What is Shiva Linga?
Shiva Linga: The Symbol for Shiva
In Sanskrit, Linga means a ‘mark’ or a symbol, which points to an inference. Thus the Shiva Linga is a symbol of Lord Shiva – a mark that reminds of the Omnipotent Lord, which is formless.
Shiva Linga speaks to the devotee in the unmistakable language of silence, and it is only the outward symbol of the formless being, Lord Shiva, who is the undying soul seated in the chambers of your heart, who is your in-dweller, your innermost self or ‘Atman,’ and who is identical with the supreme ‘Brahman.’
The Linga as a Symbol of Creation
The ancient scripture Linga Purana says that the foremost Linga is devoid of smell, colour, taste, etc., and is spoken of as ‘Prakriti’ or Nature itself. In the post-Vedic period, the Linga became symbolical of the generative power of Lord Shiva.
The Linga is like an egg, and represents the ‘Brahmanda’ or the cosmic egg. Linga signifies that the creation is effected by the union of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha,’ the male and the female powers of Nature. Linga also signifies ‘Satya,’ ‘Jnana’ and ‘Ananta’ – Truth, knowledge and Infinity.
The 3 Parts of a Shiva Linga
A Shiva Linga consists of three parts, the lowest of which is called the ‘Brahma-Pitha,’ the middle one, the ‘Vishnu-Pitha’ and the uppermost one, the ‘Shiva-Pitha.’
The Holiest Shiva Lingas of India
There are 12 ‘Jyotir-lingas’ and 5 ‘Pancha-bhuta Lingas’ in India. The dozen Jyotir-lingas are: Kedarnath, Kashi Vishwanath, Somnath, Baijnath, Rameswar, Ghrusneswar, Bhimshankar, Mahakal, Mallikarjun, Amaleshwar, Nageshwar and Tryambakeshwar. The 5 Pancha-bhuta Lingas are: Kalahastishwar, Jambukeshwar, Arunachaleshwar, Ekambareshwar of Kanjivaram and Nataraja of Chidambaram. The temple of Lord Mahalinga at Tiruvidaimarudur known also as Madhyarjuna is regarded as the great Shiva temple of South India.
The Quartz Shiva Linga
The ‘Sphatika-linga’ is made up of quartz. It is prescribed for the deepest kind of worship of Lord Shiva. It has no color of its own, but takes on the color of the substance which comes in contact with it. It represents the ‘Nirguna Brahman’ or the attribute-less Supreme Self or the formless Shiva.
What the Linga Means to Devotees
There is a mysterious or indescribable power or ‘Shakti’ in the Linga, to induce concentration of the mind, and helps focus one’s attention. That is why the ancient sages and seers of India prescribed Linga to be installed in the temples of Lord Shiva.
For a sincere devotee, the Linga is not merely a block of stone. It is all-radiant – talks to him, raises him above body-consciousness, and helps to communicate with the Lord. Lord Rama worshiped the Shiva Linga at Rameshwaram. Ravana, the learned scholar, worshiped the golden Linga for its mystical powers.
According to another legend, once Brahma and Vishnu, two other deities of the holy Trinity, had an argument as to their supremacy. Brahma being the Creator declared himself to be more revered, while Vishnu, the Preserver, pronounced that he commanded more respect.Just then a colossal ‘lingam’, known as Jyotirlinga, blanketed in flames, appeared before them. Both Brahma and Vishnu were awestruck by its rapidly increasing size. They forgot their quarrel and decided to determine its size. Vishnu assuming the form of a boar went to the netherworld and Brahma as a swan flew to the skies. But both of them failed to accomplish the self-assumed tasks. Then, Shiva appeared out of the ‘lingam’ and stated that he was the progenitor of them both and that henceforth he should be worshiped in his phallic form, the ‘lingam’, and not in his anthropomorphic form.