The Sanskrit word ‘Lingam’ means symbol. Thus the literal meaning of Shiva Lingam is the symbol of Shiva. The Supreme Shiva doesn’t have a form and every form is his form. The Shiva Lingam represents him, the Supreme Shiva¸ who is formless. The way when we see a smoke, we infer the presence of fire, the moment we see Shiva Lingam we immediately visualize the existence of the Supreme Shiva.
Symbolisms of the Linga
The Shiva linga represents the ascending energy of consciousness and life in nature. We see this in such forms as the mountain, the thunder cloud, the tree, and the upright human being. Many lingas like that at Kedarnath – the most important Shiva site in the Himalayas – are rocks in the shape of small mountains. Many other lingas are associated with light, the lingas of the Sun, the Moon and Fire. There are the twelve famous Jyotirlingas or light forms of Shiva at twelve special temples throughout India.
The state of Tamil Nadu has special Shiva linga forms for the five elements with lingas of earth, water, fire, air and ether at special temples in the region. In this regard, each element has its Shiva linga or determinative force. The famous hill of Arunachala, where the great enlightened sage Ramana Maharshi stayed, is said to be the fire linga of lord Shiva.
Other Shiva lingas are associated with gold or crystal, the light powers in the metal kingdom. The Shiva linga is often described in terms of light, crystal or transparency. Shiva himself is said to be pure light or light in its primal undifferentiated state, Prakasha matra.
The Shiva linga is connected to the upward pointed triangle, which is also the symbol of fire. The linga is present in the male sexual organ both in plants and in animals. But we should not ignore its other forms in recognizing that. The worship of the linga is connected more generally to a worship of pillars, obelisks, standing stones and pyramids. Tantric linga worship is connected to Vedic pillar worship (the Vedic stambha, skambha, dharuna), which has parallels throughout the ancient world and in indigenous cultures in general who can still perceive the spiritual powers behind the formations of nature.
The Shiva linga is often a pillar of light. In special Vedic fire rituals, the fire could be made to rise in the shape of a pillar which could also then take the shape of a man! In fact, the term Dharma originally refers to what upholds things and can be symbolized by a pillar. The Shiva linga is the universal pillar of Dharma. The pillar is also an inner symbol indicating the erect spine and concentrated mind.
In terms of our human nature, there are several lingas or characteristic marks. The force of Prana is the linga or pillar force upholding the physical body according to the currents that emanate from it. This is the inner ‘Prana Linga’. Our deeper intelligence or Buddhi provides us the power of insight to discern higher realities, the ‘Buddhi Linga’. The Atman or higher Self is the ultimate linga or determinative force of our nature that remains steady and elevated (transcendent) throughout all of our life experience, the ‘Atma Linga’.
The linga and the yoni always go together, first of all on the level of opposites, as the upward and downward pointed triangles. The linga with the yoni below it, the standing stone and the ring base, show the union of male and female energies, not just in sexuality, but also as electro-magnetic forces.
In addition, the linga in its movement creates a yoni, just as a point in its movement can create a circle. We can see this in the circular movement of the stars, planets and nebulae, as well as many other diverse phenomena in the world of nature. The central luminary is the linga and its field of revolution is the yoni. The planets form a yoni or circle as they revolve around the Sun as the linga, of the solar system, its central principle or axis. Yet the Sun itself is revolving around other stars and creating a yoni or circle of its own.
Stonehenge, and other similar sacred sites that have standing stones formed into great circles, show the union of the linga and the yoni, the cosmic male and female or Shiva-Shakti principles. The linga and the yoni are also united in the chakra or the wheel, with the linga as the axis and the yoni as the circumference. The Hindu usage of chakras in ritual and in art also reflects these two powers. Each chakra of the subtle body shows the union of the Shiva and Shakti energies operative at its particular level of manifestation.
The Shiva energy is the upward current running through the spine or Sushumna and the Shakti energy is the horizontal current through which it travels, forming the various lotuses of the chakras. Together they form a spiral of forces. Both forces are necessary to create this dynamic motion.
The experience of the Shiva linga in Yogic meditation is an experience of a pillar of light, energy, peace and eternity, expanding the mind, opening the inner eye and bringing deep peace and steadiness to the heart. From it radiate waves, currents, circles and whirlpools of Shakti spreading this grace, love and wisdom to all. To concentrate our awareness in the linga is one of the best ways of meditation, calming the mind and putting us in touch with our inner Being and Witness beyond all the agitation and sorrow of the world.
In Ayurvedic healing, the creation of the Prana linga or concentration of Prana at a subtle level is what allows deep healing and rejuvenation to occur. In Vedic astrology, the Shiva linga represents the power of light behind the Sun, Moon, planets and stars. In Vastu Shastra, the Shiva linga is used to stabilize the spiritual and vital energy in a house, as a conduit of cosmic forces.
To understand the ultimate secrets of life we must be able to look at the primal powers of existence, including the needs for sex and food, according to their broader connections and universal implications. Human sexuality is only one of the many manifestations of the cosmic forces of duality, of a greater Divine sexuality as it were, which transcends all creaturely existence.
We must learn to see the cosmic energy behind human sexuality rather than try to reduce spiritual polarities to our own physical and emotional inclinations. This is another aspect of Yoga in which we must look beyond human psychology to the universal consciousness.
The Lingam Purana states:
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.
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.
Now this should clarify the settle the doubts once and forever.
Forms of Shiva Lingam
Shiva Lingam is worshiped in two common forms – Chala (Moveable) Lingam and Achala (Non-Moveable or Fixed) Lingam.
Chala Lingam (Moveable Lingam)
The Chala Lingams may be kept in the shrine of one’s own home for worship or prepared temporarily with materials like sand, clay, dough or rice for worship and dispensed with after the worship. Another form of the Chala Lingams can also be worn on the body as a pendent in the necklace etc. Chala Lingams are often made of quartz, mercury or metals.
Achala Lingam (Fixed Lingam)
Achala Lingams (or fixed Lingams) are installed in temples and are un-moveable once they are installed. There are rigid rules for achala Lingams which must be followed. Achala Lingams must be offered prayers at fixed times and without failed and greater sanctity is maintained. Usually Lingams are made of black stones.
The Appearance and significance of Shiva Lingam
A Shiva Lingam is generally made up of black or white stones, marbles or metals or Quartz. A Shiva Lingam has three distinct parts which are considered as portions of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The Lower part represents Brahma, the middle Vishnu and the upper and the most prominent represents Shiva. Thus Shiva Lingam represents all the three powers in one- as the Param Braham or Supreme Shiva.
Another interpretation considers Shiva Lingam to be divided in two parts – Shiva and Shakti. Thus Shiva Lingam are symbols to represent the aspects of the Supreme Shiva. From one view Shiva is Shiva and Shakti; from another view point Shiva is Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva himself). Shiva Lingams made up of quartz have special significance. Such Lingams have no colour of its own but it takes the colour of any object that comes in its contact. The ling as such represents the attribute-less and formless supreme Shiva.
There is mysterious and indescribable power in Shiva Lingam to induce the concentration of mind. It is like the crystal glazing, mind easily attains one- pointedness by looking at the Shiva Lingam. This is the reason why ancient scholars and sages advocated the worship of Shiva Lingam and its installations in temples.
Listen to the message of Shiva Lingam and it will say:
“I am one without a second”.
Panchbhut Lingams: The whole world consists of 5 basic elements – air, water, fire, earth and sky. The Panchbhut Lingam of Shiva represents these five elements. These Lingams are:
Jyotirlinga or Jyotirling or Jyotirlingam is a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or "Lingam of Light". There are said to be twelve Jyotirlinga shrines in India although their location is not consistently identified. The Jyotirlingas look like any other Shiva Linga. However, it is believed that a person who has attained a certain degree of spirituality sees these lingas as columns of fire piercing through the earth.Jyotirlinga are the 12 special shrines dedicated to Shiva since ancient times .
Significance of greatness of the Jyotirlingas. It goes on to say that by reciting the name of 12 Jyotirlinga a devotee can eliminate all the sins. Besides, the devotee becomes calm, chaste and pure as he becomes illuminated and enlightened with supreme and divine knowledge.
Legend of Jyotirlinga
According to a legend of Lingodbhavamurthy narrated in Linga Purana, once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma were fighting to prove who was the Supreme Being. At this point, Lord Shiva appeared as a flaming Linga and challenged the duo to measure the gigantic Linga (phallic symbol of Lord Shiva). Brahma and Vishnu decided to find one end each and declared that whoever returned first would be acknowledged as supreme. Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and went down. Brahma, in the form of a swan, flew upwards. They searched for days but in vain and returned to the starting point exhausted and bewildered. At that moment, the central part of the pillar split open and Shiva revealed himself in his full glory. Brahma and Vishnu realized their mistake and acknowledged Shiva as the Supreme Being.Since it was on the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a Linga, the day is especially auspicious and is celebrated as Mahashivaratri. Worshipping Shiva on this day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity. Hindus believe that a sincere devotee who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening washes all the sins committed in the previous seven births and attains all the powers and Siddhis.
It is believed that Shiva first manifested himself as a Jyotirlinga on the night of the Aridra Nakshatra, thus the special reverence for the Jyotirlinga. There is nothing to distinguish the appearance, but it is believed that a person can see these lingas as columns of fire piercing through the earth after he reaches a higher level of spiritual attainment.
Significance of Jyotirlinga: The Puranas vociferously sing the praises of the greatness of the Jyotirlingas. By reciting the name of this, one can eliminate all the sins. The Sadhaka becomes calm, chaste and pure. He becomes illuminated and enlightened with supreme and divine knowledge. The names mentioned for the benefits of all:
Saurashtra Somnatham Cha Shrishaile Mallikarjunam ||
Ujjainyam Mahakalomkare Mammaleshwaram ||
Parlyam Vaijnatham Cha Dakinyam Bheem Shankaram ||
Setu Bandhe Tu Ramesham Nagesham Daruka Vane ||
Varanasya Tu Vishwesham Tribakam Gautamitate ||
Himalaye Tu Kedaram Ghurmesham Cha Shivalaye ||
Aetani Jyotirlingani Sayam Prataha Pathennaraha ||
Sapta Janma Kritam Papam Smaranen Vinashyati ||
One who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening he washes all the sins committed in the previous 7 births and attains all the powers and Siddhis.
Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotra
Sourashtre Somanadham, cha Sri Shaile Mallikarjunam || Ujjayinyam Maha Kalam, Omkaram, Amaleshwaram || Paralyam Vaidyanatham, cha Dakinyam Bhimasankaram || Sethubandhe thu Ramesam, Nagesam thu Darukavane || Varanasyam thu Viswesam, Trayambakam Gouthami thate || Himalaye thu Kedaram, Ghushmesam cha Shivalaye || Ethani Jyothirlingani Sayam Pratha Paden Nara || Saptha Janma Krutham Papam Smaranena Vinasyathi
Worshipping a Shivlingam at home
Shivling or Shiva lingam connects a devotee with the Supreme Being – Lord Shiva. The lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva and the lingam puja helps the devotee in understanding Lord Shiva. The Lord cannot be described but still we say he is without a beginning and an end and is without a form. It is difficult for a devotee to understand this formless nature. Therefore Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Jyotirlinga before Brahma and Vishnu. The Lingam thus is a symbol of Lord Shiva. Each Lingam puja, step by step, takes the devotee to the eternal truth – that he/she is part of the Supreme Being.
Before starting the Puja, the devotee takes a bath and wear freshly washed clothes. Hymns praising Lord Shiva or the mantra ‘om namaha shivayaa’ are repeated to create a mood for worship. Then, the devotee sits in front of the lingam and blows conch or ring bells. This indicates the beginning of the Puja.
First it is the panchamrit abhishek - the libation of five holy liquids over the lingam. The libation can consist of any five of the following – water from river Ganga, honey, sugarcane juice, milk, yogurt, ghee, seawater, coconut water or milk, fragrant oils, rose water or other precious liquids. Usually, only milk of cow is used. While pouring the liquid, om namah shivaya is uttered. Some devotees utter the Lord’s name 108 times and some 1008 times. There is no fixed rule.
After the panchamrit abhishek, the lingam is cleaned with water from Ganga. (This is might not be possible always so just normal water.) After this the lingam is smeared with sandalwood paste and is decked with flowers. Water and sandalwood paste is used to keep the lingam cool, as Lord Shiva is always in a highly inflammable state. In some Shiva temples, cooling liquid constantly drops from pot hung above the Lingam.
Next, sweets, coconut and fruits are offered to the Lord. Camphor and incense are lit and ‘arati’ is conducted. Some devotees fan the lingam and sing praises of the lord.
Finally, ringing of bells or blowing of conch indicates the end of Puja. White ash (vibhuti) is rubbed on the forehead and it is also distributed. Fruits, sweets and coconut are distributed as ‘prasad.’ Devotee Should take some amount of money , touch this money to his forehead and should ask for wish. After puja this money should be dropped in donation box of any temple.
Awesome Adam I really liked this discussion and there were a lot of important sacred symbols highlighted. In occult anatomy the twelve would correspond (above) to the zodiac and the 12 crainal nerves of the brain (below). The 13th being the center the Third Eye.
And the five aspects of the Lingam can correlate the with the five states of consciousness as defined by the five brain wave states: alpha, beta, delta, theta, & gamma.
I also find it interesting that they point of the 108 which is one of the angles of the pythagorean triangle the other important angle being 72 degrees which is also the number of letter in the Shemhamphorasch, the 72 letter name of god in jewish mysticism