The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “different modes of worship of clay idols and their results” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 16 - Different modes of worship of clay idols and their results

The sages said:

1. O excellent one, please explain the rules of the worship of clay idols by following which all desired results will be achieved.

Sūta said:—

2. You have requested for a very good thing. It bestows all wealth always. It suppresses misery instantaneously. I shall explain it. Please listen.

3-4. It wards off premature and foul death. Even a timely death it prevents. O brahmins, it bestows womenfolk, sons, wealth, grains etc. The worship of idols made of clay etc. is conducive to the attainment of all cherished desires in the world. From it the devotee derives food and other edible things, cloth etc.

5. Both men and women are authorized in this. The clay should be brought from the beds of rivers, lakes or wells.

6. It should be washed well and pasted with scented powder and milk. The idol should be made with the hands on a raised platform.

7. All the limbs, joints etc. should be perfectly shaped with the respective weapons of the deity concerned. It should be seated on Padma Āsana (the lotus pose) and worshipped respectfully.

8. The five deities Gaṇeśa, Sun, Viṣṇu, Pārvatī and Śiva shall be usually worshipped in their images. But a brahmin shall always worship the phallic emblem of Śiva.

9. In order to derive the full benefit of worship, the sixteen forms of service shall be observed. The sprinkling of water over the idol shall be performed with flowers. The pouring of water shall be performed with mantras.

10-11. The food offering shall consist of cooked rice of Śāli variety. In the worship conducted in the house, 12 handfuls of rice (= Kudava) shall be used. In the worship in a temple constructed by men, a prastha (a particular measure) of cooked rice shall be used. In a divine temple three Prasthas of cooked rice shall be used. In the worship of self-risen image five prasthas of cooked rice shall be used. If thus used it gives complete benefit. By using twice or thrice this quantity the benefit shall be greater.

12-15. By performing this worship a thousand times, a brahmin shall attain Satyaloka. A vessel made of wood or iron twelve aṅgulas in width, 24 aṅgulas in length and sixteen aṅgulas in height is called Śiva. An eighth part of it is called a Prastha and it is equal to four Kuḍavas. If ten, hundred or thousand prasthas of water, oil, incense etc. are used in temples of human construction, of saintly worship or of self-risen idol, the worship is called Mahāpūjā.

16. The ceremonial bath is conducive to the purity of the soul; the application of scented paste yields virtue. The food offering is conducive to longevity and gratification and the incense yields wealth.

17. The lighting of the lamp is conducive to knowledge and the betel leaves are conducive to enjoyment. Hence in all worships these six items are scrupulously observed.

18. Obeisance to the deity and repeated recitation of mantras accord all cherished desires. They must be observed at the end of the worship by men who seek both worldly enjoyment and salvation.

19. At first all items shall be gone through mentally and then item by item every rite shall be performed. By the worship of deities, the devotee attains the different regions.

20. In the subsidiary worlds also there is an ample scope for enjoyment. O brahmins, I shall narrate the special types of worship to which please listen with faith.

21-22. By the worship of Gaṇeśa the devotee shall attain his wish in this world itself. The days of special worship of Gaṇeśa are Fridays, the fourth day of the bright half of the lunar months of Śrāvaṇa and Bhādrapada, and the Śatabhiṣak star of the month of Dhanus. He shall be worshipped duly on these days. Or the devotee shall worship continuously for hundred or thousand days.

23. As a result of the faith in the deity and in the fire, the worship yields sons or the different wishes to the devotees. It quells all sins and the various hardships.

24. The worship of Śiva and others on their respective days of the week is conducive to the purity of soul. In regard to Kāmya rites, the basis is either the Tithi or the star or the particular combinations of planetary positions.

25. The day of the week is the basis for the worship of Brahman and others. There is no increase or decrease with respect to the days of the week as in regard to the Tithi, star etc. A day is calculated from sunrise to sunrise.

26-28. The worship of the deities on the respective Tithis etc. is conducive to full enjoyment for the devotees. In regard to rites of the manes, the earlier part must be in contact with the night previous. In the worship of deities the latter part must be in conjunction with the day. If the Tithi extends to mid-day, that part of it which falls at sunrise shall be taken for the worship of the deities, so also in regard to the stars. Hence a devotee shall consider all these aspects and proceed with the worship, repeated recitation of the mantras etc.

29-30. The word Pūjā is thus derived: Pūḥ means ‘the achievement of the fruits of enjoyment.’ By the rite one achieves the fruits. Jāyate means “is born.” Good ideas, knowledge etc. also are included in this. The word Pūjā is used in this sense amongst the people as well as in the sacred texts.

31-32. The daily and occasional rites yield their benefits in due course but the fruits of Kāmya rites are instantaneous. The necessary rites are performed everyday. The occasional rites are performed in particular months, fortnights, years or on special occasions. In the Kāmya rites one derives the fruits after the sin has been duly quelled. Mahāgaṇapati Pūjā shall be performed on the Caturthī day of the dark half of the lunar month.

33. That rite wipes off the sin of the whole fortnight and yields enjoyment for full fortnight. The worship performed on the Caturthī day of the lunar month of Cakra accords benefit for a month.

34-36. The worship performed in the months of Siṃha and Bhādrapada accords enjoyment of worldly pleasures for a year. The worship of the sun shall be performed on Sundays, or Saptamī (seventh) day or in the star Hasta of the month of Śrāvaṇa or on the Saptamī in the bright half of the month of Māgha. The worship of Viṣṇu is conducive to the attainment of all desires and wealth if performed on Wednesdays, Dvādaśī (12th) day or in the star of Śravaṇa in the months of Jyeṣṭha and Bhādrapada. The same worship in the month of Śrāvaṇa yields all desired wishes and good health.

37. Propitiation of Viṣṇu on the Dvādaśī day yields the same benefit as is derived from the gift of the twelve things with ancillary rites.

38. The devotee shall worship twelve brahmins on the Dvādaśī day assigning them the twelve names of Viṣṇu with all the sixteen forms of service. He shall gratify the deity thereby.

39. Similarly twelve brahmins shall he worshipped after assigning them the twelve names of any deity to gratify that deity.

40. A person who seeks prosperity shall worship Pārvatī who bestows all worldly pleasures on Mondays, Navamī (ninth) day, and in the star of Mṛgaśiras in the month of Karkaṭaka.

41-42. The Navamī in the bright half of the month of Āśvayuj accords all desired benefits. The worship of Śiva shall be performed on Sundays, Caturdaśī (fourteenth) day of the dark half of the month of Māgha on the Ārdrā star and on the Mahārdrā day. It accords all cherished desires.

43-45. The worship is conducive to longevity, prevents premature death and accords the achievement of everything. The worship of the different manifestations of Śiva with all sixteen forms of service and homage on the Mahārdrā day in the month of Jyeṣṭha, on caturdaśī day or on the Ārdrā day in the month of Mārgaśīrṣa is on a par with Śiva’s worship and yields worldly enjoyment and salvation. The worship of the first deity of the week days in the month of Kārtika is specially recommended.

46 47. When the month of Kārtika has arrived, the sensible man shall worship all the deities by giving gifts and observing austerities, homas, Japas, restraints and the sixteen forms of service. The idol shall be worshipped with mantras. Brahmins shall be fed. The devotee shall be freed of desires and distresses.

48. The worship of deities in the month of Kārtika yields all worldly pleasures, dispels all ailments and removes the adverse effects of spirits and evil planets.

49. The worship of the sun on Sundays in the month of Kārtika together with the gifts of gingelly seeds and cotton alleviates leprosy etc.

50. By making gifts of Harītakī (one of the myrobalans), chillies, cloth, milk etc. and by installing Brahman, the alleviation of consumption is brought about.

51-53. By making gifts of lamps and mustard seeds epileptic fits are alleviated. The worship of Śiva on Mondays in the month of Kārtika suppresses excessive poverty and increases prosperity. The worship of Skanda on Tuesdays in the month of Kārtika, and making gifts of houses, fields, domestic articles and utensils, lamps, bells etc. the devotee gains eloquence without delay.

54. The worship of Viṣṇu on Wednesdays in the month of Kārtika together with the gift of cooked rice with curds yields good progeny.

55. The worship of Brahman on Thursdays in the month of Kārtika and the gift of honey, gold and ghee affords the increase of worldly pleasures.

56. The worship of the elephant-faced Gaṇeśa[1] together with the gifts of scented flowers affords the enjoyment of worldly pleasures.

57-59. Even a barren woman gets a good son making gifts of gold, silver etc. The worship of the guardians of the quarters, the elephants of the quarters, the serpents, the guardians of dams, the three-eyed[2] Rudra and Viṣṇu, the remover of sins, bestows perfect knowledge. The worship of Brahman, Dhanvantari[3] and of the twin deities—Aśvins[4] alleviates ailments, prevents foul death and suppresses all sickness instantaneously.

60-62. Gifts of salt, iron, oil, pulses, Trikaṭuka, fruits, scents, drinking water etc., liquids in prastha measures and solids in pala weights enable the devotee to attain heaven. The worship of Śiva and others early in the morning in the month of Dhanus enables the devotees to achieve everything gradually. The offering of eatables shall preferably be ghee-soaked rice of the Śālī variety and well-cooked.

63. The offering of various kinds of cooked rice is specially recommended in the month of Dhanus. The person who gives cooked food in the month of Mārgaśīrṣa shall attain all desired benefits.

64-65. The giver of cooked food in the month of Mārgaśīrṣa shall attain destruction of sins, achievement of the desired objects, good health, virtue, good comprehension of the Vedic passages, good practices, great enjoyment here and hereafter, the permanent unification with the Godhead and the realisation of the perfect knowledge of the Vedanta.

66. A person who desires enjoyment of worldly pleasures shall worship the deities early in the morning throughout the month of Mārgaśīrṣa or at least for three days. No one shall be without sacred rites in the month of Dhanus.

67-70. Rites in Dhanurmāsa (month of Dhanus) prescribed for the morning can be performed upto the Sangava time (3 muhūrtas from sunrise). A brahmin shall observe fast in the month of Dhanus and restrain all his senses. Till midday he shall repeat the Gāyatrī mantra. Till the time of going to bed, he shall repeat the mantras such as the five-syllabled one etc. After acquiring perfect knowledge he shall attain salvation after death. Other men and women shall repeat the five-syllabled mantra alone throughout and take three baths every day. They will attain perfect knowledge. They shall secure the annihilation of the great sins by repeating their favourite mantras.

71-75. The great offering of eatables shall be made to Śiva especially in the month of Dhanus. The constituent parts of the great offering are as follows:—

Rice of the Śālī variety a Bhāra by weight; pepper measuring a prastha; countable articles twelve in number; honey and ghee a kuḍava each; a droṇa measure of green gram; twelve varieties of side dishes; cake fried in ghee, sweets made of Śālika rice; curd and milk twelve prasthas each; twelve coconuts; twelve betel nuts, thirty-six clove leaves; camphor powder; five saugandika[5] flowers; betal leaves.

76. This great offering of eatables made to the deities shall be distributed among devotees m the order of their castes.

77. A devotee who makes the offering of cooked rice becomes the Lord of a kingdom in the world. But by making gift of great offering of eatables, a man attains heaven.

78. O excellent brahmins, by offering this a thousand times the devotee attains Satyaloka and lives the full span of life therein.

79. By offering this twenty-thousand times, he attains still higher world and is not born again.

80-81. Twenty-six thousand great offerings constitute life-time offering. Making gift of this is called great accomplishment. A devotee who makes this is not born again.

82-83. In the month of Kārttika, on an auspicious day, life-time offering shall be made. It shall be done at the time of the transit of the sun, on birthdays (based on star), on full-moon days, annual birthdays etc. In other months when the natal star comes in conjunction with the planets, this can be performed.

84. Even if the conjunction is only partial the offering shall be made. One gets the benefit of dedicating oneself by that.

85. Śiva is delighted by the dedication of selves and bestows the salvation of complete identity. This life-time offering shall be made only to Śiva.

86. Śiva exemplifies birth in as much as He has the form of both Yoni (vaginal passage) and Liṅga (Penis). Hence in order to ward off births the Janmapūjā is of Śiva alone.

87. The entire universe consisting of the movable and the immovable is of the nature of Bindu (dot) and Nāda (sound). Bindu is Śakti (Power) and Śiva is Nāda. Hence the universe is pervaded by Śiva and Śakti.

88. Bindu[6] is the support of Nāda.[7] The universe has the support of Bindu. Both Bindu and Nāda together support the entire universe.

89. The unification of the Bindu and the Nāda is called Sakalīkaraṇa and the universe takes its birth as a result of this Sakalīkaraṇa.

90. The Phallic emblem is the fusion of Bindu and Nāda and is the cause of the universe. Bindu is the goddess and Śiva is the Nāda and the fusion of the two is the phallic emblem of Śiva.

91. Hence to ward off future births, the devotee shall worship the phallic emblem of Śiva. Goddess of the form of Bindu is the mother and Śiva of the form of Nāda is the father.

92. Great bliss is the result of the worship of the parents. The devotee shall worship the phallic emblem for the acquisition of the Great Bliss.

93. That goddess is the mother of the universe and that Śiva is the father of the universe. Sympathy towards the son who renders service naturally increases in the minds of the parents.

94-95. O foremost among sages, ordinary parents bestow hidden treasures to the son who renders special service. Hence a devotee shall worship the phallic emblem in the manner of mother and father for the acquisition of the hidden great bliss. Bharga is Puruṣa (Cosmic man or Being) and Bhargā is Prakṛti (Cosmic Nature).

96. Puruṣa is of hidden latent conception and Prakṛti is of manifest inner conception.

97. Since it is the father who conceives first, the Puruṣa has the primordial conception. The unification of Puruṣa and Prakṛti is the first birth.

98. Its manifestation in the Prakṛti is called the second birth. The creature, dead even as it is born, takes up its birth from the Puruṣa.

99. Certainly the birth is induced by the Māyā as an extraneous source. The word Jīva (the individual soul) means that which gets decayed even from the time of birth.

100. Another meaning of the word Jīva is that which is born enmeshed and entwined. Hence the devotee shall worship the primordial phallic image for unravelling the knots and nooses of the birth.

101-102. The world bhaga means the primordial nature because it increases and flourishes. The Śabdamātrā etc. (the cosmic sound principle i.e. all objects of enjoyment) evolved out of Prakṛti, being enjoyed by the sense organs; the word Bhoga comes to mean that which gives Bhaga. The principal Bhaga is of course the Prakṛti and Bhagavān is Lord Śiva Himself.

103. The lord alone is the bestower of enjoyment (Bhoga) and not anyone else. The Lord who is the master of Bhaga is called Bharga by wise men.

104-105. The phallus is united with vagina and vagina is united with phallus. For the sake of perpetual enjoyment here and hereafter the devotee shall worship the phallic emblem which is lord Śiva Himself. He is the sun giving birth and sustenance to the worlds. His symbol is justified in the coming into existence of things.

106-107. Persons should worship Śiva, the cause of birth, in his phallic form. That which makes the Puruṣa known, is called Liṅga, the symbol. The unification and fusion of the symbols of Śiva and Śakti is thus called Liṅga.

108. The lord delighted at the worship of His symbol wards off the function of the symbol. That function being birth etc, birth etc. cease.

109. Hence the devotee shall worship the phallic emblem with the sixteen forms of service and homage to acquire the benefit from Prakṛti and Puruṣa through means inherent or extraneous.

110. The worship thus performed on Sundays wards off births. The devotee shall worship the great phallic emblem on Sundays with the syllable Om.

111-112. The ceremonial ablution of the phallic emblem with Pañcagavya on Sundays is specially recommended. Pañcagavya is the compound of cow’s urine, dung, milk, curd and ghee. Milk, curd and ghee can severally be used with honey and molasses. The offering of rice cooked in cow’s milk must be made with the syllable Om.

113-114. The syllable Om (a + u + m) is Dhvani Liṅga The svayambhū liṅga is Nāda Liṅga; the Yantra (diagrammatic contrivance) is Binduliṅga. “M” syllable is the installed (Pratiṣṭhita) liṅga. “U” syllable is mobile (Cara) Liṅga and the “A” syllable is a Liṅga of huge form (Guruvigraha). A person who worships the liṅgas perpetually becomes liberated soul undoubtedly.

115-116. A devout worship of Śiva liberates man from the bondage of births. A fourth benefit is achieved by wearing Rudrākṣa beads sacred to Śiva and a moiety is achieved by smearing the holy ashes over the forehead. Three-fourths can be achieved by the recital of mantras and a man be comes full-fledged devotee by means of worship. A man who worships both the phallic emblem of Śiva and the devotees of Śiva attains salvation.

117. O brahmins, stable devotion can be found firmly established and flourishing only in that person who reads this chapter or listens to it attentively.

Footnotes and references:


Gajakomeda is the elephant-shaped God Gaṇeśa, the son of Śiva. and Pārvatī. There is a variety of legends accounting for his elephant head. See J. Dowson: Hindu Mythology P. 207.


One of the eleven names of Rudras (MP. 5.29-30) which has been variously interpreted. It represents the various triads on which the entire cosmos is based. It is both the deity of the three eyes or the conscious principles of Jagrat, Svapna and Suṣupti or Sūrya, Candra and Agni and also the son of three Mothers, Ambā, Ambikā. and Ambālikā. These three sisters represent the three fires of the cosmic yajña or the three Mothers who create the three great principles of mind, life and matter. MP. A Study PP. 66-67.


Dhanvantari, said to be the physician of the Gods was produced at the churning of the ocean with a cup of Amṛta in his hands. He is the supposed author of the Āyurveda, the Indian medical science.


Aśvins, two Vedic deities, are represented as the physicians who ride in a golden car drawn by horses. Professor Goldstucker (cp Muir’s Texts, Vol. V) thinks that the Aśvins represented two distinct elements, the cosmical and the human blended into one. The human element is represented by those legends which refer to the wonderful cures effected by them. The cosmic element relates to their luminous nature. It is more likely that there were some horsemen or warriors of great renown who inspired their contemporaries with awe by their wonderful deeds and more especially by their medical skill.


A collection of five kinds of aromatic vegetable substances, viz. cloves, nutmeg, camphor, aloe wood and kakkola.


Bindu is a dot over a letter representing the anusvāra. It is supposed to be connected with Śiva and is of great mystical importance.


Nāda is a nasal sound represented by a semicircle and used as an abbreviation in mystical words.