Shiva Linga: Not just a cosmic phallus




Its better when it’s a Friday, the karmic dice tend to roll 7.

But hopefully not 6 and 1

Express prayers, fresh colors and monotonous tones

Look twice and check (knuckles white in prayer)

That your garland, so bright and heavy is not growing out of you.

Aural (grace) so palpable, like thick honey and cream

Ill close my eyes and imagine

Your cosmic fingers draw three lines across my forehead

In Hinduism, Shiva is the ultimate creator and destroyer of the universe and is commonly worshipped in the form of a Linga. What exactly the Shiva Linga represents has been debated over decades. Gurus and Ascetics have argued that the Linga represents Shiva’s cosmic energy and is the meditator’s apparatus.  The West describes the Linga as a phallus that symbolically nestles in the vulva like platform of Parvathi; presenting unity, reproduction and life force. However, putting aside the sexual symbolism (formed early on by Aryan communities of Indus Valley) the Linga has an impressive anthropomorphic history as it has formed its own philosophy, religious sect and cultural meaning. The Linga represents a never ending energy force, propelled by matter, sex, mediation and true knowledge. It’s this stubby black stone that’s holds the secrets to Shiva’s principle teachings, which are never one dimensional

For those who don’t know, the Shiva Linga is a black shaft that is round and curved and comes out of a circular stone platform. Usually isolated in its own chambers within temple walls, you can still find the Linga by the banks of rivers and in gardens of spiritual home owners.

The story behind the first Linga brings the reader in to a world of competitive deities. The superiority of Shiva was being questioned by Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. To prove his supremacy throughout the universe Lord Shiva sped around the world and erupted before the two as white hot infinite Linga. Perplexed on who could produce such intense strength and power, they came before the Linga and demanded its origin. Lord Shiva came out of the flames and showed his face,  proving his power and strength.

Mixed Linga Meanings

Calling the Linga the creator’s phallus was the work of 19thcentury archaeologists who out of haste concluded the Linga and many more Hindu symbols represented sex and reproduction. But they weren’t entirely wrong; during the rudimentary stage of Hinduism terracotta figurines that exaggerated child bearing hips and elaborate headdress emerged. The early Hindu idols expressed the importance of mother earth and her sexual organs. Along with female figurines were also terracotta phallic emblems.  It wasn’t until the west had taken part in analyzing Hindu iconography that we venerated the symbolic unity of Shiva and Parvathi to the linga (phallus) and yongi (vulva).

Despite the late century’s interpretation of the linga, many spiritual leaders have pointed out that the Shiva Linga and its origins mean more than the phallic representation. The ancient Tamil saints known as Siddhars have written numerous poems and ideological beliefs on palm leaves that have survived today. Some of these verses express the actual purpose of the Shiva Linga, centuries before adopted phallic symbolism of the west. It was the Shaivism Siddhar movement of south India Tamil Nadu, after its subdual in the north by the Mughal conquests that developed profound theological and philosophical significance to this ancient emblem.

The verses and poems of the Siddhars devoted to Shiva speak of a theological link to this stone; the Shiva Linga is ultimately the prayers tool to mediation. A person should be able to mediate his prayers on the stone, which in essence is the physical representation of Shiva. But the Siddhar Tamil yogis expand this conception by stating that the prayer should be aware that labelling the Linga as a physical representation of the creator would imply that the creator has limits.  To the Siddhars, Shiva is constantly at work, thus he is matter, always moving never stopping. When Shiva is in Linga form, one should think of him as moving, as matter, never the stone itself. Thus according to their Siddhars and their disciples a person who mediates on the Shiva Linga would then feel the lingas true moving energy.  Though idol worship ultimately is not the way of a true Hindu, according to the Siddhar, if Shiva never took a form (the linga) the world would never know his grace.

The Shiva Linga can never be confined to a flat effigy  of sexual representation and unity to explain its religious and cultural significance. The Shiva Linga has been built from the hands of prayers, mediators and worshipers.  First built from sand and clay in the Indus Valley it has now manifested itself to every temple chamber in this world. The Linga is an object of mediation and it’s spiritual vase is ready to collect our emotions and thoughts and make way for a more clear mind.


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