta-Dhvaja; Ugra-Reta; Bhava; Kaala; Vaamadeva; and Dhrta-Vrata
Which are the other popular names of Shiva?
Some of the other popular names of Lord Shiva are…
Chandrasekhara, Viswanatha, Maheshwara, Eeshwara, Viruupaaksha; Nataraja; Dhuurjati; Pinaaki; Saarangapaani; Thripuraari etc…
Which are the sacred texts about Lord Shiva?
Sacred scripts like Shiva Purana, Linga Purana and Skanda Purana which forms part of the Ashtadasa Puranas scripted by Lord Vedavyaasa have exclusively covered about Lord Shiva.
Which are the sacred hymns to Lord Shiva?
Some of the sacred hymns related to Lord Shiva are…
Shiva Panchakshari (Om! Namah! Sivaayah!)
Maha Mrutyunjaya Manthra
What is Shiva’s family?
Shiva’s family comprise of Lord Shiva; Goddess Parvathi Devi (Umadevi) his consort; Lord Ganesha (Vinayaka); Lord Subramanya (Shanmukha) depicted as their sons; Nandi (Nandeeshwara) is his mount.
What is He fond of?
Lord Shiva is called Abhisheka (anointing) Priya and Stothra Priya. He is fond of worshiping Him with Abhisheka; Bilva Pathra; chanting of his name (Panchakshari manthra); worshiping during Pradosha time…
Why Bilva Pathra is dear to Lord Shiva?
Bilva is considered as Lakshmi Swaroopam; it is said that Goddess Lakshmi resides in Bilva Tree. Lord Shiva being the greatest Vaishnavite will be very much pleased worshiping Him with Bilva Leaves which got manifested from Goddess Lakshmi the divine consort of Lord Vishnu.
Though Lord Shiva to be worshiped on a daily basis some of the important days earmarked for his worship are…
Monday (Soma Vaara/Induvaara),
Pradosha time (1½ hours before Sunset) every day;
Maha Pradosha on the 13th lunar day (Trayodasi) of both Sukla and Krishna Paksha; Soma Pradosha (Pradosha associated with Monday); Bhouma Pradosha (Pradosha associated with Tuesday); Shani Pradosha (Pradosha associated with Saturday);
Maasa Shivarathri day (14th day of dark fortnight – lunar day Chaturdasi);
On the lunar day coinciding with Ardra Nakshathra
What is Maha Shivarathri?
Maha Shivarathri literally means the great night belonging to Lord Shiva, his most favourite day. There are several interpretations for the origin of Maha Shivarathri.
It is assumed as the day Lord Shiva emerged out in the divine world in Linga roopa (Jyothirlinga).
It is considered as the day Lord Shiva got married with his consort Goddess Parvathi Devi. That’s why we find a custom of performing Kalyanotsavam of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi on the day of Maha Shivarathri.
It is associated with the day Lord Shiva drank Halahala (poison) in the episode of Ksheerasaagara Mathanam.
It is assumed as the day Lord Shiva performed his cosmic dance called Pralaya Thandava.
Whatever may be the reason for origin of Maha Shivarathri, it is the most favourite day of Lord Shiva and worshiping Him on this day is highly meritorious and sin remover.
How to reckon Maha Shivarathri?
As per Hindu Lunar Calendar every 14th lunar day (Chaturdasi) of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) is known as Maasa Shivarathri. Sometimes it may fall on the 13th day (Trayodasi) itself. It is decided based on the presence of Chaturdasi thithi extending beyond midnight on that particular day.
At the same time every 13th or 14th day of the dark fortnight is not considered as Maha Shivarathri. It is only the 13th /14th day of dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) occurring in the lunar month of Magha Masam associated with Chaturdasi thithi is reckoned as Maha Shivarathri. Generally it occurs in the calendar months of February/March.
What are the customs & traditions of Maha Shivarathri?
Maha Shivarathri dedicated to Lord Shiva is celebrated with great religious significance and fervor across the country by all Hindus irrespective of the caste and creed. These customs differ according to one’s sampradaya. In general some of the traditions in vogue are…
Observing austerities like fasting, keeping sleepless vigil (Jaagarana) whole night; break the fast next day morning after worship;
In Madhwa sampradaya, there is no fasting and Jaagarane on the day of Maha Shivarathri. Darshana of Lord Shiva during Pradoshakaala is prescribed.
Abhisheka with water, Bilva Pathra, bathing Shiva Linga with Panchamrutha (milk, curd, ghee, honey, sugar). Worshiping Lord Shiva four times on this day at successive intervals of three hours (Prahara/Yaama) each during night on the day of Maha Shivarathri;
Nine day celebrations called Shivarathri Brahmotsavam are held at famous Shiva Kshethras like Srisailam, Sri Kalahasthi. Shiva-Parvathi Kalyanam (marriage) is also held at some places on the occasion of Maha Shivarathri. Special celebrations are held on the eve of Maha Shivarathri at all the holy Shiva Kshethras where lakhs of people gather to offer their obeisance and salutations to Lord Shiva the great destroyer of sins and one of the most the benevolent Gods.
Which are the famous Shiva Kshethras?
While there are hundreds of places/temples dedicated to Lord Shiva spread across Indian sub continent; twelve holy places called Jyothirlinga Kshethras and five holy places called Pancha Bhootha Linga Kshethras are considered as the most revered places for the worship of Lord Shiva. They are…
1. Somnath near Veeraval in Gujarat (Sourashtra)
2. Mallikarjuna at Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh)
3. Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh)
4. Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh)
5. Vaidyanath at Deogarh (Bihar) – According to some versions Vaidyanath is in Parli (Maharashtra)
6. Bheemashankar in Maharashtra near Pune (Maharashtra)
7. Rameshwar at Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu)
8. Nageshwar (Darukavana) near Dwaraka in Gujarat
9. Vishwanath at Kaasi (Uttar Pradesh)
10. Tryambakeshwar at Nasik (Maharashtra)
11. Kedarnath in Himalayas (Uttarakhand)
12. Ghrushneswhar (Maharashtra)
Pancha Bhootha Linga Kshethras
Lord Shiva considered as an embodiment of Pancha Bhoothas, the five basic elements of nature, Aakaasa (sky/space), Vaayu (air), Prithvi (earth), Jala (water) and Agni (fire). He had manifested at the following places which are regarded as the Pancha Bhootha Shiva Kshethras.
1. Chidambaram (Aakasa Linga), in Tamil Nadu
2. Kanchi (Prithvi Linga), in Tamil Nadu
3. Sri Kalahasthi (Vayu Linga) in Andhra Pradesh
4. Thiruvannaikkaval (Jala Linga) near Trichy (Tamil Nadu)
5. Tiruvannamalai (Agni Linga) in Tamil Nadu
Apart from the above some of the other notable holy places/temples connected to Lord Shiva are:
Gokarna (Karnataka) – Aatma Linga Kshetra;
Anantheswara & Chandramouleeswara at Udupi (Karnataka)
Alampur (Dakshina Kaasi) near Kurnool (Andhra Pradesh)
Mahanandi (Andhra Pradesh)
Vemulavada & Kaleswaram (Andhra Pradesh)
Pashupathinath temple (Nepal)
Amarnath temple (Jammu & Kashmir)
Lord Shiva – An Astro Remedy
Worship of Lord Shiva has also gained significance as a remedy for various astrological afflictions/mundane problems. Lord Shiva is considered as the star deity of Ardra constellation whose star Lord is Rahu falling in the zodiac sign of Gemini (Mithuna Raasi).
While Shiva worship is prescribed for Navagraha Dosha in general; in particular it is prescribed as a remedy for afflictions from Sun, Moon, Saturn and Rahu and also as a remedy for Sarpa Dosha.
Maha Mruthyunjaya japa/homa; Ekadasa Rudrabhisheka are some of the time tested remedies dedicated to Lord Shiva. Maha Mrutyunjaya Homa is conducted for good health, longevity and to get rid of apamrutyu dosha and other obstacles in life.
Performing Shiva related remedies during Pradosha time is believed to be more effective especially if it is coinciding with Monday (Soma Pradosha) or Saturday (Shani Pradosha).
Why should we worship Lord Shiva?
Lord Shiva is one of the Trinity Lords (Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara); a Vedic God; one of the Ashta Dikkpaalakas (Eeshaana), guardian of the north-east direction; the one who is bearing Vishnu Padodbhavi holy Ganga on his head.
Lord Shiva is called as Mano-abhimani devatha; Mano-niyaamaka (controller of the mind and intellect); the one who busts the pride and ego of an individual; controller of both negative and positive passions depending on one’s traits.
He is a divine preceptor, spiritual guide to Lord Indra and other demi Gods.
Modest and benevolent God, Lord Shiva instantly (Sadhyojatha) responds to the prayers of his devotees.
He is Mrutyunjaya the one who blessed Sage Markandeya with longevity.
In the episode of Gangavatharana, Lord Shiva became the platform for holy Ganga to descent on to the earth; but for which the earth would have missed holy Ganga. As Vaidyanatha, Lord Shiva is a divine doctor; Bhavaroga Vaidya (Bhishaje-Bhavaroginaam) coming to the rescue of his devotees sufferings both physical as well as mind related.
Above all Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava (Hara Vaishnovottama); foremost among the devotees of Lord Vishnu and the one who constantly meditates on Him (Lord Vishnu); the one who has eulogized the glory, significance and merits of Raama Naama by preaching the same to his consort Goddess Parvathi.
Entire family of Lord Shiva are devotees of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva is the one who has preached Naaraayana manthra to Lord Ganesha. He is the cause to the birth of Lord Subramanya the chief of army of Gods.
Without Lord Shiva’s worship one cannot awake spiritually; attain Vishnu Bhakti/Vishnu Sadhana and blessings of Lord Vishnu. Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvathi (manifestation of Goddess Durga) the ancient divine couple, are quoted as the role model for a wife and husband and worshiping them is always auspicious and meritorious and if it is on a sacred day like Maha Shivarathri the merits are plentiful.
|| Sambho Sankara – Parvathi Pathey || || Hara Hara Mahadev ||