Shiva Linga

Shiva Linga is a wide spread Indian Phallic figure. It consists of a feminine base ‘Yoni’ or ‘vagina’ and a rising masculine portion ‘the Phallus’ or ‘penis.’ The Linga artifacts, dating from the first century BC to the third century AD, are shaped like realistic ‘Phalli’. Thereafter the shape becomes progressively more abstract. By medieval times, its observable portion, rising from the Yoni, forms a round block with domed apex.

Shiva, the lord of erect Phallus (urdhvalinga), is traced to the ithyphallic figure of Indus Valley civilization or to the phallic images found more generally in prehistoric India.  The epics and Puranas tell how a great fire appeared from the cosmic waters, and from this flame Linga Shiva emerged to claim supremacy and worship over Brahma and Vishnu, when he was castrated because he seduced sages’ wives in the pine forests of Himalayas. He castrated himself because no one could castrate the Supreme Lord. Thus fallen phallus of the Supreme Lord destroyed all the worlds until it reached the Yoni of Uma/Parvati and cooled down. All procreation of worlds started after the worship of Yoni-Linga was restored and all Gods, including Vishnu and Brahma accepted supremacy of Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva’s other form is ‘Ardhanariswara’, half man and half woman. Lord Shiva, with his consort Parvati, is always in a celestial dance of procreation and destruction of the worlds. He is not only the embodiment of ‘Kama’ (the sexual lust, desire or pleasure, the force that is the basis for the evolution of diverse life forms and Humans on earth) in the forms of Phallus and androgynous Ardhanarishwara, but also the destroyer of ‘Kama’ when he destroyed ‘Kamadeva’ only to restore his life at the request of Kama’s wife Rati, ‘the coitus or the sexual intercourse.’ Without the sexual desire (Kama) there is no sexual intercourse (Rati) and no procreation. Lord Shiva’s manifestations are memorialized in the local texts of great shrines ranging from temple complexes of Khajuraho in the north to Madhurai in the south.

Shiva mythology, in fact, is a rich source of Indian thinking about sexuality, social relations, ritual, cosmic process, and metaphysics. The Male-Female union in the form of “Phallus or Shiva Linga or Yoni-Linga” or “the Ardhanarishwara” may be visualized as a parallel to the Chinese philosophy of “Yin-Yang” or ‘the Male-Female.”  Metaphysically, it also is the most scientific philosophy that explains fundamentals of existence through ‘positive and negative’ or ‘male and female’ aspects of matter and life.  Moksha is only after Kama, of the four principles of life-Dharma, Ardha, Kama, and Moksha. Kama is a sacred duty of men and women.

Unfortunately, some of us are ashamed of it because of Christian and Islamic influences. It was unacceptable, shameful and sinful to the Christians.  They denounced it without understanding the culture, wrote demeaning articles, made laws and were able to influence the population to some extent.  Their purpose was to teach us (the cultures which consider sex as sacred) the true path to God, the Christianity that considers sex as sin and purification of which is attained only by the blood of Jesus, the savior.  Victorian Christians had the same kind of shock when they colonized Polynesian islands, for those islanders were sexually explicit in their lifestyle.  The shocked Christian missionaries vowed and succeeded to eradicate the satanic culture by converting them to Christianity!

Fortunately, in the Indian continent non-Christians and non-Muslims still survive and continue age-old practices of respect for nature, animals and recognize the sacred aspect of sex.  That is why we are considered an old and continuing civilization without any break, while our brethren in Europe lost their religion and culture totally to Christianity.  The Indian reformers, with the British influence and help, got rid of some oppressive customs like Devdasi, Basivi, Sati etc., that forced women into prostitution and self-immolation in the name of religion. Ironically, today the Indian society looks down upon the west as a promiscuous society, and attempts to protect itself from the western vulgarity, indiscrimination and extramarital sex by censorship, a legacy of puritanical Christian and Islamic influence, while maintaining the sacred sensuality in the religion and within the marriage.

Mrs. Kalanidhi Narayanan, a Bharata Natyam teacher explained, 'the sex in the life is like food and sleep, without which there is no life. If you
consider sex is sacred, it is sacred. But if you think it is sin, it is sin. It depends on your out look.'  She pointed out several poses and gestures in the Bharata Natyam that explicitly and implicitly point to 'Rati Sukha Saaram,' (the essence of the pleasure of sexual intercourse)  in the love affair of Radha-Krishna, where the sexual union of Radha and Krishna is at a philosophical level the union between the God and the devotee, while at a physical level simply sex. What you see depends on your mental status and outlook.

We all have freedom to convert to any religion we like. But, there is no need to distort and censor the sexuality of the truth and origins of Linga. Hindu Religions like Saktism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism have a sacred sensual aspect to them. Let Truth Prevail.  Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, August 1996.

(This article was written in response to a discussion on sexual nature of  Shiva Linga. The purpose of the article is truth but not defense of  Hinduisms (Indian Religions) like Shaivism or Vaishnavism or Tantrism (Yoni Tantra) or Saktism.)

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