SHIVA (HIS WORSHIP)
Religion is an integral part of daily life in the Indian subcontinent, there is hardly a separation between worship and worldly affairs. People bow to sacred cows blocking the road, they pause to ring a temple bell while walking through the marketplace, offering coins to a beggar, and flowers to a shrine. Ceremonial rituals are performed virtually at any time, and nearly every home has a family altar where its members worship each day. Although this spirit runs through all aspects of Hindu culture and everything is considered sacred, some things are especially venerated in the worship of Lord Shiva.
Monday is dedicated to Shiva and devout women fast each week on this day in His honour. The Eastern lunar calendar is filled with religious festivals, based on the moon’s phases, and each new moon is considered auspicious by His disciples since it is cherished by Shiva who wears it shining in His locks. A crescent moon which occurs on a Monday is extremely holy and is observed as Lord Shiva’s day, as is every thirteenth of the month.
People pay homage to images of Shiva and His linga by washing them with cow’s milk and water from sacred rivers, such as the Ganges. They are annointed with clarified butter and sandalwood paste, and decorated with flowers and leaves of the peepal tree, sacred to Lord Shiva. Offerings of bel fruit and dhatura, an hallucinogen from which belladonna is extracted, are made as these gifts are loved and appreciated by the Lord.
Aarti, the ritual offering of light, takes place each sunrise and sundown to awaken Shiva and put Him to rest. The pujari,or priest, performs the ceremony and is in charge of the shrine, lovingly cleaning and caring for it. Incense is offered, and a metal dish containing flames from burning wicks is passed through the air before the murti, image, in a clockwise motion symbolizing the sun. Bells chime loudly, calling Shiva’s attention and summoning His devotees to the temple. A whisk is waved around the image to purify the atmosphere. As the priest enacts the ancient rites, he turns to each of the four cardinal directions, flicking water from a conch shell.the symbol of purity. Afterwards the aarti prayer is sung, and people pass their hands over the sacred flames for darshan, blessing.
They return home with flower petals and other offerings from the ceremony, as blessings to be shared with members of the family. Thus the sense of sacredness is carried from the temple into the home and every aspect of daily life.