In the wake of Tripuraasura Samhaara, Brahma exhorted Devas to emphasize the Mahima of Shiva Puja as the Asuras who were in the past were invincible as they were totally engaged in the Puja but eventually neglected it due to Maya and got degenerated gradually. He said that all the Beings in Srishti like Deva-Danava- Daitya-Rakshasa-Yaksha- Gandharva-Kinnara-Vidyaadhara-Piscacha-Siddhaas- Yogis and Maanavas should perform worship to Maha Deva with purity of body, mind and heart to reap multiple fruits from fulfilment in life to Shivaloka prapti. As all the Beings in Creation are called ‘Pashus’ or of animal instinct, Maha Deva is acclaimed as Pashupati and hence all Buddhimaans should discard the ‘Pashutwa’and practise Pashupata Yoga or Pashupata Vrata: after securing ‘Baahyaantara Shuchi’, the Bhakta / Worshipper should perform Pranayama along with the recitals of Omkara; cease the deeds of physical limbs, control the activities of Karmendriyas, gain gradual ‘nyasa’or coordination of Jnaanendriyas, keep that state of body and mind for longer durations as signified by the word of ‘Dharana’, realise the action-reaction syndrome of ‘Tatwaas’ and seek the goal of Moksha; in this manner Pashupata yoga is accomplished; Brahma stated that by so performing the Shiva Linga Puja, Agni Havans which convert desires into Ashes, and aligning the Self with the Supreme, he conquered the ‘Saamsaarika Duhkhaas’ and enjoy the Powers of Control and Fulfillment in the Three Lokaas. Those who regularly follow the ‘Linga Puja’on these lines are stated to have secured Paashupata Yoga as indeed they are blessed. The duration of Pashupati Vrata is stated to span twelve years, twelve months and twelve days when a person observing it would achieve ‘Pashu Bandha Vimochana’ or relief from Pashutwa or of animal intinct and attain Devatwa or of the features of Devas.
As instructed by Brahma, Vishwakarma, the Builder of Devas materialised Naana Vidha Shiva Lingas : Vishnu worshipped a Linga made of Indra nila; Indra worshipped a Padmaraaga- maya Linga; Vishrawa Putra worshipped a Golden Linga; Vishwa Devataas did puja to a Silver Linga; Ashtaavasusprayed to a Kantikamaya Ling; Vaya Deva to a brass Linga; Ahvini Kumaraas prayed to a Parthiva (Earthen) Linga; Varuna Deva worshipped a Sphatika Linga; Dwaadasha Adityaas prayed to a copper Linga; Soma a Mouktika (Pearl) Linga; Ananta and other Nagaas worshipped a Prabalamaya or harsh wind Linga; Daityas made puja to an Iron Linga; Guhyakaas made puja to a Trilohika Linga; Chamunda prayed to a Baalumaya/ perfume Linga; Nirruti Deva worshipped a wooden Linga; Yama Deva used a Marakata (Emerald) Linga for his puja to Shiva; Ekaadasa Rudras prayed to Bhasma Linga; Devi Lakshmi worshipped a Bilwa Linga while Kartikeya implored a Gomaya Linga; Munis are in the habit of Kushaagra Lingas; the Chatur Vedas performed pujas to Dadhimaya (Curd made) Linga and Piscachaas are used to pray to Seesa (Lead made) Linga. In this way Shiva Lingas made of various materials are utilised by species of all in Creation. Depending on the availability of Dravya (money), it is said that there were six varieties of Shiva Lingas in vogue in the past and these had forty four categories viz. Shailaja Lingas of four types, Ratnaja of seven kinds, Dhatuja Lingas were of eight variations, Daaruja Lingas of sixteen types; the seventh kind was of Mritthikamaya (Earthen) of two classification; and the eighth variety is of seven categories of Kshanika (temporary) nature. Among all these Ratnamaya Lingas are Lakshmiprada; Shailaja Lingas bestow Sarvasiddhis; Dhatuja Lingas are stated to provide Dhana; Daaruja Lingas yield Bhoga or material happiness and Mritthika Linga provide Sarva Siddhis. Among the above types, it is stated that Shailaja Lingaas are the best while Dhatuja Lingas are of medium kind; the recommendation however was that the Lingaas made of Shailaja, Ratnamaya, Dhatumaya, Mrunmaya and Kshanika Lingas are in the vogue normally. All the most significant Devotees like Brahma, Indra, Agni, Yama, Kubera, Varuna, Siddha, Vidyaadhara, Naaga, Yakshas normally invoke Mahadeva to attain Bhu-Bhuva-Swah-Jana-Tapa and Satya Lokas. But those who seek ‘Paramaartha’or Moksha among the Siddhas and Yogis believe that Shiva was of Pranava Swarupa, some other imagine Him as Vignaana Swarupa, others ponder him as Shabdaadi Vishaya Tatwa Gyana Rupa and so on. However, another way of perceiving Shiva is that his Mastaka is of Swarga, his navel as Akaasha, Surya Chandra and Agnis as his Trinetras, Samudra as his Vastra, Pataala as his feet, Devataas as his hands, Nakshatras as his Bhushanaas, Linga as Purusha, Prakriti as his Devi, Vayu as his breathing, and Smriti-Shrutis are his thorough-fare and speed.
Murti Pratishtha: Devi Parvati and Kartikeya had once set up a Shiva Linga and mankind reaped benefits till date. After Pralaya, they set up the Linga atop Meru Mountain, and all the Devas were able to enjoy the resultant fruits by being playful all over the Worlds of Omkara, Kaumara, Ishaana, Vaishnava, Brahma and of Prajapatis. Manavas are able to accomplish ‘Shiva Sayujya’ by the ‘Pratishtha’ or establishment of Shiva Murtisand performing most sincere Dhyana of Maha Deva who has Eka Paada or One Foot, four hands, Trinetra / Three Eyes, Shula, Vishnu on his left, Brahma on his right and Devi Prakriti on his lap. It was also stated that His Buddhi created Buddhi to all the Beings from Brahma downward to humanity and other Species; His Ahankaara created Ahankaara to all concerened; His Indriyas created Indra, Foot corners created Prithvi, Guhya created Jala, Naabhi created Agni, His heart created Sun, His throat created Moon, His ‘Bhrumadhya’ or the Center of brows generated Atma / Soul to one and all and His Mastaka created Swarga. Those who perform Pratishtha and Puja of Maha Deva seated on Vrishabha and Chandra as His Ornament are certain to achieve Shiva Loka travelling by Vimana; those who make Pratishtha of Shiva along with Ambika and Nandi would be transported to Shiva Loka by a brightVimaana similar to Surya Deva even as Apsaras entertain on way by their nritya or dances. If the Pratishtha of Shiva Murti as Vrishabha dwaja is achieved along with Devi Parvati besides Indra, Vishnu, and Prime Devas, the resultant fruits would total up performing all kinds of Yagnas, Tapas, Daanaas, and Tirtha Yatraas besides securing Shiva Loka till Maha Pralaya! Shiva Sthaapana as in His Nude Form as a Four- Armed, Sweta /White Coloured, Sarpahaari, Trinetra, Black haired and Kapaladhari Murti would assure Shiva Sayujya. Shiva Pratishtha in the Form of Dhumra Varna, Chaturbhuja, red eyed, Chandrabhushana, Vyaghra charma dhaari, Kapala Dhaari, Ganga dhaari, Parvatiyukta vaamaanga, Vinayaka-Skanda yukta, Surya Chandra Sahita along with Brahmani, Kaumari, Maaheshwari, Indraani, Chaamundika, Veerabhadra and others and to worship Rudra with ‘Phut’ resound as also to Vighna Nayaka and to the accompanying Deities would indeed assure Shiva Sayujya! Pratishtha of a Chaturbhuja, Artha-Nariswara, Varada, Abhaya hasta and Shula Padma dhaara would yield Animaadi Siddhis in the present life and Shivaloka subsequently. If one were to attempt performing the Pratishta of Parama Shiva as a Chitaabhasma dhaari, Baagambaradhara or wearer of Tiger skin, Shiro maalaa dhara and Upaveeta dhara, the Bhaktas are blessed with fearlessness and Victory always. Those who recite the Mantra of Om Namo Nila Kanthaaya even once very sincerely would have their sins demolished and continuous recitation with formal puja of Gandha-Pushpa-Karpura-Naivedyas are definitely destined to Shiva Sayujya.
Indeed construction of Shivaalayaas with stones or tiles, mrittika or gold, wood or mortar would be of enormous Punya; it is the Shraddha and earnestness with which the construction is accomplished. Those who do so are earmarked a distinct place in Shiva Loka and as and when they alight the Vimana after their mortal life, Apsaras welcome them and so do Devas as they secure the status of ‘Gaanapatya’. Those who undertake reconstruction, repair, renovation or part works of dilapidated, ramshackled or almost unusable Temples too have a significant contribution as their role of reviving Rudra Bhakti gets recognition and sense of fulfilment in ‘Iham’ and lasting Salvation in ‘Param’ or Shiva Loka. Those who could neither afford money, nor wherewith all to renovate or let alone construct afresh Siva Temples also have important roles to undertake whatever services possible they could in the Temples; some persons help manage the Temples with or without returns; some contibute oil for lamps, milk etc. for Abhishka, some take up painting and decoration free of cost, and such other minor or major tasks as per one’s own ability and sacrifice by even cleaning the Temples floors, washing the utensils and innumerable other services. As one gets naturally curious as to how one should take up responsibilities in providing Services, Maha Deva Himself guides such sincere Bhaktas to undertake suitable deeds and enable them to assume roles however big or small they may be.
It is stated that if a person died within an easily walkable distance of a Shiva Temple, he or she would receive ‘Punya’ of performing Chandrayana Vrataas again and again. If a person died at any of the Punya Kshetras like Varanasi, Prayaga, Kedara, Kurukshetra, Prabhasa, Pushkara, Amareshwara and so on, that person would be qualified for Shiva Loka Prapti. Mere ‘darshana’ of such Sacred Tirthas is of considerable value, but ‘sparshana’ or touch and fondling of a Shiva Linga is hundred times better; Abhisheka of Shiva Lingas with water is hundred times better; Abhisheka with milk is thousand times better; far better is the Abhisheka with curds; with Madhu or honey it is regarded as better still and even better would be the Abhisheka by ghee. Like wise, Snaana or bathing from a well, or a Sarovara, a river by taking the Panchaakshatri Mantra viz. ‘Om Namah Shivaaya’ would nullify a ‘Brahmahatya dosha’ or one of the Maha Patakaas or the Five Great Sins. Pratahkaala Darshana of Shiva Linga provides ‘Uttama Gati’ or Celestial Travel while the Evening Darshan bestows Yajna Phala.
As the Munis at Nimisha Forest requested Suta Maharshi to briefly describe the Vidhaana of Shiva’s ‘Archana’ or worship, especially by ordinary persons with limited knowledge and comprehension, since even those who performed Tapasya for thousand years by Maha Munis and Maha Siddhas failed to glimpse Shiva Tatwa, let alone Shiva! Indeed Suta Muni emphasised this fundamental issue since Shiva Darshana would not be possible without Shraddha, Bhakti and conviction. Those who perform worship without the preceding virtues might perhaps end up in a futile exercise and their worship might attract even negative results! If a person resorts to Shiva Puja for Public Show with contradictions in mind and negativism/ disbelief in thoughts, then that Person without Bhakti and Puja is an offender and might perhaps end up as a Piscacha; if such a person persists doing Puja again and again without even a semblance of trust and faith-let alone Bhakti or devotion- then he could convert himself as a Raakshasa. Such a faithless person who does not observe minimal traits in the context of eating and drinking while resorting to Puja might as well be born as a Yaksha or worse. Now on to the Archana Vidhi: Gayatri Mantra is the Main Gate by which Maha Deva Puja gets easier; after performing Gayatri, Shiva Linga should be installed and purified with sacred waters; a Bhakta should then resort to treat the Linga with Padya, Aachamana, Abhisheka with water first, then with milk, ghee and curd; this would be followed by ‘Panarabhisheka’ or repeat Snaana to the Linga; Kasturi and Kesar are to be applied to the Linga; Vastram and Yajnoopaveetam should be offered; variety of flowers and bilwa (wood apple) leaves aplenty be decorated all over the Sacred Linga and around and then perform Puja with Kamal/Lotus, Kannera pushpa, Vakula flowers, Champaka flowers, and so on. Dhupam and Deepa Darshana would be followed before Naivedya. By way of Naivedya / Bhog, cooked rice be offred in various tastes and condiments, as also Bhaksyha-Bhojya-Lehya-Choshya and Paaneeyaas. After Tambula (betel leaves and scented powders), Pradakshina and Dakshina to Brahmanas engaged in the Puja Vidhi would be followed and as a finale, Punah Prarthana and Recital of ‘Mantra Pushpa’ or the Vedic Hymn viz. Yopaam Pushpam Vedaa etc.
Maheswara should be pleased and gratified with such worship comprising ‘Shodasopachaaraas’ or Sixteen Services viz. Dhyaana-Aavaahana-Aasana- Paadya- Arghya-Achamaneeya- Snaana-Vastra- Yagopaveeta-Gandha- Pushpa-Dhupa-Deepa-Naivedya-Taambula / Dakshina,Pradakshina-Saashtaanga. Incidentally, Deepaaraadhna is an essential comoponent of the Shivaaraadhana: Deepa Vrikshaas, Deepa Maalaas and Deepas made of brass, copper, silver and gold constitute an integral part of worship especially during Kartika Month; Formal Pujas all through the month are the highlights when Shiva Temples are full of happenings with Maha Nyaasaas, Rudraas, Rudra Gayatris, Abhishekaas, Upavaasaas or Fastings and austerities. Besides Shiva, Devi Parvati, Ganesha-Kartikeya and Nandi, pujas are also performed to Gayatri and Vishnu and Panchaakshari Mantra and Pranava -naada are recited with ecstactic devotion and dedication.