Shiva (Lingam)

ABS 219

 Code: ABS 219

  Country: India

  Style:

  Date: 900 - 1000

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 21.3 x 40.5 x 21

  Materials: Stone

Lingam
The Lingam (also, Linga, Shiva linga Sanskrit lingam, meaning "mark," or "sign,") is a symbol for the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. While its origins are debated, the use of this symbol for worship is an ancient tradition in India extending back at least to the early Indus Valley civilization.
 
Etymology
The Sanskrit term lingam, transliterated as linga has many meanings, generally as a mark, sign or characteristic. It has a number of specific uses in Sanskrit that are derived from this general meaning. Vaman Shivram Apte's dictionary gives seventeen definitions of the term, including these examples:
    * The image of a god
    * A symptom or mark of disease
    * A spot or stain
    * A means of proof, a proof, evidence
    * The effect or product which evolves from a primary cause
    * The concept of grammatical gender
 
An example of the use of the word linga in general Sanskrit usage to represent the concept of "sign" occurs in this passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “kair lingais trin gunan etan | atito bhavati prabho”.
This is translated by Swami Gambhirananda as "O Lord, by what signs is one (known) who has gone beyond these three qualities?" and by Winthrop Sargeant as "By what marks is he recognized, Who has transcended these three qualities, O Lord?". In this quotation the word lingais is the instrumental plural form of linga, so lingais means "by marks" or "by signs".
 
An example of use of the word linga as a technical term in philosophy is given in this passage from the Samkhya-Karika which describes the role of attributes in recognition of objects perceived by the senses:
“Perception is the ascertainment of objects [which are in contact with sense-organs]; inference, which follows on the knowledge of the characteristic mark (linga) [i.e., the middle term] and that which bears the mark...."
The term lingam is sometimes used synonymously for shivalingam, a specific type of icon or altar representing the god Shiva.
In Tamil ilingu literally means "home is here", denoting a mound of clay Goddess Uma made to symbolize Mount Kailas and worship God Siva in it.
 
Lingam as a symbol of Shiva
A. L. Basham says that linga have been found in the Harappan remains, and provides these comments relating to the antiquity of the symbol:
"... Shiva was and still is chiefly worshipped in the form of the linga, usually a short cylindrical pillar with rounded top, which is the survival of a cult older than Indian civilization itself.... The cult of the linga, at all times followed by some of the non-Aryan peoples, was incorporated into Hinduism around the beginning of the Christian era, though at first it was not very important."
 
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami explains in the lexicon section of his book, Dancing with Shiva, that "Shivalinga is the most prevalent icon of Shiva, found in virtually all Shiva temples. It is a rounded, elliptical, aniconic image, usually set on a circular base, or peetham. The lingam is the simplest and most ancient symbol of Shiva, especially of Parasiva, God beyond all forms and qualities. The peetham represents Parashakti, the manifesting power of God. Lingas are usually of stone (either carved or naturally existing, swayambhu, such as shaped by a swift-flowing river), but may also be of metal, precious gems, crystal, wood, earth or transitory materials such as ice. According to the Karana Agama, a transitory Shivalinga may be made of 12 different materials: sand, rice, cooked food, river clay, cow dung, butter, rudraksha beads, ashes, sandalwood, darbha grass, a flower garland, or molasses."
 
Furthermore, there are instances in Hindu lore where a rock or pile of sand has been used by heroic personages as a Lingam or symbol of Shiva. For example, Arjuna fashioned a lingam of clay when worshipping Shiva. Thus, it is argued, too much should not be made of the usual shape of the Lingam. This view is also consonant with philosophies that hold that God may be conceptualized and worshipped in any convenient form; the form itself is irrelevant, the divine power that it represents is all that matters.
Hindu interpreters often use the underlying meaning of "sign" or "mark" for the Sanskrit word linga as the basis for their commentaries. For example:
* The name Lingam appears as a name of Shiva in the Shiva Sahasranama where it is translated by Ram Karan Sharma as "(Identifiable as) a symbol of the origin of the Universe."
* Bansi Pandit, in his book Hindu Dharma, wrote that "Shivalinga means "Shiva symbol."
* Swami Sivananda, said that "Linga means a mark, in Sanskrit. It is a symbol which points to an inference. When you see a big flood in a river, you infer that there had been heavy rains the previous day. When you see smoke, you infer that there is fire. This vast world of countless forms is a Linga of the omnipotent Lord. The Shiva-Linga is a symbol of Lord Shiva. When you look at the Linga, your mind is at once elevated and you begin to think of the Lord."
 
Western commentators often use the concept of "male generative organ" as the basis for their interpretations. For example:
* Monier-Williams provides one definition for lingam as: "The male organ... esp. that of Siva worshipped in the form of a stone or marble column".
* Gavin Flood's An Introduction to Hinduism refers to the worship of Shiva "in his form as the Siva linga or 'icon' found in most Hindu temples. The linga represents a mark".
 
Interpretations
In Hindu Dharma, Bansi Pandit explains that "Shivalinga consists of three parts. The bottom part, which is four-sided remains under ground, the middle part which is eight-sided remains on a pedestal and the top part which is actually worshipped is round. The height of the round part is one-third of its circumference. The three parts symbolize Brahma at the bottom, Vishnu in the middle and Shiva on the top. The pedestal is provided with a passage for draining away the water that is poured on top by devotees. The linga symbolizes both the creative and destructive power of the Lord and great sanctity is attached to it by the devotees."
 
In Veerashaivism, Shiva divides from His Absolute state into Linga (Supreme Lord) and anga, individual soul, the two eventually reuniting in undifferentiated oneness. There are three aspects of Shivalinga:
* Ishtalinga, personal form of Siva, in which He fulfills desires and removes afflictions - God as bliss or joy;
* Bhavalinga, Siva beyond space and time, the highest divine principle, knowable through intuition;
* Pranalinga, the reality of God which can be apprehended by the mind.
 
The soul (anga) merges with Shiva (Linga) by a progressive, six-stage path called shatsthala. This is called Shunyasampadane- earning eternal nothingness.
 
According to Swami Dharmananda, there is a mysterious power in the Linga, its shape has been designed to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the mind is focused easily in crystal-gazing, so also the mind attains one-pointedness, when it looks at the Linga. That is the reason why the ancient Rishis and the seers of India have prescribed Linga for being installed in the temples of Lord Shiva.
 
The great warrior Arjuna in epic Mahabharata worshipped Linga for acquiring Pashupatasthra, great vedic scholar Ravana in epic Ramayana worshipped Shiva to present his mother Atmalinga, legendary rishi Markandeya and numerous rishis spread across time zones have worshipped the simplest looking Linga. Rishis used to leave all materialism to attain spirituality and a lump of soil in forest was what was required to worship and meditate.
 
Naturally occurring lingams
A lingam at Amarnath in the western Himalayas forms every winter from ice dripping on the floor of a cave and freezing like a stalagmite. It is very popular with pilgrims.
There is a great connection in marking the forces of nature to be worshipped. The following description has various forms of nature being worshipped as Linga.
 
The Vedas speak of the Ashta Murthys’ (forms) of Lord Shiva. Sarva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bheema, Pasupathi, Mahadeva, Eashana are the eight Murthys of Shiva. Puranas explain the Adhistanas for these eight forms, which are Sarva for earth, Bhava for water, Rudra for fire, Ugra for wind, Bheema for space, Pasupathi for yajamana, Mahadeva for moon and Eashana for Sun. Shiva is also called Pasupathi i.e. Lord Shiva with his enormous grace on the Jeeva means pasu, cuts the Pasa or the string and makes it move free to join him with devotion. In this way, his name Pasupathi is more meaningful. Each of the following Kshethras (places) in India & Nepal connected to the Lord ’s eight forms, so that the devotee can know clearly how the ancient puranas took care to locate these places both geographically and spiritually. Shiva, Brahma puranas are the main sources.
 
The following forms or forces of nature are worshipped in their primal form only without any special idols representing them:
1. Sarva: - Bhoomi Linga, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. It is in Shiva Kanchi Kshetra, where the Lord is in the form of Kshiti Linga in the Ekamra tree Aamra (Mango in Sankrit) tree, which yield only one fruit per year). Parvathi worshipped this form first. There is no Abhisheka done with water at this shrine, jasmine oil is used instead. The Devi’s name here is Kamakshi. All the desires of the devotees are fulfilled with her gracious eyes.
2. Bhava: - Jala Linga, Tiruvanaikoil, (Jambukeswaram), Tamil Nadu. This temple is located on the outskirts of Trichy, where Lord Jambukeswara is seated and showers all his blessings to his devotees. This Kshethra is called Jambhukeswara Kshetra, also known as Jala Linga. The devotees can see from the outside of Garbha Gruha the water bubbles coming out from Panipetham. There is a Jambu tree, which is very old and very big. The legends say Lord Shiva wanted to stay here along with the Jambu tree. So, the devotees treat this tree as sacred as the Lord.
3. Rudra: - Agni or Thejo (Divine Light) Linga, Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu – Arunachaleswara. In Tiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva is seated in the form of Thejolinga. The whole mountain appears to be a Linga. As a result of Parvathi’s great penance, a sharp spark of fire came from Arunachala and took shape as Arunalinga.
4. Ugra: - Vayu Linga, Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh. The Sri Kalahasteeswara temple is situated on the banks of Swarna Mukhi River in Sri Kalahasti. Spiritually elevated souls only can see that there is a strong wind blowing around the Linga. Bhakta Kannappa story is connected to this temple. Even animals got salvation by worshipping this Lord. Three animals – Cobweb (Sree), Kala (snake), Hasthi (elephant) prayed to God with utmost faith and devotion and attained Moksha. One can see the symbols there on the Shiva Linga even today
5. Bheema: - Akasha Linga, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. This Kshetra is on the banks of Cauvery. We don’t see any Murthy in the temple Garbha Gruha. The puranas speak of this Kshetra very highly. No one can see the Lord’s Murthy, except the highest spiritual souls. There is a space in the Garbha Gruha and many Abharanas are decorated and the devotees assume the God is seated there. A very beautiful Nataraja murthy is in outer Garbha Gruha for worship and for the satisfaction of the devotees.
6. Pasupathi: - Yajamana (Lord) Linga, Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal, Pasupathinadha Kshetra is famous and the Lord here is in human form. The devotee can see the God up to his waist only. The Murthy is decorated with Gold Kavacha always. Nobody can enter into the Garbha Gruha except the Archaka (not even the King of Nepal). Many devotees from all over the globe pray to this Lord with highest devotion and get their wishes fulfilled.
7. Mahadeva: - Chandra Linga, West Bengal. Chandra natha Linga is situated in West Bengal 34 miles away from Chatagav City. Many sacred thirthas surround this Kshetra. Devi purana lauded this Kshethra greatly.
8. Eashana: - Surya Linga, Konark Temple, Orissa. This Kshetra is in Orissa state near Puri Jagannath Kshetra. Konark is now in ruins and the temple is in fragments and now, devotees can’t see any God or Goddess here. The legend says that Sri Krishna’s son Samba suffered once from leprosy and was cured by worshipping the Sun God and the Linga here and since then this Kshetra became a remedy center for all diseases. Even in these days the worship is going on with same faith and devotion.
 
The Bijileshwar Mahadev (incidence of Vasishta in Rigveda) absorbs lightning and breaks into pieces, is then restored by butter every 12 years.
 
Shivling (6543m) is also a mountain in Uttarakhand (the Garwhal region of Himalayas). It arises as a sheer pyramid above the snout of the Gangotri Glacier. The mountain resembles a Shiva linga when viewed from certain angles, especially when travelling or trekking from Gangotri to Gomukh as a part of a traditional Hindu pilgrimage.