Shivalinga – A Devotional Representation of Lord Shiva
A Powerful Symbol
According to Shiva Purana, “The distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of someone is called a linga”
What is not visible yet can be identified by one thing – that is a Linga. A Shivalinga is a symbol and devotional representation of Lord Shiva. It is Shiva-Shakti combined because of its having two parts (the male reproductive part and the female reproductive part). So A Shivalinga is also a powerful symbol of place of creation of life.
Invisible Parts of a Shivalinga
A Shivalinga consists of three important invisible parts. Each of these parts refers to the Trinity – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The lowest part of a Shivalinga is called the ‘Brahmapeetha’, the middle one, the ‘Vishnupeetha’ and the uppermost one, the ‘Shivapeetha’.
Another thing associated with a Shivalinga is Gauripatta. Gauripatta is the base on which a Shivalinga is placed in a Shiva temple. Gauri is one of the names of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. So Gauripatta is known as mark of Gauri. Gauripatta is also known as Yonipatta. In some temples, Gauripatta is leaf shaped. In Shiva temples, Hindu devotees pour milk over the Shivalinga and this pours out through the Gauripatta. While doing the circumambulation in a Shiva Temple, a devotee stops at the Gauripatta and does not complete a full circle. The Earth itself is the base of the Swayambhu Lingams located in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. The base of a man-made Linga is always placed facing north. This type of base is only called Gauripatta or Yonipatta.
Each of the above mentioned man-made Shivalingas has a Gauripatta or Yonipatta.
Two Main Forms of Shivalinga
We usually see Shivalingas appearing in two forms in this whole universe. These are–
(1) Naturally born Shivalinga- It is also called ‘Swayambhu Linga’. The most important thing is that the Swayambhu Linga has never been created by any human being. Naturally born Lingas or Swayambhu Lingas are the ones that are raised by nature directly through the earth.
According to Skanda Purana –
“akashanglinga nityahu। prithivi tasya peethika।” [Meaning: The sky is also a Linga and the earth itself is its(sky) Peethika.]
(2) Man-made Shivalinga– This type of Shivalinga is created by the human beings of this world. These can be made of different metals or combined metals of gold, silver, copper, brass and alloys, or they can be made of stone, clay, wood etc.
The Panchabhootatmak Shivalingas are made of five great elements – earth/land (Prithivi Linga), water (Appu Linga), fire (Agni Linga), air (Vayu Linga)or ether/sky (Akasa Linga). Five Panchabhootatmak Shivalingas still exist in five pilgrimage sites in South India. The names and locations of those Shivalingas are as follows —-
(1) Ekambareswarar Temple(Water) in Tamil Nadu
(2) Jambukeshwarar Temple(Water) in Tamil Nadu
(3) Annamalaiyar Temple(Fire) in Tamil Nadu
(4) Srikalahasteeswara Temple(Air) in Andhra Pradesh
(5) Thillai Nataraja Temple(Sky) in Tamil Nadu
Even to this day, these are being worshiped every day by innumerable devotees with great reverence.
Another type of Linga is Vanalinga. Vanalinga is a small smooth rock. According to the Shiva Purana, an Asura named Vanasura was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. After the death of this Shiva devotee, a natural rock was found in the river Narmada. The rock was called Vanalinga naming after Vanasura.
The mystery of the creation of the Vanalinga was truly a wonder of nature. However, this Vanalinga creation has now completely stopped. This Vanalinga was created on the banks of the river Narmada, not far from the Jyotirlinga temple at Omkareshwar. The name of the tank from which the Vanalinga was created in a natural way was “Dhabri Kund”. During the construction of the Mamleshwar Dam, the “Dhabri Kunda”, the nature’s wonder of the creation of Vanalinga, was completely destroyed by human intervention. Sadly, since then, the creation of Vanalinga has been stopped forever.
The name of the earthen Shivalinga is Paarthiv Shivalinga. This type of Shivalinga is made from mud or clay. The earthly Shivalinga is made only by performing a special process with the soil of a termite mound during a special puja(worship). However, there is a provision to place only the earthly Shivalinga on the leaves of a wood-apple tree. Moreover, no other type of Shivalinga can be placed on the leaves of a wood-apple tree. However, at the end of every puja, the earthly Shivalinga must be immersed in water.
The most sacred or important of the Lingas are the Jyotirlingas. Jyoti means ‘light’ and linga means ‘mark’. So Jyotirlinga means the ‘Radiant Sign of Lord Shiva’.As per Hindu mythology, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had an argument over who was the supreme creator. To settle this argument, Lord Shiva appeared as a huge pillar of light and asked Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to find the end. But neither could find the end. The Jyotirlinga temples are places where Lord Shiva appeared as a column of light. There are twelve Swayambhu Jyotirlingas at different places of India. Of these, two (Somnath, Rameshwaram) are on the sea shore, three (Vishveshwar/Vishwanath,Triambakeshwar,Mahakaleshwar) on the river bank, four (Kedarnath, Mallikarjuna,Omkareshwar,Bhimashankar) in the mountains and three (Vaidyanath,Ghrishneshwar,Nageshwar)on the plains.
Panch Kedar Shivalingas
There is also the Panchkedar Shivalingas in this world. Panch Kedar refers to five Hindu shrines or holy places dedicated to Lord Shiva. They are located in the Garhwal Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, India. According to Mahabharata story, when Pandavas were searching for Lord Shiva, he turned himself into a bull to avoid detection. However, when Bheema tried to capture the bull, it disappeared and later reappeared in body parts at five locations, presently known as Panch Kedar. Panchkedar Shivalingas exist in Panch Kedar temples.
Worship of the Shivalinga
Shivalingas help us focus our attention and go beyond our consciousness – and that is why they are kept and worshipped in Shiva temples. To worship a Shivalinga means to worship Lord Shiva. As per Ling Purana (1.5.5), “The whole universe is established in the form of Shiva Linga and hence everybody must worship Lord Shiva”. Linga Purana also tells us to worship Lord Shiva in his Linga form only. So we should worship a Shivalinga regularly.
Om Namas Shivay