Shiva - Forms and Depictions - Lingam

Main article: Lingam

Apart from anthropomorphic images of Shiva, the worship of Shiva in the form of a lingam, or linga, is also important. These are depicted in various forms. One common form is the shape of a vertical rounded column. Shiva means auspiciousness, and linga means a sign or a symbol. Hence, the Shivalinga is regarded as a "symbol of the great God of the universe who is all-auspiciousness". Shiva also means "one in whom the whole creation sleeps after dissolution". Linga also means the same thing—a place where created objects get dissolved during the disintegration of the created universe. Since, according to Hinduism, it is the same god that creates, sustains and withdraws the universe, the Shivalinga represents symbolically God Himself. Some scholars, such as Monier-Williams and Wendy Doniger, also view linga as a phallic symbol, although this interpretation is disputed by others, including Christopher Isherwood, Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, and S.N. Balagangadhara.

The worship of the Shiva-Linga originated from the famous hymn in the Atharva-Veda Samhitâ sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha, the sacrificial post. In that hymn, a description is found of the beginningless and endless Stambha or Skambha, and it is shown that the said Skambha is put in place of the eternal Brahman. Just as the Yajna (sacrificial) fire, its smoke, ashes, and flames, the Soma plant, and the ox that used to carry on its back the wood for the Vedic sacrifice gave place to the conceptions of the brightness of Shiva's body, his tawny matted hair, his blue throat, and the riding on the bull of the Shiva, the Yupa-Skambha gave place in time to the Shiva-Linga. In the text Linga Purana, the same hymn is expanded in the shape of stories, meant to establish the glory of the great Stambha and the superiority of Shiva as Mahadeva.

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