Shivling-A Devotional Representation of Lord Shiva
According to Shiva Purana, “The distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of someone is called a ling”. What is not visible yet can be identified by one thing-that is a ling. A Shivling is a symbol and devotional representation of Lord Shiva. It is Shiva-Shakti combined form because of its having two parts (the male reproductive part and the female reproductive part). So a Shivling is also a powerful symbol of creation of life.
A Shivling 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 Shivling is called the ‘Brahmapeetha’, the middle one, the ‘Vishnupeetha’ and the uppermost one, the ‘Shivapeetha’.
Another thing associated with a Shivling is Gauripatta. Gauripatta is the base on which a Shivling 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.
We usually see Shivlings appearing in two forms in this whole universe. These are–
(1) Naturally born Shivling- It is also called ‘Swayambhu Ling’. The most important thing is that the Swayambhu Ling has never been created by any human being. Naturally born Lings or Swayambhu Lings are the ones that are raised by nature directly through the earth.
According to the Skanda Purana –
“akashangling nityahu। prithivi tasya peethika।” [Meaning: The sky is also a Ling and the earth itself is its(sky) Peethika.]
(2) Man-made Shivling– 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 Shivlings are made of five great elements – earth/land (Prithivi Ling), water (Appu Ling), fire (Agni Ling), air (Vayu Ling)or ether/sky (Akasa Ling). Five Panchabhootatmak Shivalings still exist in five pilgrimage sites in South India. The names and locations of those Shivlings 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 worshipped every day by innumerable devotees with great reverence.
Another type of Ling is Vanaling. Vanaling 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 Vanaling was truly a wonder of nature. However, this Vanaling creation has now completely stopped. This Vanaling was created on the banks of the river Narmada, not far from the Jyotirling temple at Omkareshwar. The name of the tank from which the Vanaling 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 Vanaling, was completely destroyed by human intervention. Sadly, since then, the creation of Vanaling has been stopped forever.
The name of the earthen Shivling is Paarthiv Shivling. This type of Shivling is made from mud or clay. The earthly Shivling 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 Shivling on the leaves of a wood-apple tree. Moreover, no other type of Shivling can be placed on the leaves of a wood-apple tree. However, at the end of every puja, the earthly Shivling must be immersed in water.
The most sacred or important of the Lings are the Jyotirlings. Jyoti means ‘light’ and ling means ‘mark’. So Jyotirling 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 Jyotirling temples are places where Lord Shiva appeared as a column of light. There are twelve Swayambhu Jyotirlings at different places of India. Of these, two are on the sea shore, three on the river bank, four in the mountains and three on the plains.
The Jyotirlings are-
Rameshwaram,Vishveshwar or Vishwanath, Triambakeshwar, Mahakaleshwar, Kedarnath, Mallikarjuna, Omkareshwar, Bhimashankar, Vaidyanath, Ghrishneshwar and Nageshwar.
There is also the Panchkedar Shivlings 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 Shivlings exist in Panch Kedar temples.
Shivlings help us to focus our attention and go beyond our consciousness – and that is why they are kept and worshipped in Shiva temples. To worship a Shivling means to worship Lord Shiva. According to Ling Purana, “The whole universe is established in the form of Shivling and hence everybody must worship Lord Shiva”. Ling Purana also tells us to worship Lord Shiva in his Ling form only. So we should worship a Shivling regularly.
Om Namah Shivay