‘Lingam’ is a symbol, emblem or a sign. The puranas tell us that Shiva manifested as a lingam to begin with. He emerged as a jyotirlingam, a lighted wick in a lamp. This is a symbol of the formless and inexplicable tatwa, theory or nature. Since worshipping a jyotirlingam is fraught with difficulty lingams are carved of stone, two or three feet high with a base of ten to twelve inches in diameter. This is the most ancient of worship coming down the ages.
The upanishadic dicta like ‘Shivayanamah’, ‘Shivlingayanamah’, ‘Sharvayanamah’, ‘Bhavaayanamah’, ‘Bhavalingayanamah’, are the most renowned. stotras or prayers, prardhanas. These describe the qualities of the deities and their qualities. These would be five to one hundred and eight or a thousand names. Of these ashtakas (eight lined compositions) appear to outnumber other modes of praise. These are the easiest to memorize and also to repeat aloud or silently, paaraayana. Lingashtaka is one of the most renowned. This starts with a prayer to Nandeeswara, the prime servitor of Maha Shiva. The word lingam goes on occuring at the end of each section of the prayer meaning: I worship that Sadaashivalinga.
Nandeeswara namasthestu saandraananda pradaayakaa
Mahadevasya seevarrdham anujynam daatu marhasi
Salutations to Nandeeswara while seeking pemission to serve Mahadeva, who gives everlasting happiness.
Brahma muraari suraarchita lingam nirmala bhaasita sobhita lingam
Janmaja dukhkha vinaasna lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
Devotees like Brahma and Vishnu worship Shivalinga. Flawless and perfect it shines in all effulgence. It destroys the sins of all those worship the lingam. The cause for the joys and griefs in this birth are the deeds in the past life, in the previous birth. Shiva is ever pure, ever perfect in the form of lingam.
Devamunipravaararchita lingam kaamadahana karunaakara lingam
Ravana darpa vinaasaka lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
Salutations to Shiva lingam, the emblem of Shiva worshipped by the deities and the greatest of seers, to Shiva who destroyed Manmadha, the one who is ever merciful, the one who put to rout the arrogance of the demon Ravana.
Sarva sugandha sulepita lingam buddhi vivardhana kaarana lingam
Siddha suraa sura vandita lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
Salutations to Shiva lingam, which is worshipped with all the perfumes the emblem of Shiva, to Shiva who is the root cause and stimulus for the effulgence of intellect, to the symbol which receives the obeisance of deities as well as demons.
Kanaka mahaamani bhooshita lingam phanipati veeshtitha sobhita lingam
Daksha suyajna vinaasana lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
This lingam is encrusted with the most precious jewels and encircled by the mighty king of serpents. Shiva is the one who wrecked the Yajna of Daksha. My salutations ever to such lingam.
Kumkuma chandana lepita lingam pankajahaara sushobhita lingam
Sanchita paapa vinaasana lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
This lingam is anointed with vermilion and sandalwood paste. It is decorated with a garland of lotuses. The linga is capable of washing away all the sins down the series of births. My salutations ever to such lingam.
Devaganarchita sevita lingam bhaavairbhaktibhireevacha lingam
Dinakara koti prabhaakara lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
This lingam is worshipped with devout concentration and deep devotion by the angels and deities. It has the effulgence of a million Suns. My salutations ever to such lingam.
Ashta dalopariveshtita lingam sarva samudbhava kaarana lingam
Ashta daridra vinaasana lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
This lingam is put on a pedestal of eight petals. It is a mystical investiture. It is the cause of creation of this universe. It destroys all the eight kinds of daridra, extreme poverty, exile, separation from spouse, arrival of guests while in great tribulation, eating the soiled (impure) food, compulsion to cultivate friendship with enemies, waiting to be fed by others, insult and ignominy and impecunious circumstances.
Suraguru suravara poojita lingam suravana pushpa sadaarchita lingam
Paramaparam paramaatmaka lingam tatpranamaami sadaasiva lingam
Brihaspati, the Guru of seers and Indra, the king of deities worship this lingam. It is worshipped with the flowers of the wish-fulfilling tree, kalpa vriksha. It is lingam, a symbol of the one who blesses the worshipper with salvation, moksha.
Lingashtakamidam punyam yeh paatheth sivasannidhau
Sivaloka mavaapnoti siveena saha modate
The one who reads or recites this holy and sacred ashtaka in Shiva’s presence (in a temple etc., would get merit, punya, and the rare privilege of reaching Kailasam, the seat of Shiva and stay in His company.
There are two sacred mantras, incantations, which invoke the blessing of one who conquered Death: Mrityunjaya. These are a string of descriptive words.
Mrutyunjayaaya rudraaya neelakanthaaya shaambhavee
Amruteesaaya sharvaya mahadeevaya tee namah
I offer my salutations to the one who conquered Death, Rudraa the Destroyer, the one with the blue throat (having swallowed garala, poison), the one ever living, the one who is ever giving benediction), Mahadeva
Trayambakam yajaamahee sugandhim pushthi vardhanam
urvaruka miva bandhanaat mrutyor mruksheeyamaamrutat