Sivalinga Worship

G.M. Muthuswamy Pillai, I.A.S. Retd. , S. India


In the history of human culture, there are two broad aspects complementary to each other ; the one is spiritual, while the other is intellectual. In modern times undue importance is attached to intellectual advancement at the expense of spiritual attainments. If different countries are linked together on sacred bonds of culture and spiritual developments, there will be all round spiritual advancement which in its wake is sure to create a better understanding and a feeling of love and sympathy between nations ; for spiritualism knows no barriers between one country and another and culture dares no distinction between one race and another.

So far as our country is concerned, the thought has been centered on creative intuition and this has manifested itself in diverse forms many of which come within a range of clearness, while some have been baffling the intellect of ordinary standard. But to an understanding eye with a sympathetic vision, the implication involved in the apparently complicated forms is likely to unravel the mysticism lying latent in them. Some of such forms is Linga or Sivalinga as is more popularly known. Again the other aspect which deserves importance is that this Sivalinga cult is not a mere routine matter of fact worship ; this is also not a mere personal prayer aimed at a personal advancement ; for apart from spiritualism it inculcates, it instills a spirit of brotherly love and explains the universal toleration. In keeping with the modern times, it embodies in itself, the cultural principles of social service, national unity and universal brotherhood.

1. Sivalinga - a symbolism

Sivalinga is a symbolism designed to bring home to the devotees all about God in a nut shell as it were. God has no form or name but all the same, it is within His competence to descend in any form with a view to exercise His powerful influence on this world. The first aspect about God is that of a form and the second is that of a no form at all. To this category, Sivalinga belongs. This aspect is referred to in Sekkilar's Periapuranam. Thus Sivalinga indicates that God can assume a formless form to bring within his fold all that is existing in this universe.Thus Sivalinga is symbolised God, as one from whom everything emanates and with whom everything gets itself merged. Some interpret the word " lingam " as derived from the root " lik " meaning " to depict " and arrive at a conclusion that Sivalinga depicts by itself everything. Some others put forth " the Nadha and Bhindu theory ". God is the embodiment of Nadha or sound. From " Nadha " or sound, " Bhindu " emanated : " Bhindu " is ' rupa " or form. The Nadha or sound is indicated by short line while Bhindu or form is shown by a disc or half circle. The short line and the half circle assume the form of " linga ". All trees, seeds, flowers, burning lights, living beings, earth, sun, moon, stars and the universe conform in a greater or smaller degree, to the form of Sivalinga. It will be very interesting to find a common flower tree with a local name Naga ( serpent ) linga delivering flowers which contain a solid substance exactly similar to Sivalinga in a miniature size, under the ambrosia shade of a hooded head of a serpent form.

2. The mysticism about Sivalinga

The mysticism behind the Sivalinga cult cannot, perhaps, be better explained than by the weighty words of the German author Friedrich Heiler translated into English. " In Bhakthi mysticism, the motive of worship is an important factor ; tender mystical piety and the popular cult of Gods merge into each other. The mystical adoration of the divine Lord and Savior, Vishnu or Siva is inspired by God's image, the "arca". In the statue, that has been consecrated by a special ceremony, the God is really and personally present. His image is an "avatar" i.e. a personification and incarnation of God beyond time and space. When the devotees see the statue of his God, illumined by the dim gleam of flickering lamps and veiled in clouds of incense, he sinks down in rapturous amazement and adores in profound devotion the greatness, the beauty, and love of his God who is so present to him. The fervent and the impassioned psalms of the Tamil great mystic Manicka Vacagar which were all written or conceived in the temple of Siva were produced by the contemplation of God's sacred image."

3. The general structure of Sivalinga

There are three main parts. The lower part or the root part is the creative part which represents Brahma, the creator. This part is embedded in earth and is not therefore visible. The second part or the middle part has got eight sides each side representing one of the eight sakthies or energies. The eight sakthies together with the common sakthi or energy as the ninth sakthi contribute to the middle part which represents Vishnu. Vishnu the protector is considered the sakthi of Siva. The top most portion is that of Siva, the lord of divine grace conforms to the Pravana Mantra OM .

4. Tirumular's Sivalingas.

In his immortal work Tirumantiram he describes the different aspects of Sivalinga.

i. Andalinga or universal-linga

The first one is based on a universal conception. In this aspect, the Akas or ether forms the upper part and the remaining part is the world below. The entire universe with the mountains, meadows, trees, plants etc. form the lower part of the lingam. The worshippers of Sivalingam in this aspect consider themselves as particles of the great universal lingam. This conception chalks out the basic principle of universal brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God.

ii. Pindalinga

As Saint Thayumanavar points out " people do not know how He (God) stands as the life of the world and also as the world." In this sense, His devotees are themselves Sivalingas worth veneration. They are mobile deities. The main theory in this conception is that God gives his devotees his own form and speaks through them. While politics may press the need of equality and fraternity, the principle enunciated here deifies man who is worshipped in the form of Sivalinga. Following this principle rigorously, one can render devout service to the destitute, helpless orphans etc.

iii. Gnanalinga

Gnanalingam is the personification of Gnanam based on deep meditation. Limitless bliss is gained by self realisation and this self knowledge is equated with blissful knowledge which is otherwise known as Gnana. The worship of this gnana in the form of Sivalinga is expected to lead the devotees to the ultimate bliss.

iv. Other lingas

There are several lingams in concrete forms. The temple tower, the temple flag staff, the sanctum sanctorum are symbolized as Sivalingams. Sivalingams installed in temples are generally made of stone. For daily worship, Sivalingas are made of earth, river sand, rice, butter, sandal paste, turmeric paste, sugar etc. There are also lingas made of different metals and materials. Thus we have got gold linga, silver linga, copper linga, brass linga, iron linga, diamond linga, stone linga, mountain linga, wood linga, grass linga, marble linga etc. Lord Siva is worshipped at Tiruvarur in Tanjore District as the element of earth, as water element at Thiruvanaikoil in Tiruchirapalli district, as fire element at Tiruvannamalai in North Arcot district and as air element at Kalathi and as ether element at Chidambaram in South Arcot district. There are also lingas with the abstract qualities personified. Beauty linga is called Chokkalinga or Sundaralinga ; the linga which heels diseases is Vaidya linga ; that which ensures immortality is Amrithalinga ; that which has sprung of its own accord, without any human effort, is Suyambulinga.

According to Puranas, Sri Vishnu and Brahma worshipped Sivalinga at Thirvanamalai. Uma Devi (Siva Sakthi) worshipped Sivalinga at Kanchipuram in the form of Mulalingam (Original Sivalingam). Sri Ganesa worshipped Sivalinga at Tiruchengattankudi in Tanjore District after he won the battle against Gaya Mughasura. Sri Subramanya did similar worship at Tiruchendur in Tirunelveli District after he defeated Surapadma and others. After achieving victory in the fight against Ravana, Rama performed Sivalinga worship at Rameswaram. So also did Hanuman at Rameswaram after getting one from Benares.

v. Sivalinga worship in scriptures

The holy scriptures refer to Sivalinga worship. Yajur Anu 16 pays homage to " Goldlingam ", "Godlingam " and " Bava lingam." The references are very pointed.

" Hiranylingaya namah! Thivyalingaya namah! Bhavalingaya namah! " Kamika Agama, Suprabhadagama, Mahutamaga, Karanagama have abundant references to Sivalinga. Dr. R. G. Bandarkar is inclined to think that linga worship dates to stone age. Some are of the view that " Kandali " mentioned in Tholkappiam refers to Sivalinga.

Hodder M Westrop has collected information about the phallic worship in several countries such as Greece, Egypt, Rome, Assyria, Ancient America etc. Linga worship or worship of Peripus or fascinum or pripe gala continued to exist according to Bondin till 12th century A D. in Germany Slavonia and France.

vi. Famous Sivalingas

The following twelve Sivalingas have got an ancient origin :
1. Somanath linga installed underneath the earth near Somanath temple of historical fame.
2. Sri Saila linga in Kurnool area.
3. Ujjain Maha linga.
4. Onkara linga on the bank of river Narmada.
5. Ujjain Amareswara linga.
6. Vaidyanatha linga in Patna area.
7. Rameswara linga.
8. Bhimasankara linga.
9. Thriambasewarar linga in Nasick area situated.
10. Gowdameswara linga.
11. Viswanatheswara linga.
12. Kedara linga.
In the far South there are Sivalingas of ancient type in places like Kudimallan and kudimianmalai. Scholars ascribe these lingas to second century A D. Mahendra Varma I of Pallava dynasty who ruled over Kanchipuram from 600 to 630 A.D. has stated in his Sanskrit inscription on the Tiruchirapalli rocks that he took to Sivalinga worship. Sembian Devi, wife of Kandarathithar of Chola dynasty ( 949 - 957 A.D.) had a temple built in a village which stands in her name even now and worshipped her husband in the form of Sivalinga. These images and structures can be seen even today.

vii. Effects of Sivalinga worship

The effects of worshipping various kinds of Sivalingas are marvelous. Worship of Sivalinga made of gold grants all wealth ; Sivalinga made of cooked rice ensures plenty of food for the worshipper ; Sivalinga made out of clay collected from river banks blesses the worshipper with landed property ; the worship of Sivalinga made of butter ensures a jovial temper ; Sivalinga made of Rudraksha seeds grants knowledge and one made of jaggery ensures fulfillment of all the aims.

Again Sivalinga worship does not stop with the fulfillment of worldly ambitions. The symbolism of Sivalinga is the personification of Siva's gracious will to assure the humanity at large the salvation which should be the ultimate aim of one and all.

Courtesy : 63rd Annual Conference Souvenir; 1968 Saiva Siddhanta Perumanram, Chennai.

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