By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
There is no recorded history as to the origin of Shiva Lingam. However, there are various explanations given to Shiva Lingam. Though Sri Lanka is blessed with five Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, the origin of Shiva Lingam in Sri Lanka is shrouded with mystery. The five Shiva temples are Thiruketheeswaram, Munneswaram, Naguleswaram, Koneswaram and Thondeeswaram. It is believed that Thondeeswaram temple in the South was engulfed by sea, apparently about more than nine thousands of years ago with the lost Continent of Lemuria known as Kumari Kandam. All these Ishwaram temples survived the ravages of time by foreign invaders, especially by the Portuguese who demolished these temples for purpose of utilizing the temple stones for the construction of Fort. Even during the period of the Dutch no action to rebuild these temples was initiated. It is during the British period, the great Saivite scholar Sri Arumuka Navalar took adequate measures to revive the Hindu Movement and to rebuild the temple. It is submitted that these Shiva temples existed long before the arrival of Vijaya to Sri Lanka. The Great Saint Thirumoolar is reported to have described that Sri Lanka as Siva Poomi, (meaning Lord Shiva’s land) in his treatise on Saivism.
According to the Hinduism, it is believed that Shiva Lingam is a formation of the Hindu Trinity. Accordingly, the base layer represents Lord Brahma, the Central portion represents Lord Vishna and the uppermost portion represents Lord Shiva.
Another meaning is that Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being is believed is believed to be a pillar of fire which has no beginning and end. [There are stories about the futile exercises of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma in finding out the bottom and the top respectively of Lord Shiva].
In addition, Swami Vivekananda answered the Westerners that the phallic symbol has no bearing at all with the concept of Shiva Lingam. He cited one of the ancient Hindu texts Atharva Veda which sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha [cosmic column], the sacrificial post. The narration of Yupa-Stambha in the Atharva Veda relates to the beginningless and endless is described as Eternal Brahman, which is Shiva Lingam. [Swami Vivekananda’s explanation at the World Religious Conference held in Paris].
The origins of Shiva Lingam are as an oval representation of the Universe without beginning or end. Generally, the Lingam is in oval shape. The oval shape represents the Universe.
According to the Advaita philosophy the Shiva Lingam represents the formless Shiva which is referred to as Nirguna Brahman (i.e. Brahman without qualities). Shiva’s pure form permeates the whole creation. The formless Shiva is transcendent and cannot be described in words. However, it is said that Yogis have experienced Lord Shiva in this formless form and have described as Ultimate Bliss, the all loving reality. (There are two schools of thought on the notion of God. According to Advaita (or Monism or non-dualism) God is impersonal without qualities or form and is known as Nirguna Brahman. Advaita schools consider that the Souls are with God in all respects. According to Dvaita, God is personal, with exhibiting qualities, displaying a form and performing activities. Dvaita schools consider the Soul and God to be eternally distinct, though both are Brahman.).
Lingam is a symbol. It is something like Cross being the symbol of Jesus Christ. A symbol is a sign by which a faith or even a particular person is recognized. In Maha Bharatha there is reference to the worship of Lingam by Sage Vyasa. Sage Vyasa mentions that those who worship Lingam form of Lord Shiva becomes perfect with the direct knowledge of the Unity of Life and Supreme Energy as well as the indirect knowledge of the Unity of Life and Supreme Energy. Thus Sivalingam demonstrates the Unity of Life and Supreme Energy and not the union of opposite sexes as alleged by some foreigners.
Shiva Lingam is a symbol of union of the duality of Shiva (the Pure One) and Shakthi (sacred force or the cosmic energy). According to Hinduism Lord Shiva appears as Arthanareeswara which indicates the union of substance and energy – the Being and his Shakthi known as Energy. This union is the source of all the creation. Shiva and Skathi can be considered as a metaphor for union of the duality to represent the ultimate non-duality (creation) of the Universe. The true meaning is the eventual union of the duality (of you and me) into the non-duality (where God is seen in the form of Nirguna Brahman or absence of you and me and the Eternal Blissful presence of the Divine Awareness (Sat-Chit-Ananda). The representation as Sada Shiva demonstrates that the division between material and energy is superfluous and in reality all is one. He shows himself as being all that is male and all that is female through the form of Arthanareeswarar as being the inseparable unity. God is an unfolding creative process that may expand without limit.
Lingam is science. Sage Vasishta mentions the word ‘Jyotirupa’ which indicates the form of Jyoti (i.e. the fire). Sage Vasishta continues from that Jyotirupa everything which composes the Universe developed some 34,000 million years ago. This is an instance to show that Hindu sages have correctly described the creation of the Universe, which is in conformity with science.
Inner meaning : The sublime meaning of Shiva Lingam can be traced in Thirumanthiram, Shiva Puranam and in the Agamas. It is said that according to the Agamas there are seven kinds of Lingam, namely the Tower (Gopuram), the dome (Sikaram), the gateway (Dvaram), the Courtyard (Prakaram), the Courtyard, Palipeedam are considered as Lingams because they represent Shiva-Sakthi one way or other. If this is the description given according to Hindu thoughts, it is ridiculous to assert or allege that the Shiva Lingam represents a phallus. According to the Puranas the flame of immeasurable effulgence is called Lingam. It is this Lingam that represents the sacred fire and thus the temples stand for sacrificial grounds. Again it should be noted that these temples represent the hearts of the people and God abide by the hearts of the people in the form of Lingam or a glow of effulgence, as the Great Soul of the people’s souls.
The conclusion is Shiva Lingam is a sign of Purity. It started with an attempt to create idol of a Deepak (lamp). Now many Hatha Yogi practice concentration of tip of Deepak flame. The flame flickers due to wind. Hence an idol was created to practice concentration.
The stylization of the Lingam into a smooth cylindrical mass asserts a distinctively aniconic meaning, quite by contrast to the deities in image form (Murtis) that serve otherwise as the most important foci of Hindu worship. This interplay is found in Shavaite temples, where the Lingam is apt to be at the centre surrounded by a panoply of deities (Murtis).
Interpretation of Shiva Lingam
Though the concept of Shiva Lingam was in usage prior to the period of the Indus Valley Civilization, the Sanskrit language also mentions about Lingam in a different form. It is also said that the Lingam had its roots from the Sanskrit word ‘Lika’ meaning to sculptures. It could be interpreted to mean that God as the Sculptor of the Universe and hence he is referred to as Linga. Eventually the Sanskrit word ‘Lika’ turned out to mean any form or object or symbol that represented God. Similarly the philosophy of Shiva Lingam is described in the Agamas and Puranas in Hinduism. Shiva Puranam also mentions the Lingam as a symbol for realizing the nature of the object that the symbol represents – a shape given to the shapeless so as to elucidate the nature of the shapeless. Shiva Puranam asserts that the owner of the Lingam is the Supreme Being. The Lingam merely leads one to Lord Shiva – to auspiciousness.
Every religion, including Hinduism, asserts that every particle in this Universe is activated by God. Briefly, the existence of the Universe is totally impossible without the Divine Energy. It is at this juncture Hinduism deviates from other religions as to what God is or the nature of God. Generally, the other religions rely on a particular Prophet. No one knows the founder of Hinduism or when and where it was known or whether there is prescribed scripture. It ia a collection of revelations by the ancient sages. This is the beauty of Hinduism. The principle of creation has been described systematically in the Hindu Sastras. According to the Hindu Sastras, Shiva Lingam is the embodiment of the cosmic creation. The cosmic dance of Lord Shiva also illustrates this beautifully.
According to Hinduism, Brahman is the ultimate Supreme Being. It is either Nirguna Brahman or Saguna Brahman. Nirguna is without form and quality. There is also the primordial cosmic element known as Maya. One would tend to know the course of action taken by the Divine Energy in producing the cosmic world.
Out of Maya. Maya is an extremely subtle matter without any form. There are two aspects of Maya, namely Suddha Maya and Asuddha Maya – lower and upper Maya. This Maya is in the presence of Shivam or Nirguna Brahman and that of its Sakthi or Divine Energy. The Shakthi having energized Suddha Maya, the mundane egg of the Universe was formed. This was the principle of Sound known as Nadam or Nama (meaning name) and is considered as the first expression of limitation. It is from the principle of Sound, the form of limitation known as Bhindu or Rupa (form) arose which is considered as the second stage of limitation.
The combination of the principles of Sound and Form is still beyond comprehension. This combination of Sound (Nama) and Form (Rupa) is known as OMKARA PRANAVA. This is the seed and seat of all matter and force.
The principle of Sound (Nadam) is represented by a line and the Bhindu by a disc.
It is the principle of Sound (Nadam) is known as Lingam and the principle of Form (Bindhu) is known as its Peedam. The root of Sound (Nadam) is evolved from pure Maya by the will of Lord Shiva. From Nadam, the real Bindhu springs up. From the Bindhu, the real Sada Shiva originates and gives birth to Ishwara. Suddha avidya is developed from Ishwara.. The Universe originates from Bindhu and develop into various forms.
The Form that could be comprehended a little better, arose out of the Bindhu in the order of evolution. This is known as Sada Shivam. This is Rupa-Rupam or in other words is with Shape and without shape.
From this Sada Shiva, a fully developed form appears as Maheswara, and from him Rudra.
Sakthi assumed in manifesting itself to the souls to excite their intelligence and evolve this Universe out of Maya. Sakthi is with motion whereas Shiva is motionless. The transcendental Supreme Being is Shiva, whereas the manifested, immanent aspect of the Supreme is Sakthi. Shiva is attributeless whereas Sakthi is with attribute. (The word Sakthi derived from the root ‘Shak’ meaning the potential to produce an assertion of her inherent creative aptitude. It signifies the ultimate primordial creative power. It means power, force and feminine energy. Sakthi is energizing force of all divinity, of every being and everything.)
Now different actions in the region of Suddha Maya are performed by Sada Shiva and Maheswara, while those in the Asuddha Maya (lower) different actions are performed by Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma (the Hindu Triad).
Thus it could be seen the different positions of (Nadam and Bhindu). The combination of these two principles of Sound and Form are Pranava-Nadam. It is the Pranava that is said to be represented by Shiva Lingam. Line is Lingam and the Disc is Peedam.
- The complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
- Swami Vivekananda at the Paris Conference of the History of Religions
- Dance of Siva by S.Anandacoomaraswamy
- Lord Shiva by Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society
- Lord Shiva by Dr.(Mrs) Shantha N.Nair
- The symbolism & Worship of Shiva Lingam by V.Jayaram
- Shiva Linga by S.Sabaratna Mudaliyar
- Shiva Lingam – A symbol of science by Dr.P.Vartak.
Anpu / May 6, 2013
Thank you Mr Rajasingam. I am sure Prof Hoole would be interested in this article.
Bavani / May 6, 2013
The origin of Siva lingam worship started perhaps 20/40 thousands of years ago. Initially human race worships the nature ie: the Sun, Moon and stars. When human race was threaten by nature’s disasters they began to worship the nature and even animals. In order to increase the population they worshiped the forms of reproductive organs; thus it became as Sivalingam worship. Anyone interested to research more please listen to these clips on YouTube. Tamil chinthanaiyalar peravai
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / May 6, 2013
Thank you for the profound and brief lesson.
oopla / May 6, 2013
Aum Namasivaya. Thank You
We need to re-revist Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathans mastery, Swami Vivekananhadas 150 anniversary( 2013) visit to Sri Lanka, They showed much caution and an unity with the Tamil Muslims, Burger and SInhala than the political manoeuvrings ( marxist Tamil nationl socialism- the church nexus).
K.A Sumanasek I era / May 6, 2013
There you go.
Who would have thought . ” Lika”, Lingam and Phallus are all about Quantum particles.
Hope the learned writers and their supporters who engage in Buddhist bashing our poor rural inhabitants for not practisin “Philosophical Buddhism” like them, will read this artcle and learn something.
Raja / May 6, 2013
The Linga represents God with form and without form – a column of light without a beginning or end. Its origins lie in the Indus valley civilization given the archeological excavations there. Thank you, Thiru Rajasingham for this article.
PEACELOVER.. / May 7, 2013
Mr. writer …….LINGAM means PENIS ……. why you hide the real meaning of it ?
PEACELOVER.. / May 7, 2013
MR.WRITER….THIS IS THE PURANA STORY OF THIS PENIS – LINGAM OF SHIVA…
Shiva-linga (Vamana Purana, Chap 6):
“When naked Lord Shiva was wandering in the Daruvanam forest, the wives of sages lost self control for Lord Shiva was the most beautiful and attractive man and they at once were seduced by the Lord. The sages who failed to recognize the Lord thought he was an ordinary mortal and cursed him: May the Lingam (penis) of this man fall to the ground! That instant the Lingam of Shiva fell to the ground, and the God immediately disappeared. The Lingam, as it fell, penetrated through the earth to the lower worlds and increased in height until it towered above the heavens. The earth quaked, all things movable and immovable agitated. Brahma and Vishnu then decided to find the ends of the great Lingam, while Vishnu mounted on Garuda descended down and Brahma on his lotus ascended the heavens. They returned to where they started unable to find the ends of the great Lingam, and with great reverence and praise they requested Lord Shiva to resume his Lingam. Lord Shiva thus propitiated appeared and said: If gods and men will worship, I will resume it.
To this proposal Brahma and Vishnu and all other Gods agreed and since then the Lingam is worshipped by all.
Same thing applies to the linga-pedestal. (in some songs and literatures) as an image of yoni (female sex-organ – VAGINA ).
And look at the picture it is LINGAM – PENIS , penetated into the vagina of a woman .
.SO HINDU WORSHIP PENIS AND VAGINA ??……… OH…..REALLY…
A reader / May 9, 2013
And the Mohamed deflowered the 6 year old Ayesha as recorded in the Hadith – child sexual intercourse in modern legal jurisprudence calls for a life sentence.
Raja / May 7, 2013
You sound like Hoole!
The Linga may have had phallic origins but its meaning soon transcended that. The eucharist in Christianity had origins in ritual cannibalism i.e. eating the flesh and blood of Jesus. The theology of the cruxifiction had its origins in human sacrifice – the alleged son dying to atone for the alleged sins of mankind! Circumcision likewise had its origin in totemism – i.e. to distinguish the insider and the outsider to ensure entry of the ‘true believer’ into heaven. The Old Testament has several indications of incest, sodomy, bestiality and prostitution while the roots of the Anti-Semitism lie in the New Testament that unfortunately deplores Jews as ‘snakes, vipers, sons of the devil’ etc etc.
This is true of all religions – after all religion is mankind’s experience in the world! The Linga has lost its phallic connotations in daily Hindu devotion – its now means what I said earlier – a column of light without a beginning or end. The Puranamic story of the Vamana Purana which has also been quoted several times by Hoole is hardly known or viewed as scripture by 99% of Hindus. Just do a survey – most would not have heard of the story..
PEACELOVER.. / May 7, 2013
@Raja, and others Hindus here,
put aside yours and your forefathers IMAGINARY and SELF INTERPRETATION OF HINUD SCRIPT , CALLED VEDHAS…FOR UNDERSTANDING THE TRUE MEANING OF HINDU SCRIPTURES AND THE TRUE NATURE OF ALMIGHTY , THE SUPER INTELLIGENT WHO CREATED THE UNIVERSE AND HUMAN BEINGS..PL,.VISIT THIS LINKE AND WATCH , THEN THINK…..
Raja / May 8, 2013
I have heard Zakir Naik and have no problem with him myself but many, many others do as they do with Islam which several view as self righteous with its own set of problems i.e. the life of the Mohammed, his multiple sexual liaisons, his wars, his deals and the whole tenor of the Koran, especially its views of Jews, Christians, women and the non-believer. Just read Leela’s comments on Islam in the comments thread related to other articles published by Colombo Telegraph!
My initial thesis still holds – all religions have their flaws – Islam included – and their strengths. Its this ability to acknowledge this mixed legacy that makes Hinduism and Buddhism stand out as liberal and rational.
Raja / May 8, 2013
Let me add another point. The Linga to me remains a valid symbol of God as one with form (rupa) and one without form (arupa) – in a single icon.
Raja / May 7, 2013
And I forgot to add – the alleged virgin birth of Jesus – interesting cover up, no?? Look at Mary’s lineage in the New Testament – it had its fair share of harlots. So ‘Peace Lover’ – those with glass walls should not throw stones..
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / May 8, 2013
It is possible for a virgin to conceive and give birth. The procees is called parthenogenesis, where the egg or ovum stats diving without fertilisation.
Raja / May 8, 2013
Parthenogenesis does not happen naturally in humans – unless it is induced – as for example in stem cell research. The talk of the virgin birth in the Gospel is a hoax – a cover up to disguise the unknown father or a mythical borrowing from Egyptian and Phoenician lore?
Dr.Rajasingham Narendran / May 8, 2013
It happens naturally, due to factors yet not understood. The chances are one in a couple of millions. Further, it can also happen in married and sexually active other women. But cannot be proven unless DNA studies are done. Why should you call only the virginal birth of Christ a Gospel hoax? Karnan was born to Kunti, who was also a virgin. The Sun God got credit for this remote impregnation!
The divisions of the ovum can be induced artificially in the laboratory, by the physical act penetrating it with a micro-pipette.
Raman / May 9, 2013
There is a simpler explanation of the Jesus myth – just a myth – like Karna. The authors of the Gospel obviously did not reside in Palestine as their knowledge of the geography of Palestine was very poor. Nazareth did not even exist 2,000 years ago. The Nazarenes, a sect did exist but that was not a place name. The authors of the Gospel wrote in ungrammatical Greek. Much of the Jesus virgin birth story is like the myth of Mitra – virgin birth and all or even the myth of Horus.
Iqbal / May 7, 2013
There is a school of thought that the Lingam was venerated in the pre Islamic Arabian peninsula. The Ka’aba allegedly had one in its premises before it had been reconverted to the use of Islam by the Prophet (Sal). The trade links between the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian peninsula go back several thousand years.
Shanthan / October 20, 2013
I have read the comments with great interest. Decided not to comment certain, as I as a scholar of Combined Religion, respect all religion, though I strongly practice, Hinduism, which I inherited by birth.
1- Can some one tell us “what is wrong in worshiping “Penis & Yoni” – let’s not forget, I sit in front of a computer as the “Penis & Yoni” existed. What is wrong in worshiping, which created us.? So please dont laugh at the truth.
2- I would like to know the details of the Shree Nandeeshwaram Shiva Temple, that existed in Ratmalana, worshiped by Kings, including King Ravana. This temple was destroyed by Dutch in 1960’s. Now there is a new temple, known as “Gonna Kovil” which also gives the meaning of the original temple.
3- There is an ancient Shiva Temple in Ratnapura. According to the history, this is one of the five temples in Sri Lanka.
All in the services of God….
Shanthan / October 29, 2013
would like to know the details of the Shree Nandeeshwaram Shiva Temple, that existed in Ratmalana, worshiped by Kings, including King Ravana. This temple was destroyed by Dutch in 1600’s. Now there is a new temple, known as “Gonna Kovil” which also gives the meaning of the original temple.
I made en error..It should be 1600’s not 1960’s
Truthseeker / November 26, 2013
I agree with the author. Shivalingam doesnot represent Phallus and it does not represent union with Yoni.
Just as OM is the ‘sound symbol’ of God, the Linga is ‘form symbol’ or visible symbol of God – the most meaningful, the simplest and the least endowed with appendages of attributes. The Linga means, that in which this Jagat (world of change) attains Laya or mergence or dissolution (Leeyate). All forms merge in the Formless at last. Shiva is the Principle of Destruction of all names and forms, of all entities and individuals. So, the Linga is the simplest sign of emergence and mergence.”
The Lingam Purana states:
(Pradhanam prakritir yadahur-lingamuttamam; Gandhavarnarasairhinam sabda-sparsadi-varjitam)
प्रधानं प्रकृतिर यदाहुर्लिगंउत्तम ।
गंध-वर्ण-रसहिंनं शब्द-स्पर्शादिवर्जितं ॥
the foremost Lingam which is devoid of colour, taste, hearing, touch etc is spoken of as Prakriti or nature. The nature itself is a Lingam (or symbol) of Shiva. When we see nature, we infer the presence of its creator – Shiva. Shiva Lingam is the mark of Shiva the creator, Shiva the sustainer and Shiva the destructor. It also dispels another myth in which Shiva is considered only as a destructor. Another authentic reference comes from Skanda Purana where lingam is clearly indicated as the supreme Shiva from where the whole universe is created and where it finally submerge.
(Aakaasham lingmityamityahu prithvi tasya pitikha , Aalayah sarva devanam laynaalingamuchayte = Skanda Purana)
आकाशं लिंगमित्याहु: पृथ्वी तस्य पीठिका।
आलय: सर्व देवानां लयनार्लिंगमुच्यते ॥
The endless sky (that great void which contains the entire universe) is the Linga, the Earth is its base. At the end of time the entire universe and all the Gods finally emerge in the Linga itself.
Layanghanchanti bhutani sangharay nikhilanyatah
shristi kale punah shristi shrtamalingam mudhaitatam
“Layanghanchanti bhutani” in the above quoted shloka suggests that the Shiva Lingam is
the entity in which all animate objects get absorbed at the time of dissolution of the universe. And the second line of the shloka “shristi kale punah shristi” indicates that at the time of creation it recreates. Such meaning can only be attributed to the absolute Brahman, the Supreme Lord.
Thus first form is a Linga. The final form before dissolution is also a Linga.
The word Linga means the form – elliptical form .It means ‘mark’ is sanskrit – MARK OF DIVINITY – hence it is the elliptical form of Divinity and not to be confused with anything else.
Dhammapali / March 6, 2017
Don’t go lying around. Siv linga is 9000 years old! What nonsense! Infact Shiva is’nt even mentioned in the Vedas. Not even Vishnu. The duo gained fame among Hindus only in post Buddha period even in India!