Friday, 2 September 2011


Shivling or Shiva 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.


Worshipping Shivling at Home

Before starting the Puja, the devotee takes a bath and wear freshly washed clothes. Hymns praising Lord Shiva or the mantra ‘OM NAMAH SHIVAYA‘ 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 told. Some devotees repeat the Lord’s name (this mantra) 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.

Placing Shivaling

Q. Does the Shivling have a particular orientation when one places it in the puja room? I was told by a temple priest that the lingam should be pointing north. This is what I observed in many temples too. But last Saturday we had been to a temple where the lingam was pointing westward. So is there any particular position or is any position okay?

A. East and the north are the two acceptable orientations for the base of Shiva ling in any temple as stipulated in Agama Shastra. So the base Shiva ling is noticed either facing East or North direction in any temple. While the devotee, who is worshipping Shiva Ling is facing the East the base of Shiva Ling shall be oriented towards north dirction. When the disciple is facing north while worshipping, the base of Shiv Ling shall be oriented towards East. Base here shall mean the point from where the Abhishek liquid (Water or Panchamrit) flows out of Shiva Ling.


This God in many images is shown to have five faces looking towards East, West, North and South while the fifth one is shown looking upward. The five aspects represented by these five faces are:
The face looking upward is called ISHANA (the Ruler), and is copper-colored. He is the embodiment of all forms of learning and represents the enjoyer of nature, (Kshetrajan).
The eastern face of Shiva is called TAT-PURUSHA (the Supreme Man) and is yellow-colored. It represents all nature connected with earth, the sense of smell and the anus as the organ of action.
The western face of Shiva is red and is called YAMA DEVA (the Left- hand Deity); it represents Ego (Ahamkara) and corresponds to the element fire. It is connected with the sense of sight.
The southern face of Shiva is blue or sometimes blue-black, it is called AGHORA BHAIRAV (the Non-fearful or the Frightful), represents Intellect (Buddhi) and Eternal Laws (Dharma). It is connected with the sense of hearing and the organ of speech.
The northern face of Shiva is called SADYOJAT (the suddenly born) and is white in color. It represents the mind and corresponds to sacrificial elixir (Soma).
Amongst the above five faces the southern face of Shiva, called AGHORA needs a brief introduction on its own. Bhairav means ‘Frightful’, ‘Terrible’. Lord Shiva, after the death of his first wife named’ Sati ‘ could not be consoled. He wandered the earth aimlessly, carrying the corpse of his consort on his shoulders. To bring Shiva to his normal state and to cure him of this obsession Vishnu used his Sudarshan Chakra and cut up Sati’s body scattering her limbs at various spots. The places where the limbs fell became sacred spots and are known as SHAKTIPITHAS. Shiva in the form of a Bhairav guards each of these spots. Bhairav is seen either in the company of a dog or riding a dog. Bhairav is invoked in rites designed to destroy enemies.

Another most popular image of Shiva has no human form but is represented by LINGA (the Phallus Figure). It is made of black or white stone, depicted sometime as ’rounded both at top and bottom to show that it does not stand’ or ‘arise from’ anywhere in our space or time, and in some cases an egg-shaped stone tapering at top recalling either the ‘COSMIC EGG’, from which the world emerge or the ‘Bright Flame of Light’; hence it is called JYOTIR LINGA too. Thus, whether depicted as the generative symbol or the fountain-source of light, this Linga represents the Lord of the Universe.
It may also be noted that sex symbolism is for long associated with fanning and the implements connected with it. This fertility aspect of the Linga belongs to the period of Epics and Puranas. As the symbol of transcendental energy and power Linga is the central conception of Shiva philosophy. Shiva is represented in temples in beautifully sculptured forms as well as the symbolic Linga form. The Lingaayat sect follower’s initiation ceremony corresponding to the sacred thread ceremony of most of the Hindus is performed by replacing, YAJNOPAVITA (sacred thread) with a necklace of small Lingas. In south India male devotees of Shiva also wear a formalized miniature Linga, attached to a necklace and concealed under the clothing.
In fact western scholars have overdone the phallus aspect though Linga’s first meaning is that of a ’sign’, ‘mark’ or ’symbol’. Shiva-Purana, the source book of Shiva’s divinity, itself defines Linga as the distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of the object. Thus Linga, the phallus, giver of life is the important shape under which the nature of the shapeless can be represented. Again Shiva-Purana in another hymn says: “It is not the Linga itself which is worshipped but the owner of the Linga, the Progenitor, the Supreme Creator (Purushottama), the Linga leads to Shiva, whose symbol it is.” The Shiva-Linga is represented erect and is divided into three parts. The lowest part is below the pedestal, and is called Brahma part. The middle or the second part is on the pedestal and is womb-shaped: it is called the Vishnu part. The third part is cylindrical and rises above the pedestal; this is the Rudra-Shiva part.


Shiva The Supreme: Shiva Linga, The Mandala: Shiva-Ratri, i.e., Shiva’s Night is the famous festival in honor of Lord Shiva. It is held on the fourteenth night of the dark half moon in the month of Magh (January -February). Throughout the night Shiva’s image is covered by showers of green leaves. This custom is based on a legend that narrates how a hunter after his game in a thick forest lost the way and decided to spend the night under a tree. He could not sleep properly due to cold and feeling uneasy kept on changing postures. With his movements the leaves kept on falling below, where a Shiva-Linga stood at the foot of the tree. Lord was so pleased with him that he bestowed upon him good fortunes. Hence the custom of holding this night-festival named Shiva-Ratri.


Banalinga , a stone found in nature, in the bed of the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh state, India, is an aniconic symbol of worship, based on either the scriptures or cultural traditions among the Hindus, particularly of the Shaivaites and Smartha Brahmins. Stones are ancient and connote divinity. It is a smooth cylindrical stone.
Banalinga is also called the Svayambhu Linga: (Sanskrit) “Self-existent mark or sign of God“, as it is discovered in nature and not carved or crafted by human hands.
The forms of Linga can vary in detail from a simple roller shape roughly cylindrical Banalinga to the stone carved with a thousand facets (Sahasralinga) or of light relief in several human figures (Mukhalinga). The Linga in the shrine of a temple is in stone.
In the Padma Purana Lord Siva declares the greatness of salagrama sila as follows;
mallinga kotibhi drsthi yad phalam pujiti |
salagrama sila yamtu ekasyam iva tad bhaved ||

    “The merit obtained by seeing and worshipping hundreds of thousands of My Lingams, is equivalent to that obtained by worshipping one single salagrama sila.”
 ato’dhisthana vargesu suryadisviva murtisu  |
 salagrama silaiva syad adhisthanottamam hareh ||

     The  Lord  resides  in  many  places  in  which  he  may  be  worshipped, but of all places Salagrama is the best. ( Skanda Purana )
salagrama sila rupi yatra tisthati kesavah  |
tatra devasurayaksa bhuvanani catur dasa ||

     With  Keshava  in the form of Salagrama sila reside  all  the devatas, asuaras, yaksas and the fourteen worlds. ( Padma Purana )

However having said all that, there are verses encouraging the worship and service of Lord Siva for Vaishnavas as mentioned and collected in Hari Bhakti Vilas:
such as in the Shivaratri information and observances herein:

 Lord Siva spoke to Skanda, his son, saying that any person who has seen Salagram Sila, paid obeisances to Him, bathed and worshipped Him, has achieved the results of performing ten million sacrifices and giving ten million cows in charity.

 (Lord Siva speaks to his son, Skanda) In this mortal world, if anyone does not worship Salagram Sila, I do not at all accept any of their worship and obeisances.
What Salagramas are to Vishnu, that the bana-lingas are to Shiva: sacred and self-manifest representations. If the Salagrama are stones found only in the Gandaki river, the bana-lingas are stones found only in the Narmada river, although, according to some texts (as for instance Kalottara, sited in Viramitrodaya), the bana-lingas are obtained not only from the river Narmada but also in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and other holy streams.
However, the bana-lingas are always associated with the Narmada river, so much so that a synonym of bana-linga is Narmada-linga. Narmada, which is regarded as one of the seven sacred streams of the country (sapta-ganga) and which is usually taken as what which marks off South India from the North, takes its origin  in Amarakantak, 914 metres above sea-level, in Madhya Pradesh, where the Vindhya ranges meet with the Satpuda ranges. It flows Westward for 1,292 kilometres through Mandla and Jubbalpore districts, and joins the Arabian Sea in Cambay near Bharoch in Gujarat. The legends identify the river with Reve of epic celebrity, which is described as flowing out of Siva’s own body, and therefore considered one of the holiest rivers.
According to Matsya-purana (Chap. 165-169), drinking the water from this river and worshipping Siva will secure freedom from all states of misery.

Voluntary death in this river by drowning sought by a devotee was extolled as leading directly to the realm of Siva, he having been purified from all sins, and being carried on the vehicle drawn by swans.
The currents of the Narmada river are very strong and forceful, and the stones are carried from the rocky river-sides, rendering them smooth and polished. Besides bana-lingas, which are normally white in colour, there are also in this sacred river, stones called ‘raudra-lingas’ which bare marked resemblance to the bana-lingas, but which are usually dark-coloured, although red, white and yellow varieties are not rare. We read in Lakshana-samuchchaya.

There is a story narrated in Aparajita-pariprchchha (205, 1-26) about the origin of the bana-lingas and their association with the Narmada river. Siva wanted to destroy the ‘tri-pura’, which had been obtained as a boon by the arrogant demon Banasura, and he let go a fiery dart from his great bow ‘pinaka’. The dart broke the three ‘puras’ into tiny bits, which fell on three spots: 1, on the hills in Sri-kshetra (of unknown identity), 2, on the peaks of Amarakantaka in the Vindhya ranges, and 3, on the banks of the holy river Narmada. The bits that fell in these places soon multiplied into crores,. each bit becoming a linga. As they formed part of the possession of Banasura, they were called Bana-Lingas.
Amarakantaka, the peak in Madhya Pradesh, is in close proximity to the source of the river Narmada, which according to the puranas, originated in the Vindhya mountains and flowed in the Kalinga country. Padma-purana says that there are along this river as many as sixty crore and sixty thousand holy ghats, all of which are associated with bana-lingas and raudra-lingas.
The demon Bana was the eldest of the hundred sons of Bali, who in turn was the son of Virochana and grandson of Prahlad (son of Hiranyakasipu and devotee of Narasimha). Bana, the king of demons (asuras) ruled over Sonita-pura. He went to the Himalayan regions, and performed a penance invoking Siva’s favour. When Siva appeared in answer to his austerities, Bana begged the god to bestow himself a thousand arms carrying a multitude of weapons to destroy all his enemies and opponents. He also desired that Parvati should consider him as her son.
In legend, he is described as Mahakala, one of Siva’s attendants and a brother to Subrahmanya. When, however, the demon began tormenting the three worlds, Krsna waged a war against him and severed all of his thousand arms with his discus, with the help of Siva. This story of told in Matsya-purana (chapter 5), Harivamsa (Vishnu-parva, Chapter 173) and Bhagavata-purana (10th skandha, chapter 62).

Bana, despite all the details of the story, was a great devotee of Siva, and Siva gave him his own representative in the form of a natural linga of worship (banrchartham krtam lingam); hence the name Bana-linga. It is also explained that the expression ‘bana’ means in reality Siva.
That the word ‘bana’ also means an arrow, a reed-shaft, cow’s udder and pike is to be considered. The moon-white stones naturally obtained in the river Narmada, answering to these forms may have been called bana-lingas on this account, quite independent of the legend concerning the asura named Bana.
The import of the legend is that the bana-lingas are self-manifest forms of Siva, and that they are therefore holier than any other anionic forms of Siva. This follows another legend which explains why Siva is not worshipped in his iconic form (pratima) but only as linga. Siva’s assumption of the linga form (a fiery column) to outwit the claims of superiority by Vishnu and Brahma is the theme of other legends. Among the several varieties of linga, Bana-linga is said to be the most sacred and its worship most effective.
We are informed in Yajnavalkya-samhita that the bana-lingas are actually bits of  the river-side rock, which flowed into the stream Narmada. The rock by the side of the river was itself the linga, the form assumed by Siva to bless the asura Bana. Siva dwells in that rock and the parts of the rock which we find in the river are, therefore, aspects of Siva.