Every child in a Hindu family is taught, right from his young age, to worship Lord Shiva by pouring milk, curd, honey, water and bel leaves on the Shivlingam. But, surprisingly, they are not taught or told about the importance and significance of doing so. Its a practise which has continued for generations and hence people blindly follow it without knowing the reason for performing so.
Whatever we do or preach in our daily lives, we should be aware of the reason behind doing it. God has made humans different from other forms of life by bestowing them with the power to reason and understand. Hence, it is important to use our power of reasoning and understanding of a particular thing. By doing so we would not only increase our knowledge about something, but our belief towards performing so would also get strengthened.
The same is the case when I say or rather ask why milk is offered to Lord Shiva? Why should such a ritual be performed where milk and other ingredients are wasted over a piece of stone in a Shiva Hindu temple? I am sure very few would know the significance of doing so. Let me tell you why.
Going back to our Vedic puranas and scriptures, according to the Shiva Agamas, the sacred literature of Shaivism, the activity of pouring milk, honey or water etc on Lord Shiva is called ‘Abhishekam.’ As per the Shiva Agamas, performing ‘Abhishek’ has great importance when worshipping Lord Shiva as it increases the effectiveness of these ceremonies. Where Abhishek can be done by simply using pure water or it can be elaborated by including other ingredients too like curd, honey, milk, coconut water, fruit juice, sandal paste, holy ash, ghee and so on.
Abhishek is a Sanskrit word which means sprinkling. It has been derived from the root ‘sic’ which means ‘to wet’ and the prefix ‘Abhi’ which means ‘around.’ Hence the literal meaning of Abhishek is ‘wetting around.’ It is the part of a puja when the deity is bathed with sacred water. In other words, it is the offering of ablutions to an energised deity. Water being an electrolyte transmits energy much faster than air and therefore pouring water upon an energised deity emits strong vibrations which can be imbibed ad picked up easily by the devotees as compared to air. Similarly, different substances have the ability to release different vibrations when they come in contact with an energized object or deity. Many of these substances are edible, and each one has a unique quality which heals or energizes a specific body part. For instance, honey used in the abhishekam has the capacity to actually make the voice sweeter! This is the science behind abhishekam.
Moreover, it is the devotees faith that Shiva would be pleased by the process of bathing Him with the prescribed eleven ingredients like water, milk, curd, ghee, honey etc which makes the process of Abhishekam successful and satisfactory. Don't we use all these when we get married and perform many similar rituals..?!
Shiva is the infinitum abstract macrocosmic consciousness. Hence, if we look at it scientifically, the water offered on Shiva is not going on Him, it simply represents a symbol on which water and milk is being offered. Both water and milk are liquids and moreover, water is connected to the human mind. Although it might sound intriguing, this is how it works. The waxing and waning of the moon alters the quality of water. On a full moon night when the tides the high, huge waves appear on the ocean. Psychologically speaking, it has been observed that during this time, people with mental diseases go through a rough phase. My explanation is that when moon can have such an affect upon water, then what effect would it have upon the human body which too is made up of 60% water?
So, when water and milk is offered on the Shivlingam, symbolically we try to correlate the water with our mind and the symbol of the Shivlingam into one. This ritual should be performed with the determination and feeling ‘let my mind be washed off all impurities and dirt.’
Milk is considered to be the nourishing ingredient, pristine, pure and satvik. So, if this ritual is performed with complete submission of oneself and great concentration, in the state of meditation, it surely nourishes the mind with noble thoughts, purity, compassion, goodness, friendship and other positive attributes after having washed it off all impurities.
To sum it up all, I would just like to highlight the benefits of performing Abhishek on Lord Shiva in the following six points:
It burns away Karmas which have accumulated over many births
Awakens the Kundalini
Awakens the third eye- the Ajna chakra
Enhances the power of grasping, retention, memory and intelligence
Provides clarity in thought processes