Today is the festival of Maha Shivaratri. I posted a detailed article on Maha Shivaratri on 8th February 2010, which you may read by clicking on the following link: Click Here: "MAHA SHIVARATRI". “Abhishekam” is the most common form of worship of Lord Shiva. Today at all Shiva Temples in the country the ritual of Abhishekam is carried out continuously throughout the day and especially all night by countless devotees. Abhishekam is the ritual of giving a ceremonial bath to the deity of Lord Shiva amidst chanting of Mantras. After Sankalpam and initial Pooja, the deity of Shiva is first bathed with Panchamrutham. Panchamrutham means a mixture five nectars – Panch means five and Amrutham means nectar. These five ingredients are milk, curd, ghee, honey and sugar or jaggery. Then the deity is bathed in juices of various fruits and finally water and concluding Pooja and Harathi.
Maha Lingarchana which we have performed recently is a more elaborate ritual; it involves performing of Pooja individually to 365 deities arranged as per the abode of Lord Shiva and called as “Kailasa Yantra Prastaram” (plus an idol of Sri Ganesha). After Pooja to individual deities; Abhishekam is carried out with Panchamrutham and then with juices of nine different fruits, that is (in our case) grapes, oranges, pineapple, sweet lime, musk melon, pomegranate, guava, coconut water and sugar cane juice and with plenty of water amidst chanting of Mantras followed by other elaborate Pooja rituals such as Mahanyasa Rudrabhishekam, Ekadasha Rudram, Rudra Trishati, Namarchana, Namakam, Chamakam and Anuvaka Vedic Chantings and Harathi / Aarti. You can see the arrangement of the 365 deities made with clay in the picture at the top of this article and the list and names of deities in the next picture. The Panchamrutham and fruit juices with which Abhishekam is carried out is offered as Prasadam / Theertham to devotees.
It is said that by performing Maha Lingarchana one shall accrue the benefit of worshipping Lord Shiva for an entire year and overcome all ongoing worries and problems and all their wishes would be fulfilled.