AskDefine | Define lingam

Dictionary Definition

lingam n : the Hindu phallic symbol of Siva

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  1. The penis or phallus, especially when worshipped as a symbol of or in connection with Shiva.

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Extensive Definition

The Lingam (also, Linga, Shiva linga Sanskrit लिङ्गं , meaning "mark," or "sign,") is a symbol for the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. While its origins are debated, the use of this symbol for worship is an ancient tradition in India extending back at least to the early Indus Valley civilization.


The Sanskrit term लिङ्गं , transliterated as linga has many meanings, generally as a mark, sign, characteristic or phallus. It has a number of specific uses in Sanskrit that are derived from this general meaning. Vaman Shivram Apte's dictionary gives seventeen definitions of the term, including these examples:
In Veerashaivism, Siva divides from His Absolute state into Linga (Supreme Lord) and anga, individual soul, the two eventually reuniting in undifferentiated oneness. There are three aspects of Sivalinga.
  • Ishtalinga, personal form of Siva, in which He fulfills desires and removes afflictions -- God as bliss or joy;
  • Bhavalinga, Siva beyond space and time, the highest divine principle, knowable through intuition;
  • Pranalinga, the reality of God which can be apprehended by the mind.
The soul (anga) merges with Siva(Linga) by a progressive, six-stage path called shatsthala. This is called Shunyasampadane- earning eternal nothingness.
According to Swami Dharmananda, there is a mysterious power in the Linga, its shape has been designed to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the mind is focused easily in crystal-gazing, so also the mind attains one-pointedness, when it looks at the Linga. That is the reason why the ancient Rishis and the seers of India have prescribed Linga for being installed in the temples of Lord Shiva.
The great warrior Arjuna in epic Mahabharata worshipped Linga for acquiring Pashupatasthra, great vedic scholar Ravana in epic Ramayana worshipped Shiva to present his mother Atmalinga, legendary rishi Markandeya and numerous rishis spread across timezones have worshipped the simplest looking Linga. Rishis used to leave all materialism to attain spirituality and a lump of soil in forest was what was required to worship and meditate.

Naturally occurring lingams

A lingam at Amarnath in the western Himalayas forms every winter from ice dripping on the floor of a cave and freezing like a stalagmite. It is very popular with pilgrims.
There is a great connection in marking the forces of nature to be worshipped. The following description has various forms of nature being worshipped as Linga.
The Vedas speak of the Ashta Murthys’ (forms) of Lord Shiva. Sarva, Bhava, Rudra, Ugra, Bheema, Pasupathi, Mahadeva, Eashana are the eight Murthys of Shiva. Puranas explain the Adhistanas for these eight forms, which are Sarva for earth, Bhava for water, Rudra for fire, Ugra for wind, Bheema for space, Pasupathi for yajamana, Mahadeva for moon and Eashana for Sun. Shiva is also called Pasupathi i.e. Lord Shiva with his enormous grace on the Jeeva means pasu, cuts the Pasa or the string and makes it move free to join him with devotion. In this way, his name Pasupathi is more meaningful. Each of the following Kshethras (places) in India & Nepal connected to the Lord ’s eight forms, so that the devotee can know clearly how the ancient puranas took care to locate these places both geographically and spiritually. Shiva, Brahma puranas are the main sources .
The following forms or forces of nature are worshipped in their primal form only without any special idols representing them.
  1. Sarva :- Bhoomi Linga, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. It is in Shiva Kanchi Kshetra, where the Lord is in the form of Kshiti Linga in the Ekamra tree ( Aamra ( Mango in Sankrit) tree, which yield only one fruit per year). Parvathi worshipped this form first. There is no Abhisheka done with water at this shrine, jasmine oil is used instead. The Devi’s name here is Kamakshi. All the desires of the devotees are fulfilled with her gracious eyes.
  2. Bhava :- Jala Linga, Tiruvanaikoil, (Jambukeswaram), Tamil Nadu. This temple is located on the outskirts of Trichy, where Lord Jambukeswara is seated and showers all his blessings to his devotees. This Kshethra is called Jambhukeswara Kshetra, also known as Jala Linga. The devotees can see from the outside of Garbha Gruha the water bubbles coming out from Panipetham. There is a Jambu tree, which is very old and very big. The legends say Lord Shiva wanted to stay here along with the Jambu tree. So the devotees treat this tree as sacred as the Lord.
  3. Rudra:- Agni or Thejo (Divine Light) Linga, Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnadu – Arunachaleswara. In Tiruvannamalai, Lord Shiva is seated in the form of Thejolinga. The whole mountain appears to be a Linga. As a result of Parvathi’s great penance, a sharp spark of fire came from Arunachala and took shape as Arunalinga.
  4. Ugra:- Vayu Linga, Sri Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh. The Sri Kalahasteeswara temple is situated on the banks of Swarna Mukhi River in Sri Kalahasti. Spiritually elevated souls only can see that there is a strong wind blowing around the Linga. Bhakta Kannappa story is connected to this temple. Even animals got salvation by worshipping this Lord. Three animals – Cobweb (Sree), Kala (snake), Hasthi (elephant) prayed to God with utmost faith and devotion and attained Moksha. One can see the symbols there on the Shiva Linga even today
  5. Bheema:- Akasha Linga, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. This Kshetra is on the banks of Cauvery. We don’t see any Murthy in the temple Garbha Gruha. The puranas speak of this Kshetra very highly. No one can see the Lord’s Murthy, except the highest spiritual souls. There is a space in the Garbha Gruha and many Abharanas are decorated and the devotees assume the God is seated there. A very beautiful Nataraja murthy is in outer Garbha Gruha for worship and for the satisfaction of the devotees.
  6. Pasupathi:- Yajamana(Lord) Linga, Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal, Pasupathinadha Kshetra is famous and the Lord here is in human form. The devotee can see the God up to his waist only. The Murthy is decorated with Gold Kavacha always. Nobody can enter into the Garbha Gruha except the Archaka (not even the King of Nepal). Many devotees from all over the globe pray to this Lord with highest devotion and get their wishes fulfilled.
  7. Mahadeva:- Chandra Linga, West Bengal. Chandra natha Linga is situated in West Bengal 34 miles away from Chatagav City. Many sacred thirthas surround this Kshetra. Devi purana lauded this Kshethra greatly.
  8. Eashana:- Surya Linga, Konark Temple, Orissa. This Kshetra is in Orissa state near Puri Jagannath Kshetra. Konark is now in ruins and the temple is in fragments and now, devotees can’t see any God or Goddess here. The legend says that Sri Krishna’s son Samba suffered once from leprosy and was cured by worshipping the Sun God and the Linga here and since then this Kshetra became a remedy center for all diseases. Even in these days the worship is going on with same faith and devotion.
The Bijileshwar Mahadev(incidence of Vasishta in Rigveda) absorbs lightening and breaks into pieces, is then restored by butter every 12 years.
Shivling (6543m) is also a mountain in Uttarakhand (the Garwhal region of Himalayas). It arises as a sheer pyramid above the snout of the Gangotri Glacier. The mountain resembles a shivling when viewed from certain angles, especially when travelling or trekking from Gangotri to Gomukh as a part of a traditional Hindu pilgrimage.

See also



  • Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent Before The Coming of the Muslims, Grove Press, Inc., New York (1954; Evergreen Edition 1959).
  • Schumacher, Stephan and Woerner, Gert. The encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and religion, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, Hinduism, Shambhala, Boston, (1994) ISBN 0-87773-980-3
  • Ram Karan Sharma. : Eight Collections of Hymns Containing One Thousand and Eight Names of Śiva. With Introduction and (A Dictionary of Names). (Nag Publishers: Delhi, 1996). ISBN 81-7081-350-6. This work compares eight versions of the Śivasahasranāmāstotra. The Preface and Introduction (in English) by Ram Karan Sharma provide an analysis of how the eight versions compare with one another. The text of the eight versions is given in Sanskrit.
lingam in Danish: Lingam
lingam in German: Linga
lingam in French: Lingam
lingam in Indonesian: Lingga (arca)
lingam in Italian: Lingam
lingam in Georgian: ლინგამი
lingam in Lithuanian: Linga
lingam in Newari: शिवलिङ्ग
lingam in Polish: Linga
lingam in Russian: Лингам
lingam in Simple English: Linga
lingam in Swedish: Lingam
lingam in Tamil: சிவலிங்கம்
lingam in Chinese: 林伽
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