Just What Is The Shiva Lingam, And What Does It Mean?
The Shiva Lingam is one of the most recognizable representations in Hinduism. It’s all over India, and virtually inseparable from Shiva. Just Google Shiva and you’ll see for yourself. Yet for all its universal presence, how many people actually know what it represents? Case in point: I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years, and I only learned what it means about a year ago.
The 3 Major Representations
The lingam is actually the symbolic representation of Shiva, one of the supreme deities in Hindu theology. The word Linga means ‘symbol’ or ‘image’. Interestingly, there are so many philosophic interpretations justifying the rationale behind the shape of the lingam, it’s almost impossible to talk about them all without droning on and on forever!
But these 3 are the most widely known and have the widest acceptance in India. Really, though…you could say that they’re all true to some extent.
- One of the interpretations observes that the shape of the lingam suggests the shape of an egg. The Lingam is depicted in this way to signify Shiva as the root cause of the entire creation. Thus, Shiva is the seed or the embryo from which the entire universe issued forth.
- The name Lingam is also suggestive of two cosmic concepts, namely ‘Liya’ and ‘Gamya’ meaning source and the destination respectively. This is suggesting that it’s from Shiva that the universe emerges and it’s in him that it merges back after dissolution. Thus, Lingam suggests the ultimate Godhead that plays the role of creation, sustenance, and destruction all in one.
- Yet another interpretation (and perhaps the most widely known and embraced) views Lingam as the representation of the male and female principles of the universe. As per this interpretation, the pedestal is said to represent the female aspect of divinity, while the pillar represents the male aspect. Milk is poured over the Lingham as a representation of the male creative essence.
What’s the Point?
There are three forms of worshipping the divinity namely Rupa (form), Arupa (formless) and Ruparupa (form as well as formless). Lingam is the Ruparupa- meaning that at once it is form as well as formless. With the deep contemplation of Lingam, practitioners gradually attain illumination and perceive the formless aspect of the universe. So the whole point is to bring a person closer to the goal of enlightenment.
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