The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “consideration of the essential and the non-essential in the worship” 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.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 12 - Consideration of the essential and the non-essential in the worship

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nārada said:—

1. O dear father Brahmā, with your mind fixed on Śiva, you are blessed indeed. Please explain this again still more precisely.

Brahmā said:—

2. I, the lotus-born, once called together all the sages and all the Gods and addressed them lovingly with these good words.

3. If you have faith in permanent happiness, if you desire the achievement of the same, all of you shall come along with me to the shores of the milk-ocean.[1]

4. On hearing these words they accompanied me to the place where lord Viṣṇu, the benefactor of everyone, was stationed.

5. O sage, on reaching the place, the Gods bowed down with palms joined in reverence and prayed to the lord of the universe Janārdana, lord of the Gods.

6. On seeing Brahmā and other deities standing there, Viṣṇu remembered the lotus-like feet of Śiva and spoke these noble words.

Viṣṇu said:—

7. “Why have you all, Brahmā and others and the celestial sages come? What is the matter now? Please tell me lovingly.”

Brahmā said:—

8. On being asked thus by Viṣṇu as well as by me, the deities bowed to Him with devotion and said.

The Devas said:—

9. “Whose worship shall we perform regularly for the removal of misery?”

10. On hearing these words, the lord favourably disposed to the devotees, spoke as follows favouring me and the devas.

The lord said:—

11. O Brahmā, hear. You and these devas have already heard this. Yet I shall repeat it to you and to the devas.

12-13. It has been seen. It is being seen. Then why is it being asked now? O Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the destroyer of all miseries, shall be served always by all who wish to achieve things. He Himself has told me as well as Brahmā particularly about this.

14. His worship shall never be forsaken by those who wish to attain happiness. A wonderful example has been narrated to and seen by you all.

15. When they abandoned worshipping the lord of the Devas—Maheśvara in the form of the Liṅga, the sons of Tāra[2] along with their kinsmen perished.

16. They had been enchanted by me. By my illusion they were driven far by me. When they were devoid of Śiva, they were all destroyed and exterminated.

17. Hence Śiva in the form of phallic image shall be worshipped always. He, the foremost among deities, shall be served with special faith.

18. It is by the worship of the liṅga of Śiva that all good men, devas, daityas, I and you, O Brahmā, are sustained. How is it that it was forgotten by you?

19. Hence, O Brahmā, His liṅga shall be regularly worshipped whatever may be the aim. Śiva shall be worshipped whatever the desire may be.

20. If an hour or even a moment is spent without the worship of Śiva, it is a loss. It is an imperfection, a great foible, blindness, stupidity and foolishness.

21. Those who are devotedly attached to Śiva, those whose minds are turned towards Śiva and those who constantly remember Śiva, never become victims of misery.

22-24. Those who desire magnificent buildings, beautiful ornaments, beautiful women, wealth to satiety, sons and grandsons, health, splendid body, extraordinary status, heavenly happiness and final salvation or profound devotion to the great lord shall duly worship Śiva by virtue of their merit accumulated by them.

25. Sure success will be his who regularly worships Śiva liṅga with great devotion. He will never be afflicted by sins.

Brahmā said:—

26. Thus exhorted, the devas knelt before Viṣṇu and requested for liṅgas for the achievement of the desires of all people.

27. O foremost among sages, then, on hearing the request, Viṣṇu, eager for the uplift of all living beings, told Viśvakarman. I too told him.

28. “O Viśvakarman, at my bidding, Śiva’s auspicious liṅgas shall be made and given to all devas”.

29. At our bidding Viśvakarmā made liṅgas and gave them to the devas according to their status.

30. O foremost among sages, I shall tell you the same, please listen. Indra took a liṅga made of Ruby. The son of Viśravas (Naiśravaṇa or Kubera) took a liṅga of gold.

31. Dharma took a liṅga of yellow stone, Varuṇa took a liṅga of dark blue hue. Viṣṇu took a liṅga of sapphire. I, Brahmā, took a liṅga of gold.

32. The Viśvedevas and the Vasus took silver liṅgas. O sage, the Aśvini devas took the brazen and earthen liṅgas.

33. Goddess Lakṣmī took a crystal liṅga. The Ādityas (the twelve suns) took liṅgas made of copper. The moon took a liṅga made of pearl and the god of fire took a liṅga of diamond.

34. Great Brahmins and their wives chose liṅgas of earth. Maya took a liṅga of sandalwood and Śeṣa nāga took a coral-made liṅga.

35. The Goddesses took the liṅgas of butter; the Yogins took liṅgas of the ash; the Yakṣas took liṅgas of curd and the deity Chāyā took a liṅga of beaten flour.

36. The Goddess Brahmāṇī worships, of course, the Liṅga of Ratna (precious gem). Bāṇa and others worshipped a liṅga of mercury.

37. Thus different kinds of liṅgas were given to them by Viśvakarmā which the devas and the celestial sages worship regularly.

38. After giving the devas the various liṅgas from a desire for their benefit, Viṣṇu explained the mode of worship of Śiva to me, Brahmā.

39. After listening to it, I, Brahmā, the foremost among devas, came back to my abode highly delighted in mind.

40. O sage, after reaching the place I explained the mode of worshipping Śiva that yields desires to the devas and sages.

41. “O sages and devas, be pleased to hear with love and pleasure. I am going to explain lovingly the mode of worshipping Śiva that confers worldly pleasures and salvation.

42-43. The life as a human being is very difficult to obtain among all living beings. O devas, O sages, a life in a good family is still more difficult. After obtaining the still more difficult birth in a brahmin family of good conduct on account of great merits one shall perform rites assigned to propitiate Śiva.

44. No one shall transgress duties assigned to his caste. Charitable gifts and sacred rites shall be performed to the extent of one’s capacity and affluence.

45. The Tapoyajña (sacrifice in the form of penance) is far superior to thousands of Karmayajñas (ritualistic sacrifices). The Japayajña (sacrifice in the form of Japas) is far superior to thousands of Tapoyajñas (sacrifices in the form of penance).

46. There is nothing superior to Dhyānayajña (meditation) which is the cause of true knowledge, since the yogin is able to see his favourite (deity) of equanimity through meditation.

47. Śiva is always present near a person set in meditation. There is no necessity for any atonement or expiation for a person of true knowledge.

48-49. O gods, persons who have realised Brahman through pure learning need not perform any rite. They are freed from happiness or misery, virtue or evil, sacrifice or Japa, meditation or rules regarding the same. By virtue of their learning they are free from base passions and physical changes and decays.

50. The liṅga present in the hearts of Yogins is the purest, blissful, auspicious, undying, all-pervasive and unsullied.

51. O brahmins, liṅga is of two types: the exterior and the interior. The exterior is gross and the interior is subtle.

52. Those who are engaged in ritualistic sacrifices and do regularly worship the gross liṅga are unable to steady the mind by meditating upon the subtle and hence they use the gross liṅga.

53. He who has not mastered the liṅga of the mind, the subtle one, must perform the worship in the gross liṅga and not otherwise.

54. The pure undying subtle liṅga is ever perceived by the masters of true knowledge in the same manner as the gross one is thought to be very excellent by those who are not yogins.

55. If we consider properly there is nothing else for the real interpreter. Whatever is Niṣkala or Sakala is of the form of Śiva in the whole universe. This must be constantly thought of in the mind.

56. Even if they are devoid of the ultimate perfect knowledge, no defect or deficiency can be ascribed to them. Rules regarding what shall be done and what shall not be done are not binding on them.

57. The knower, of course, is not at all bound by actions, even if he continues the householder’s life just as the lotus standing in water is not contaminated by the water.

58. Till the realisation of perfect knowledge a man should continue the ritualistic worship of Śiva.

59-60. In order to convince the world, the rituals must be continued. Just as the sun is reflected in many vessels with water, in the same manner, O devas, know that the supreme Brahman, Śiva, assumes the forms of whatever is seen or heard in the world, real or unreal.

61. There is difference in the vessels but not in the water that they contain. This is what those who know the real meaning of the Vedas say.

62. “Lord Śiva is within the heart of beings in this world.” Of what avail are the idols to those who have this real knowledge?

63. Having an idol is very auspicious for a person who has no such knowledge. It is a ladder that enables him to climb to a higher position.

64. It is very difficult to climb to a position without a support. The idol is only a means to achieve the Nirguṇa Śiva.

65. The attainment of the Nirguṇa through a Saguṇa is certainly possible. In this manner, the symbols of all lords are conducive to a steady faith and belief.

66. This lord is very great and this is the mode of worship of that lord. If there is no idol, of what avail are scents, sandal paste, flowers, etc.?

67. Till the realisation of true knowledge, the idol shall necessarily be worshipped. If any one does not worship the idol before he attains perfect knowledge, his downfall is sure.

68. O brahmins, hear the true statement of facts. For the same reason as mentioned before, the duties of your own caste shall be performed assiduously.

69. Worship shall be performed where devotion is directed. Without worship and charitable gifts, sin cannot be kept at bay.

70. As long as there is a vestige of sin in the body, achievement need not be expected. When the sin is wiped off, all rites will bear fruit.

71. If there is dirt in the cloth the dyeing process cannot be carried out effectively. After the cloth is bleached any dye can be applied to it effectively.

72. Similarly when the body is freed of its dirty stuff by proper worship of deities, the dye of knowledge can stick to it whence true knowledge will arise.

73. The root of true knowledge is unswerving devotion. The root of knowledge too is devotion.

74. The root of devotion is good action and the worship of one’s own favourite deity. The root of that is the good preceptor. A good preceptor is secured only through association with good people.

75. If one associates with good people, one will come across a preceptor. From the preceptor mantras and the modes of worship can be learned. Bhakti (devotion) is generated by worship and it gives birth to knowledge.

76. Knowledge leads to perfect knowledge and realisation of the supreme Brahman. When there is perfect knowledge, differentiations cease altogether.

77. When differentiation ceases, the misery of mutually clashing opposites vanishes. He who is free from the tangle of opposites and the miseries attendant on them assumes the form of Śiva.

78. O celestial sages, when the mutually clashing opposites do not afflict, a person endowed with true knowledge has neither happiness nor misery. Rules of do’s and don’ts do not bind him.

79. Such a person who has not entered a household life is rare to meet with. If there is such a one he will quell all sins by his mere sight.

80. Even the holy centres praise such a person of knowledge. Devas and all sages consider him the supreme Brahman, Śiva Himself.

81. The holy centres or the deities in the form of clay or rock idols are not equal to him. They take time in sanctifying persons. But a man of true knowledge purifies through his sheer vision.

82. As long as he continues the life of a householder he shall perform the worship of the idols of the most excellent of the five deities with pleasure.

83. Or it is enough if Śiva alone is worshipped. The root is the most important. When the root is watered, O gods, the branches are well-cared for.

84. O excellent sages, if the branches are taken care of, it does not necessarily mean that the root is cared for. When the deities are propitiated, the same analogy holds good.

85-86. Our aim shall be to propitiate Śiva if we are sensible. O gods, if Śiva is worshipped, all the gods are worshipped. Hence a person who wants to do good to all living beings shall worship Śiva, the benefactor of the world, for the attainment of all desires.

Footnotes and references:


According to the Paurāṇic concept, the turbulent and foamy sea known as the southern China Sea which surrounds Śākadvīpa (identified with Malaya, Siam, Indo-China and Southern China) on three sides was called ‘the sea of milk’ or Kṣīra Samudra: cp. SM. Ali: Geography of the Purāṇas.


Tāraputras——the children of Daitya Tāraka who was conquered by Indra with the help of Skanda—the son of Śiva. The episode is the central theme of Kālidāsa’s Kumārasambhava.

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