At the time of Adi Shankaracharya, sectarian worship was very much in vogue. Each school claimed supremacy of their Ishta Devata and philosophy, and was not tolerant of other schools. The primary schools in existance where the sects of Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. A lot of time was spent fighting about the supremacy among these schools. This kind of fighting was not very productive, since it went against the ultimate advaita teaching of vedanta.
The panchayatana [shodashopachara] puja, traditionally practiced among Smartas was established by Shankaracharya, enabling us to worship our Ishta devata with an Advaita buddhi, while including all the other major sectarian devatas. The Ishta devata is placed in the center, with the other remaining deities placed around it.
This puja is largely performed as a household worship by smartas. Thus, we find that sectarian tolerance among householders has increased dramatically over the past centuries. It is commonly performed with Shiva placed in the center as the Shiva Panchayatana Puja. The verse above eulogizes the worship of Shiva in this Kali Yuga.
People generally sit facing East, while placing the devatas in the following order:
However, other placements are followed by some practicioners:
The five deities are the embodiment of 5 bhutas worshipped in formless stones, which may be obtained from the following 5 rivers.
|Surya||Vayu||Crystal||Vallam||Tamil Nadu (Tanjavur)|
|Shiva||Prithivi||Bana Linga||Narmada (omkara-kunda)||Madhya Pradesh|
|Ambika||Agni||Swarna Mukhi (Rekha Shila)||Swarnamukhi||Andra Pradesh|
Those who worship Subrahmanya may invoke him in an image of his divine spear, or in the image of a snake.
Shiva Panchayatana Puja Variations
Variations of the puja include:
- the use of laghunyasa and/or mahanyasa in the puja
- shanmatha puja, with the addition of Subrahmanya puja
- panchayatana puja, worshipping Subrahmanya in place of Devi
- panchayatana puja, worshipping Subrahmanya in place of Surya
- the worship of Nandi[keshwara] in the punah puja