Sage Suta while addressing a Gathering of Rishis and narrating the ‘Brahmottara Khanda’of Skanda Purana described the significance of devotion to Maha Deva by way of Siva Mantras, Siva Ratri and Siva Puja.The ‘Adi Panchakshari Mantra’ when complemented with Pranava Mantra ‘Om’ is known as the Shadakshari Siva Mantra Om Namah Sivaaya. This most Sacred Mantra is complete, composed and compact which is considered as the Soul of ‘Upanishads’and is the most potent tool utilised by Sages down the ages for realising Bhagavan; it is stated that this simple device is the Key to multiple applications like Tirthas, Yagnas, Tapas, Japas, Yoga Practices, Vrathas, Sacrifices and Pujas. A person lost in the dark and frightful forests of ‘Samsara’, the Mantra is a beacon light; it is the ‘Badabagni’ or the engulfing fire that brings down huge trees of ‘Maha Pathakas’ or the Great Sins into ash; This Shadakshara is Ambrosia to those who have no awareness of Ritulas, Deekshas or Pujas with strict regulations and controls; methodology of Homas, Tarpans and ‘Upadeshas’ by Gurus, and extreme care for observing Physical and Mental directives and parameters. This Mantra is a God-sent facility especially to woman folk, and other people with no access of complicated Mantras much less to Vedas and Scriptures, those who are ‘Varna Sankaras’or who jumped the Rules of Superior Varnas, outlaws of Society and confirmed Sinners, Criminals and fallen men and women. Sage Suta cited the example of a King Dashahi of Mathurapuri married to Kalavati the daughter the King of Kasipura. After the wedding, the bride requested her husband to observe celibacy as she was performing a Vrata for a few days, but the King attempted force despite protests; the bride’s body became so hot that the groom had to refrain. The King realised his folly and asked his wife to teach the Panchakshari Mantra, but since she was a wife to the King advised him to approach Guru Gargacharya to be initiated with the Panchakshari Mantra. The King practised the Mantra and within hours experienced a feeling of freshness and freedom of sins. After the Vrata by the Queen, the King became completely changed and lived with happiness and good progeny, as they continued the practice of the Panchakshari Mantra always.
Siva Ratri in the months of Magha / Phalgun Krishna Paksha Chaturdasis are considered extremely crucial, especially the ‘Upavasas’ (day-night fasts) and Jaagarans (night-long awakenings). The ‘Punya’ of worshipping Siva Linga especially with Bilwa Tree Leaves along with ‘Abhishekas ’is stated to be as good as ten thousand Ganga Snaanas. Siva Ratri ‘Upavasas’are said to equate performing hundred Yagnas.These facts were illustrated by the experience of a noble King called Mitrasaha who visited forests for hunting. He killed a Rakshasa and the latter’s younger brother desired to teach a lesson to the King, took the form of a human being and wangled a job in the Royal Kitchen as a cook. Sage Vasishtha visited the King who invited the Sage for a meal. The cunning Rakshasa brother who was a cook in the Royal Kitchen served ‘Nara Maamsa’ or human flesh to Vasishtha. The Sage who found human flesh in the food became extremely angry and cursed the King to become a Raakshasa. The King being innocent of the charge appealed to the Sage to withdraw the false charge but no avail. The King grew angry and was about to give a return Curse to the Sage but the Queen named Madayanthi begged of the King not to do so but since the Manrtik waters of the King were already drawn out; he had to sprinkle the waters on his own feet and hence was known as ‘Kalmashapaad.’ But in view of the curse of Vasishtha, the King had to roam in the forest as a Raakshasa for twelve years. As the curse-period was almost over, the King-turned-Raakshasa found a young Brahmana couple roaming in the forest for fun and caught hold of the Brahmana boy; his wife who had the awareness of the Rakshasa’s background made an appeal to him and conveyed that the Rakshasa was actually a King but was converted due to Vasishtha’s curse. But the Rakshasa killed the boy and out of fury and sorrow the woman jumped into death pyre for Sati Sahagamana while cursing the Rakshasa that if even after his return as a King would ever meet his wife in union, he would die at once. Queen Madayanti was aware of the curse to the King by the Brahmana woman and conveyed the same to the King too. Thus the Royal Couple desisted themselves their desires and became ascetic-like. The King had the feeling that a Piscachi was always after him due to the ‘Brahmahatya Pathaka’ of the Brahmana Couple.That was the time when Sage Gautham called on the King and the Queen who conveyed their entire story of misfortune.The Sage suggested that King Mitrasaha and Queen Madayanti must visit a highly Sacred Kshetra called Gokarna where the utterance of Bhagavan Siva’s name itself would instantly dissolve the worst possible Maha Patakas. This Kshetra was as potent and Sacred as Kailasa and Mandarachal on whose Sikharas (Peaks) stayed Maha Deva. Demon Ravanaasura did severe Tapasya and secured a Siva Linga, but on way when Raavana asked Ganesha disguised as a care-free lad tha latter tricked the Asura and established the Parama Linga at Gokarna instead of being taken to Lanka since Ravana would have become invincible otherwise.This most sanctified Kshetra is the residing Place of Vishnu, Brahma, Kartikeya and Ganesha and had no parallel in destroying even the toughest Sins. Situated on the west coast of Bharata Desha, this most sancrosanct Temple Complex is the most sought after Center known for disbanding Brahmaghaati, Bhuta drohi, Bhratrudrohi as also hardcore and toughest crimes. On certain specified days, Darshan and Puja yield double the benefit, such as Sunday, Monday and Wednesday coinciding preferably with ‘Amavaasyas’. Sacred bathing in the Ocean, followed by Daan, Pitru Tarpan, Siva Puja, Japa, Homa, Vratacharya and Brahmana Satkaar (Gifts to Braahmanaas) as also Bilwa Puja and Abhisheka with milk, ash and Gandham (Sandal Paste) would keep a mortal on a high pedestal indeed. On the sacred Krishna Chaturdasi of Maagha (Phalguna) month, Siva Puja with Bilwa leaves, followed by Upavaas, Jaagaran and stay in the Temple Premises would set up steps to Sivaloka.Thus Sage Gautama advised the Royal Couple, who had almost lost hope in their lives! He narrated a strange incident to reinforce faith in the Gokarna Kshetra; he saw a Sarovar in the consecrated surroundings where an old, diseased and tattered Chandali woman who was almost dying. He also saw an aeroplane in the sky carrying a handful of passengers dressed like Lord Siva Himself! As they got down from the skies, they approached the old woman whom none would not even like to touch. The Sage noted that they were Sivadutas and prevented them from going nearby as he could see from his ‘Divya Drishti’(Celsetial Vision) that the wretched woman had a frightfully sinful background in her earlier life; she was an immoral, lusty and despicable prostitute who never even took the name of Bhagavan Siva and steeped in sins of all kinds. Yet, Sivadutas arrived by a special ‘Vimana’ (aeroplane) to fetch the woman to Sivaloka! The secret of the woman was that she used to take the name of Siva inadvertently, more as a byword; she had the fortune of residing in Gokarna Kshetra; she spent nights without food and was awake all through on Siva Ratri days; she had kept bilva leaves on a Siva Linga a few times again accidentally and not out of veneration. It was in this context that Sivadutas took her soul to Sivaloka having given to her a beautiful physical get-up, dressed in silks and ornaments, decorated with flowers, with fragrances spread out all around!
Siva Puja : Sivo Guruh Sivo Devah Sivo bandhuh Sharirinam, Siva Atma Sivo Jeevah Sivaadannayna kinchana/ Bhagavan Siva is Guru, Siva is Devata, Siva is the relative of Human Beings, Siva is Atma, and Siva is Life; without Siva none else exists. With Siva as the receiver, the returns are immense of whatever Daan, Japa and homa are performed. It is the tongue which praises Siva that is worth possessing; the mind which meditates Siva is worth having; the ears that listen to Siva’s holy acts are worth keeping; the eyes which look down with veneration of Siva are worthy of acquiring; the feet which roam freely in Siva Kshetras are valuable; and the limbs of one’s body are worth retaining if only they are utilised in the honour of Siva. Be it a human being as a chandala, man, woman or eunuch, a Siva Bhakta is always eligible for attaining Mukti. This was illustrated by Suta Muni to the congregation of Rishis at Naimisa Forest by the experience of Raja Chandrasena of Ujjain and a Cow-boy called Srikar. Chandrasena was an extraordinary Siva Bhakta and Manibhadra the Chief of Siva Parishad gifted a Chintamani to the King. The Kings of surrounding Kingdoms grew jealous of Chitrasena and attacked his Kingdom, but he was unnerved since he had immense faith in Bhagavan Siva and continued his prayers in the Mahakaal Temple. At the same time, a Cow-woman accompanied by her son too witnessed the King’s Puja. On return to his home, the boy who fully understood the Puja procedure practised the Puja secretly without the knowledge of his mother; he improvised a stone as a Sivalinga and performed various imaginary services to Bhagavan like Snaana, Pushpa, Chandana, Akshata, Dhup, Deepa and Naivedya. As the boy was deeply immersed in the worship, his mother called him for food but as there was no response she searched for him and he was engrossed in the Puja. The mother chided him and even threw away the so-called Puja material that was improvised; in fact when the boy was in a trance of devotion and she dragged him away; he begged of the ‘Siva Linga’ or the Stone that was improvised not to punish his mother as she was an ignorant woman. Within minutes, the Place where the boy worshipped turned out to be a huge Sivalaya with golden domes and beautifully laid walls,doors and floors and an installed Linga on a platform made of blue sapphire and other precious stones. The appearance of Sivalaya surprised the boy, his mother, entire Ujjain, Chitrasena, his enemies who surrounded Ujjain and the whole Region. The enemy Kings sought the pardon of King Chitrasena; the King extolled the devotion of the Gopa boy; the mother of the boy was overwhelmed with repentance of her indiscretion on the one hand and of supreme joy and pride for her son on the other, and the unimaginable happening became a talk of the Region. At this very time, Lord Hanuman appeared and addressed the gathering of devotees and stated that the formation of the Linga happenned at the Pradosha Time on a Saturday just on the strength of the sincerity and unadulterated faith of the boy who would be known further as Srikar, that in the eighth generation after the boy there would be an Avatara of Vishnu popularly called Sri Krishna and meanwhile that He would teach the Rituals in the Temple to the Gopabala Srikar to carry on the daily tasks from then onward.
On every Trayodasi evening, Pradosha time is observed as Mahadeva performs ‘Siva Thanadava’ (dance) on the Silveren Mountain of Kailasha as all Devas would be present and euologise Nataraja and His Supremacy. The Bhaktas, desirous of attaining the ‘Four Purusharthas’viz. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, observe the Pradosha Time with Siva Puja, Homams, Stutis (Praises) and charities. Those devotees who are involved in such activities secure immediate relief from poverty, disease, indebtedness and discontentment.
Pradosha Vrata is observed by fasting, ‘Snaan’at three ‘ghadis’ before evening, ‘Sandhyavandana’ and Siva Puja. The Puja is initiated by way of Atma Suddhi, Bhuta Suddhi, three Pranaayamas, Matrukaa Nyasa, Devata Dhyana, Parama Siva’s Dhyana, greeting to Guru on the left side of one’s back, bowing of head on the right side, touching both the shoulders and thighs by way of Nyasa of Dharma, Jnaana, Vairagya and Iswarya; Nyasa of Naabhi and both the sides of the body to avoid Adharma, Agyaan, Avairagya and Anaiswarya; Nyasa on Hridaya (heart) with Ananta, Achyuta etc.; perform Nyasa from Adhaara Shaki to Jnaanatmaka Shakti imagining heart as a lotus of various petals; Bhagavan with Three Eyes, Chandra on His Head, ‘Jatajut’( Twisted Hairs on the Head); ‘Neela kantha’ indicating enormous mercy; Sarpa Haara or a Chain of Snakes; Tiger Skin and so on. Thereafter the Puja is performed by way of Avahana (Welcome), Rudra Sukta Recital, ‘Panchamrita Abhishek’, Vastra, Arghya, Paadya, Achamana, Yagnopaveeta (Sacred Thread), Aabhuushana (Ornaments), Chandana, and worship with Bilva, Mandara, Red Lotus, Dhatura, Kanera, Chameli, Kusha, Tulasi, Apamarga, Champa, Karaveera and other flowers and ‘Dalaas’(leaves); Dhupa, Deepa, ‘Naivedya’, Neerajana; Mantra Pushpa viz. Yopaam Pushpam Veda to Chandra, Agni,Vayu, Nakshatra, Parjanya,etc; followed by ‘Atma Pradakshina’, Chhatram, Chaamaram, Nrityam, Geetam, Aaandolika, and various other Services. The Grand Finale of the Pradosha Vrata ought to be ‘Siva Stuti’ as follows:
Jaya Deva Jagannadha Jaya Shankara Shaswata,
Jaya Sarva Suraadhyaksha Jaya Sarva Suraarchita,
Jaya Sarva Gunaathita Jaya Srava Varaprada,
Jaya Nitya Niraadhhara Jaya Vishvambharaavyaya,
Jaya Vishvaikavedyesha Jaya Naagendra Bhushana,
Jaya Gauripathey Shambho Jaya Chandra Sekhara,
Jaya Kotyarka samkaasha Jayaanantha Gunaashraya,
Jaya Rudra Viruupaksha Jayaachinthya Niranjana,
Jaya Naatha Kripaasindho Jaya Bhaktartibhanjana,
Jaya DustaraSamsaara Saagarottharana Prabho,
Praseeda me Mahadeva Samsaarartasya Khidyatah,
Sarva Paapabhayam hrutva Rakshamaam Parameswara,
Mahadaaridya –magnascha Mahapaap hatasyacha,
Mahashoka Vinishtascha Mahaarogaathurasya cha,
Runabhaara pareethyasya Dahyamaanasya Karmabhih,
Graheh Prapeedyamaanasya Praseeda mama Shankara.
Siva Kavacha: Realising that Bhagavan Siva was the Origin of ‘Srishti’ (Creation) which was far beyond human comprehension; Sage Sharabha scripted the famed Siva Kavacha or the Body Safeguard to humanity: ‘May Sarvadevamaya Mahadeva save me from this deep Samsaara Kupa; may His Sacred name relieve me from the totality of sins from my heart. May Bhagavan Siva save me whose Body Form is His Universe and whose resplendent and happy embodiment of ‘Chidaatma’ or Ever Happy Soul is Eternal. May Eswara, whose presence is all pervading from even the small to the smallest existence is replete in the Universe, save me from the massive stock of sins from my life! May ‘Ashtamurthi’Girisha who had taken the Form of Earth save me from my daily tribulations. May Parama Siva who assumed the appearance of Water which is life-giving provide me security of life. May Maha Siva who ends up the Universe with fearful flames and performs Rudra Tandava (dance) while enjoying the destruction of Life bestow relief to me from heat and fury.May the Three Eyed and Five Faced Siva, the’Satpurusha’ grant me Vidya (Knowledge), Abhay (shelter) and ‘Vara’(boon) at all times out of His endless mercy fron the Eastern side. May Siva, who wears Kuthara, Ankusha Pasha, Shula Nagaada and Rudrakshamaala and is also known as Neelaruchi, Trinetra, and ‘Aghora’, keep me safe in the Dakshina (Southern) side. May Omni Potent ‘Sadyojata’ who sports Chandama, Shankha and Sphatikamala on His Body look after me on the Western front. May ‘Vamadeva’Bhagavan save me from the Northern Front. May ‘Ishana’save me from the above or the sky! May Bhagavan Chandramouli save my head, Phaalanetra my forehead, Bhaganetrahaari my eyes, Viswanaatha my nose, Shrutageetakirti my ears, Panchamukha my face, Vedajihva my tongue, Girisha my neck, Neelaantha my two hands, Dharmabaahu my shoulders, DakshaYagna Vidhvmavsi my Vakshasthal Girindradhanva my stomach, Kamadevanaashak my Mahyadesh, Ganesha Pita my navel, Dhurjati my ‘Kati’, Kubera Mitra my Pindaliyas, Jagadeeswar my Ghutnas, Pungavakethu (two janghas or thighs), and Suravandyacharan (both the feet worshipped by Devas). May Maheswara save me during the first Prahara Time; Vaamadeva the second Prahara, Triayambak the third Prahara and Vrishabhadwaja the final Prahara; Sisireswar at the begnning of the night; Gangadhar save me midnight; Gauripati at the end of night; and may Mrityunjaya save me always.Shankar should protect me from the Internal Physique; Sthhaanu from the Bahya Stithi or Extrenal Being, Pashupati saves me from the intermediate Stage of consciousness and Sadasiva may protect everybody always. Let Bhuvanaikanath save me while standing, Prananath in motion; Vedantavedya while my standing, Avinaashi Siva during my sleep; Neelakantha during our tavel; Tripuraari while passing rocky places; Mrigavyaaghra passing through forests; and Mrigavyaghya in Maha Pravaasa or deep and dense jungles. I seek the refuge of Veerabhadra whose high blast and frightening presence shakes up the whole Universe. May Bhagavan Mrida who could devastate crore-strong of armies in split seconds and has the unimaginable might and speed to do so, and Tripurantaka whose‘Pralayakaal’Trisula could submerge the entire Creation into an endless sheet of water, save me from my bad dreams, awful omens, dreadful feelings of mind, durbhiksha (extreme poverty), Durvyasanas (terrible habits), diseases, fear of poisonous species, and victimisation of evil ‘grahas’, natural mishaps like cylones, earthquakes and floods and all such unfortunate experiences. I greet Sadasiva who is the embodiment of all Tatvas and their interpretation, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of all the Worlds, the unique witness of existence, the Donor, Sin Remover, the epitome of Propitiousness, the Nirguna, the Unparalelled, Nirakar, Niraabhas, Niramaya, Nishprapancha, Nishkalanka, Nidvandhya, Nissanga, Nirmala, Gati Sunya, Nithya Rupa, Nithya Vaibhava Sampanna, Anupama Iswarya, Adhara Sunya, Nithya, Shuddha Buddha, Paripurna, Sachhidanandaghana, Adviteeya, Parama Shanta, Prakashamaya, and Teja Swarupa. Hey! Rudra, Maha Roudra, Bhadraavataar, Duhkhadavagni vidarana, Maha Bharava, Kaala Bharava, Kalpanta Bhairava, and Kapaala Maalaadhari. Hey, Wearer of Khatvanga, Khatga, Dhala, Paasha, Ankusha, Damaru, Shula, Dhanush, Baana, Gada, Shakti, Bhidipaala, Thomar, Mushal, Mudgar, Pattisha, Parashu, Parigha, Bhushundi, Shataghni, Chakra such other frightful weapons! Hey, Mukhadamshtra karaala, Vikata Attahaasya visphaarita Brahmaandala mandala, Nagendra kundala, Nagendravalaya, Nagendracharmadhara, Mritunjaya, Triambaka,Tripurantaka, Viruupaksha, Visweswara, Viswarupa, Vrishavaahana, Vidyubhushana and Vishvatomukha.You guard me, burn off fear of my death, demolish my Apamrityu and my fear of external and internal diseases, shield me from ‘Arishatvargas’or the Six Enemies of Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Matsara ; tear down my terror of Raakshasas, Bhutaas, Kushmandas, Betalas, Brahma Raakshasas and such other Kshudra Shaktis. Oh Lord, equip me against Naraka Bhaya (Terror of Hell), Kshudha Trishna (hunger and thirst), and apprehensions. Victory to You Bhagavan! Do strengthen my physique, mind and Soul and insulate me from all possible risks of life with this Parama Shakti Maha Siva Kavacha.