Shiva Worship

How does one worship Shiva? How does one express one’s adoration of him, one’s fascination for all that he stands for?

Ancient Shaivites laid down elaborate puja rituals in the Agama texts. These are still followed in temples across India by trained priests.


Sanskrit Wording:

English Wording:

Ratanae kalpit masanam Himjale sananam cha divyabaram, Nana ratanveebhushitam mrigmdamodamkitam chandnam. Jatichampakbilapatrerachitam pushpam cha dhoopam tatha deepam Dev Daya needhae Pashupatae haritkalpitam grihamtam.

Hindi Meaning:

English Meaning:

A seat made of precious stones, a bath in delightfully cool water, a splendid apparel bedecked with various gems, sandal-paste perfumed with musk, the jasmine and the champaka flowers arranged upon Bilva leaves, incense as well as light-O Lord, Thou ocean of mercy, do accept these offerings conceived in my mind to Thee, O Lord of creatures (Pashupati).


Sanskrit Wording:

English Wording:

Sauvarnae navratankhendrachitae patrae ghreetam payasam, Bhakhshyam panchvidham payoddhiyatam Rambhafalam pankam. Shaka namyutam jalam ruchikaram karpoorkhandoyavalam, Tamboolam mansa maiya verchitam bhatya prabho savikuro..

Hindi Meaning:

English Meaning:

Clarified butter milk porridge, the five fold food, a cooling drink of milk and curds with plantains, vegetablesof innumerable varieties tasteful water and betel scented with camphor?all these food-offerings placed in golden vessels which are set with the nine precious jewels have I conceived in my mind out of love and devotion; do accept them, O Lord.
Chatram chamaryoryagam Vayajanakam chadarshakam Nirmalam veena bhaire mredangam kahal kala geetam cha Nrityam tatha. Sashtangam pranteeh satootibhaurvidhaya hayotatsamastam maiya sankalpaine samarpeetam tav veebho poojam grihan prabho.


Sanskrit Wording:

English Wording:

Chatram chamaryoryagam Vayajanakam chadarshakam Nirmalam veena bhaire mredangam kahal kala geetam cha Nrityam tatha. Sashtangam pranteeh satootibhaurvidhaya hayotatsamastam maiya sankalpaine samarpeetam tav veebho poojam grihan prabho

Hindi Meaning:

English Meaning:

The Chhatra (umbrella), a couple of chamaras, of tiny fan and a stainless mirror; the music of the lute, the kettledrum, the Mridanga and the horn and singing together with dancing; obeisance by the prostration of the eight limbs of the body, various hymns and prayers?all these, O Supreme Ruler, I duly offer to Thee mentally; do accept my worship, O Almighty Lord.


Sanskrit Wording:

English Wording:

Atma tavam girija matih sahchara prana shareeram griham, Pooja tae veeshyopbhograchna needra samadhi seethiti. Sanchar padyo Pradakshin veedhi satotrani sarva giro yadhatkaram karomi tatdakhilam shambho tavaradhanam.

Hindi Meaning:

English Meaning:

Thou art (my) Atman, my intellect is Girija (the daughter of Himalaya and the consort of Shiva) : my sense-organs are Thy attendants; (this) body is Thy temple; ministering to the enjoyment of the objects of the senses is (my)
worship to Thee; (my) sleep is Samadhi; all (my) moving about on foot is the act of performing the rite of Pradakshinam (walking round the deity from left to right); all the words (spoken) ar hymns to Thee?whatever works I do, are Thy worship, O Shambhu.


Sanskrit Wording:

English Wording:

Karcharan kritam vakakayajam karamjam va sharavan nayanjam va manasam vapradham. Veeheetam veeheetam va sarvmatetkhashma save jai jai karunabathae shree mahadev shambho.

Hindi Meaning:

English Meaning:

Sins committed in action?with the hands and feet, or by speech, or by the body, or by the ears and eyes?or those done in thought? forgive all these sins whether of commission or omission, Glory be unto Thee, Thou ocean of mercy ! Glory be unto Thee, O Mahadeva (God of gods), O Shambhu (Giver of happiness).

The Daily Worship

The simplest ritual worship of Shiva involves pouring water and milk over the linga decorating it with bel leaves, flowers, ash, vermillion and sandal paste; making an offering of sweets; lighting lamps and singing hymns to the glory of the lord.

Monday, Somvar, the day of the moon, is considered especially auspicious by Shaivites. This is not surprising considering the close relationship between Shiva and his ward Chandra, the moon-god.


Water is poured on the linga to cool Shiva down, for by entering his shrine we disturb his love-sport with Shakti.

Besides water, milk and curds are poured over the linga too.

Bel Leaves

The leaves and fruits of the bel (also called bilva) tree are very dear to Shiva.
Some say that this wood-apple tree {Aegle Marmelos) greout of Parvati’s sweat.
Others say that when Goddess Laxmi didn’t find a lotus for her shivalinga she offered it her breasts instead. These( became the bel fruit.
Bel leaves are never offered to Vishnu, just as tulsi sprigs adored by Vishnu, are never offered to a linga. This practice is a remnant of medieval Shaivite-Vaishnavite rivalry.

Datura Flowers

The linga is often decorated with the flowers of this wild plant. Its capability to produce poisonous fruits may ha something to do with this.

Rudraksha Beads

The berries of this unique tree, the Elaeocarpus Ganitrus, are holy to Shiva and his bhaktas. It is supposed to possess magical powers and can cure many diseases. It is believed that these beads came from the tears of Rudra which he shed on contemplating the end of the world. Rosaries of 108 beads are worn by many devotees of Shiva.

A one-faced berry, the ekamukhi rudraksha, representative of the single absolute truth, the brahman, is the rarest and the most powerful.

The panchamukhi rudraksha is the coimnon five-faced berry which represents the five elements and the five senses that are under Shiva’s control.


Bhang is a narcotic tamasic drug which arouses the senses and fills the mind with a feeling of tranquility. This is an intoxicating drink made out of the leaves of the Indian hemp, Cannabis Indica. The decoction is mixed with sweetened milk and taken by bhaktas on Shiva’s holy nights, the shivaratris.

Hermits use their chilum to smoke the resin from its dry leaves, ganja, and lose themselves in narcotic dreams.

Sacred Marks

Ash, symbol of destruction, purification and rejuvenation, is very holy to Shiva. Devotees often make sacred marks, three parallel horizontal lines, on the forehead and arms using this vibhuti or bhasma. This holy mark of Shiva, the tripundra, represents many things: the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva; the three worlds destroyed by Shiva.

Typically, all applications, be they of ash, oil, paste, perfumes or even dung, are usually made horizontally by Shaivites and vertically by Vaishnavites.

Sometimes the whole forehead of the bhakta is smeared with ash. Austere Shaivite ascetics, sadhus, take “ash-baths” and cover every part of their bodies with ash taken from the sacred hearth, dhunis, of their leader.

Another sacred mark of Shiva is the ardha-chandra, a half moon drawn with sandal paste or red-oxide (sindoor), with a dot, bindu, in the crescent. This is the symbol of Shiva-Shakti.

Still another sacred mark amongst Shaivites is the trishut or trident, the weapon of Shiva.


Devotees often sing songs and chant hymns that describe Shiva’s beauty, extol his virtues, celebrate his cosmic triumphs and in general, express their adoration for his attitude towards life. Through these bhajans and kirtans they hope to propitiate him and secure his benign grace. He is after all Shambhu, bestower of happiness. Hymns in Sanskrit are chanted by priests. But the devotional songs of the laity are almost always in vernacular.

Many devotees chant the Shiva-chausa, a folk-hymn of 40 verses. Others chant the 1008 sacred names of Shiva. Some restrict themselves to just one name and repeat that either 108 or 1008 times. This japa keeps the devotee’s mind focussed on the lord.

The most common chant, mantm, of Shaivites is: “0m namah Shivaya” ? Salutations to Shiva. While consuming the intoxicating bhang or smoking the chilum, sages shout “Jai, Jai Shiv-Shankar, Jai Shiv-Shambho” ? Victory to Shiva, the benevolent and benign lord. Others yell, “Barn barn Bhole” ? Praise be to the guileless god. While riding into battle Indian soldiers who seek divine support shout, “Har har Mahadev” ? In the name of the greatest god, the seizer, the router.

By just uttering the name of the lord, divine grace is assured and salvation ensured. So it is said, so it is believed.

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