The sacred lingam at the Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga temple Ujjain was covered with white cotton cloth during a key ritual for the first time in centuries, a day after the Supreme Court gave its nod to new norms for worshipping at the ancient shrine of Lord Shiva. The stone lingam (symbol of the deity) was fully covered with white cotton cloth during the ‘Bhasma-Aarti’ – special prayer with sacred ash – held on Saturday morning, a temple official said on Sunday.
On Friday, the apex court had given its nod to new norms for worshipping at the temple, including allowing only 500 ml of reverse osmosis (RO) water for the ceremony and covering the lingam fully with dry cotton cloth during the Bhasma-Aarti.
“We have implemented the Supreme Court directives with immediate effect. Since centuries, the jyotirlingam of Mahakaleshwar was being covered half with cloth during Bhasma- Aarti. From Saturday, the jyotirlingam is being fully covered in accordance with the apex court directives,” Mahakaleshwar Temple’s administrator Pradeep Soni said.
Soni said, “All other restrictions directed by the apex court were put in place. Now each devotee is allowed to take only 500ml of RO water for ‘jalabhishek’ while only dry puja is allowed after 5 pm.” “Bhasma-Aarti is a century-old tradition and for the first time, this early morning ritual was performed with the ‘Shivlingam’ fully covered with cotton cloth. These measures are being taken to check the erosion of the Shivlingam,” said Ashish Pujari, a priest at the temple.
Hearing a petition seeking directives to prevent erosion of the Shivlingam, the apex court had constituted an expert committee on August 25 this year. The panel, comprising officials from the Archaeological Survey of India, the Geological Survey of India and others, submitted its report to the apex court after conducting a study of the Jyotirlingam.
The committee estimated the rate at which the deterioration in its size was taking place and suggested measures to prevent it. On October 27, the SC approved eight points of the resolution passed by the temple management committee in consonance with recommendations of the expert panel. A bench of justices Arun Mishra and L Nageswara Rao said the recommendations of the expert committee needed to be implemented to preserve the Shivlingam. As per the new approved norms, devotees would be permitted a fixed amount of RO water (500 ml per person) for jalabhishek.
Restrictions were also placed for abhishek, allowing only up to 1.25 litres of milk or ‘panchamrut’ (mixture of honey, liquid jaggery, milk, yogurt and ghee) per devotee. After 5 pm every day, the lingam will be cleaned and dried to minimise the water content and thereafter only dry pooja would be permitted. The usual practice of rubbing the sugar powder on ‘Shivlingam’ has been fully banned.
Instead, the use of ‘khandsari’ (unrefined raw white sugar) is to be promoted. According to the norms, a new sewage treatment plant is to be set up within a year and dryers and fans are to be used to avoid moisture in sanctum sanctorum.