WORSHIPPING SHIVLING AT HOME – RULES OF WORSHIPING SHIVA LINGAM
Before starting the Puja, the devotee takes a bath and wear freshly washed clothes. Hymns praising 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 of 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.’
HOW TO DO SHIVALINGA PUJA SIMPLE?
Mondays, or Somvar, in the month of Shravan (July – August) is considered highly auspicious for praying to Lord Shiva. It is believed that the worship of Shiva during Shrawan month is 108 times more powerful than worshipping during normal days. Millions of devout Hindus observe the Shravan Somwar Vrat – fasting and performing Pujas on Mondays in Sawan Month.
Here is a brief procedure to observe Shravan Somvar Vrat
- After the morning bath and other purification rituals.
- Lord Ganesha is first prayed to.
- Next, Lord Shiva is prayed to by chanting Om Namah Shivaya.
- The offerings that are made are Bilva leaves, white flowers, water, honey and milk.
- If you have Shivling at home you can do abhishek with water, honey or milk.
- Fasting on the day is from sunrise to sunset.
- You can chant Maha Mritunjaya Mantra or Om Namah Shivaya on the day.
- Those who observe fast on Mondays in some regions wear only white clothes.
- Those observe partial fast eat fruits.
- Some devotees read the Shiva Purana on the day.
- Those people who live along the banks of Ganga use water from Ganga to perform abhishek on the Shivling.
- The fast is broken in the evening after praying to Lord Shiva. Some devotees visit a Shiva Shrine during the period. Some devotees opt for a 24-hour fast and they break the fast on the next day morning.
It is believed that those who observe Somwar vrat will have their desires fulfilled and will be blessed with wisdom. In some areas, fasting on Mondays is observed by unmarried women to get a good husband.
It must be noted that Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva and there are devout Hindus who observe vrat on all Mondays in a year.
A Story- RELATED TO SOMAVAAR VRUTHA
Once Lord Shiva visited the famous city of Amravati. Parvati also accompanied him. On their way, they saw a beautiful Shiva temple and decided to spend some time there. One day, Parvati found Lord Shiva in a playful mood. She said to him, Oh my Lord, let us have a dice game. Lord Shiva obliged her and the game started. Meanwhile, the priest of the temple had come there. Parvati turned towards him and said Please foretell who will win this game? The Brahman gave no serious thought to her question and abruptly said, Lord Shiva will win the game. Incidentally Parvati won the game. She was angry because the Brahman had told a lie. Lord Shiva tried to pacify her, but she cursed the Brahman that he be a leper. In due course, the Brahman became a leper and spent a miserable life. After some time a few fairies descended on the earth and pitied the fate of the priest. On asking him, the priest narrated the whole episode. One of the fairies said, You observe Monday fasts for sixteen weeks without break. On the seventeenth Monday, prepare some holy food or Prasaad with flour mixed with ghee and gur. Distribute this prasaad among the members of your family and take some yourself. You will be free from this leprosy. The fairies disappeared and the priest followed the instructions. Soon, he regained his normal health. Once Lord Shiva and Parvati again visited that temple. Parvati was surprised to see the priest. He was his normal self. She enquired about this feat and the priest narrated the whole story. Parvati was happy, she also decided to observe Monday fasts for sixteen weeks. Incidentally, on the seventeenth Monday, when she broke her fast, her beloved son Kartikeya, who was displeased with her, appeared and said, 0 dear mother what is that power with which you have called me? What is the mystery? Parvati said, 0 my dear son, all this miracle is due to observing Monday fasts for sixteen weeks without interruption. Kartikeyas Brahman friend had been in a foreign land for quite some time. Kartikeya said, I shall observe Monday fasts for sixteen weeks for happy reunion with my friend. He observed the 16 weeks fasts as per rules and to his great surprise his friend returned hale and hearty. The friend enquired about the miracle and Kartikeya told him the modalities to be observed for Monday fast. The Brahman friend was very curious about his marriage. He decided to observe the Monday fasts for sixteen weeks. On the seventeenth Monday, the Brahman friend went to a city. The ruler of the city decided to marry his daughter to a person on whose neck his well-decorated elephant would put the garland. The Brahman joined the show. Incidentally, the elephant garlanded him. The ruler of the city gave him his daughter and also a lot of money. The couple departed the next day and were back in their home. On the honeymoon night, the bride said, 0 my dear, how is it that the elephant ignored all the princes and garlanded you? How did you succeed on the auspicious moments? The bridegroom said, I observed fasts on sixteen Mondays. Monday is Lord Shivas day. It is due to his blessings that I got a beautiful wife like you. My friend Kartikeya revealed this secret to me. The bride too decided to observe fasts on sixteen Mondays for a beautiful son full of knowledge. Her devotion bore fruit and she gave birth to a beautiful son. As the son grew up, he said to his mother, 0 my dear mother, what is the mystery behind my birth? Please reveal it to me. The mother told him how she observed Monday fasts. The son also decided to observe the fasts to gain a kingdom for his parents.
Incidentally, an old kings messengers from a nearby State came there in search of a beautiful and learned bridegroom for the princess. They proposed the princess hand for him and he readily agreed. The king expired after sometime and the boy became the king. The newly-made king continued his fasts for the next sixteen Mondays. On the seventeenth Monday, he arranged a large prayer party at a temple. All the arrangements were made well in advance. The king requested the queen to accompany him to the temple for breaking the fast after taking prasaad from the priest. The queen refused to go with him. The king had to go alone. The king heard an oracle who echoed, 0 king, turn out the queen from the palace or destruction will fall upon you. The king returned to his palace. He summoned a conference of his ministers and told about the oracle. All of them were taken aback, as it was due to that princess that he became the king of the state. They agreed to his proposal only with a heavy heart. The queen was ultimately turned out. The queen left the palace bare footed and in worn-out clothes. She was thirsty and fatigued. She met an old lady who had a load of spinned spindles on her head. She was going to the city. She felt pity on her and asked to help her in selling the yarn because she did not know the art of selling. The queen took that load on her head. Incidentally, strong wind blew away the spindles which disappeared in the dusty wind. The queen felt sorry and the old lady asked her to go away. The queen went to an oilmans house and sought shelter. The oilman obliged her, but as she stepped in, all of his oil pots developed cracks and the oil began to flow on the ground. The oilman immediately turned her out. The queen was now disheartened. She went to the bank of a river to quench her thirst. As she touched the water, the water dried up. She then went to a deep jungle and saw a tank of water. As she went down the stairs and touched the crystal dear water, it became muddy. She cursed her fate and put a few drops of the muddy water in her mouth. She was now tired and wanted to take rest under a shady tree. As she went near the tree its leaves began to fall and soon it became leafless. The cowherds saw this incident and told the whole story to the priest of a nearby temple. The priest called for the woman. He was surprised to see that the woman had royal features. He consoled her and provided her with all the facilities. But after some days, he also got fed up with her because whatever the woman touched became impure ? may it be milk, food or water. One day, the priest said, 0 lady, what curse has fallen upon you? You reveal the mystery. The woman told him how she rejected a proposal to attend Monday fast prayer. The priest understood the whole thing. He knew it was Shivas curse. He said, 0 dear lady, you observe fasts on sixteen Mondays and Lord Shiva will absolve you of your sins. The woman realised her mistake and observed the Monday fasts for sixteen Mondays. On the seventeenth Monday, the king said to himself, My queen left my palace long ago. Her condition must be very miserable. He called for his courtiers and ordered them to search out the queen. The courtiers reached the temple where the queen was residing. The priest refused to hand over the queen to them and said, Let the king himself come to receive her. The courtiers went to the king and related the whole story. The king was happy to hear the news. He went to the temple and requested the priest to return his queen to him. The king admitted that he deserted the queen to avoid Lord Shivas wrath. The priest trusted the kings words and the queen returned to the palace. She was given a royal welcome. The king distributed money among the needy and arranged food for the hungry. The king and queen now regularly observed fasts on sixteen Mondays each year and lived a very happy life. After their death they found abode in Lord Shivas city, Shivapuri. Since, then it is believed that a person who observes fasts on sixteen Mondays, gets all pleasures and enters Shivapuri after his death.
VRUTHA OR AUSTERITY AS IN WIKIPEDEA
In the context of Hinduism and Hindu mythology, vrata denotes a religious practice to carry out certain obligations with a view to achieve divine blessing for fulfillment of one or several desires. Etymologically, vrata, a Sanskrit word, meansto vow or to promise.
Vratas – self-control – form the core of the practices of Jainism. Sādhus and sādhvīs (monastics) follow the fivemahavratas “great vratas” while śrāvakas and śrāvikās (layfolk) follow the five anuvratas “minuscule vratas”. There are also several common fasts which are also termed vratas.
A vrata may consist of one or more of several actions. Such actions may include complete or partial fasting on certain specific days; a pilgrimage or tirtha to a particular place or places; a visit, darśana, pujas and homas and recitation ofmantras and prayers.
According to Hindu texts, vratas assist the practitioner to achieve and fulfill their goals as they bring divine grace and blessings. Sometimes, close relatives or family purohits may be entrusted with the obligation of performing the vrata on behalf of another person. The object of performing vrata is as varied as the human desire, and may include gaining back lost health and wealth, begetting offspring, divine help and assistance during difficult period in one’s life. InAncient India, vratas played a significant role in the life of individuals, and it continues to be practiced in modern times as well by a number of Hindus.
The Sanskrit word ‘vrata’ denotes ‘religious vow’. It is one of the most widely used words in the Hindu religious and ritualistic literature. Derived from the verbal root‘vrn’ (‘to choose’), it signifies a set of rules and discipline. Hence ‘Vrata’ means performance of any ritual voluntarily over a particular period of time. The purpose is to propitiate a deity and secure from it what the vrati, the performer wants. This whole process, however, should be undertaken with a sankalpa or religious resolve, on an auspicious day and time fixed as per the dictates of the Hindu religious almanacs called panjika.
VRATHA IN PURANAS
The puranas denote various types of vratas.
- ‘kayika-vrata’. It is a vrata pertaining to the body. The stress is on physical austerity like fasting, remaining sleepless, taking baths and such other restraining activity in connection with one’s body.
- ‘vachika-vrata’ or vrata pertaining to speech. Here much importance is given to speaking the truth and reciting the scriptures, both being a function of the organ of speech.
- ‘manasa-vrata’ or vrata pertaining to the mind. The emphasis here is on controlling the mind, by controlling the passions and prejudices that arise in it.
- Payovrata – is the vrata or penance observed by Goddess Aditi to propitiate Lord Vishnu. This vrata is discussed in detail in the Bhagavata Purana. 
None of these disciplines are exclusive; they may be present in every vrata, in any combination.
TIME BASED VRATHA
There are vratas again based on time. A vrata to be performed just for a dina or day is a dina-vrata. One lasting for a vaara or a paksha (week or fortnight) is avaara-vrata or a paksha-vrata as the case may be. One to be undertaken on a particular tithi (a day according to the lunar calendar) or when a particular nakshatra(asterism) is on the ascendant, is respectively called a tithi-vrata or nakshatra-vrata. Most of the vratas now in vogue are based on the tithis of the lunar calendar.
Based on deity
Another classification is according to the deity (an aspect of God) worshipped; for instance, Swarna-gauri-vrata is dedicated to Gauri, another name of Parvati Devi. Likewise Vara-siddhi-vinayaka-vrata is for propitiation of Lord Ganesha or Satya-narayana-vrata to Vishnu known as Satyanarayana.
The 10th Canto, 22nd Chapter of Bhagavata Purana, mentions young marriageable daughters (gopis) of the cowherd men of Gokula, worshiping Goddess Katyayani and taking a vrata or vow, during the entire month of Margashirsha, the first month of the winter season, to get Lord Krishna as their husband.
Impact on society
Who are the persons eligible to perform a vrata? Anyone who has faith in it and wishes to perform it as per the rules, even if the person be a mleccha (alien)! During the Vedic period sacrifices were strictly restricted to the men of the three upper castes called dvijas meaning twice-born. The doors of the vratas were thrown open to one and all during bhakti movement, thus bringing ritualistic Hinduism to especially the lower castes and women.
Rules of vratas
Though the rules concerning the vratas had been very much liberalized to embrace as large a segment of the society as possible, there had to be some rulesguiding the whole process in order to protect and preserve the sanctity of the ritual system itself. These may be summarized as follows:
- During the period of the observance of a vrata, one should keep one’s person clean and pure, observe celibacy, speak the truth, practice self-control, avoid non-vegetarian foods, and conscientiously perform all the rituals connected with it.
- Once undertaken, a vrata should never be left unfinished, nor should a new one be undertaken until a previously begun vrata has been completed.
- One should never begin observing a vrata should never be begun while in ashaucha (ceremonial impurity brought about by birth or death in one’s family).
- People who are too old or too sick to complete their vratas can have them performed by close relatives who are willing to do so.
- Once the decision is taken to perform a vrata, the actual commencement should be made only as per the auspicious time, place and mode laid down by the books.
- Only one vrata can be undertaken at a time.