Lingam in Sanskrit means Gender. In the Hindu mythology, Lingam is the representation of Lord Shiva. Thus it is a synonym of Shivalingam.
The Shivalingam is symbolized by a cylindrical stone rounded off at the top; and at the other end inserted in masonry or in the ground, but transfixing another horizontal and flat stone named Yoni. This emblem is placed in the open field, on the way side, and in temples, and worshipped everywhere in the world. The worship of the Lingam and Yoni marks the Shaivism. Again the worship of the Lingam alone denotes the Veerashaivism. The latter attach a further meaning to the word, indicating various heavens or Lokas in the invisible world.
Shivalingam is the most widespread symbol of Lord Shiva
, found in virtually all Shiva temples. The lingam is a rounded, oval, situated on a round base, or peetham. It is the simplest and most ancient symbol of Shiva, especially of Parasiva, God beyond all forms and qualities. In lingam the peetham represents Parashakti, the evident power of God.
The Shiva Lingas are generally made of stone. They can also be of metal, valuable gems, crystal, wood, earth or transient materials like ice. As mentioned in the Karana Agama, temporary Shivalingam may be made of twelve unusual materials, like sand, rice, cooked food, river clay, cow dung, butter, rudraksha beads, ashes, sandalwood, darbha grass, a flower garland, or molasses.
In Hinduism, Shivalingam is believed to be divided into three parts. The bottom part of the lingam is four-sided and remains under ground. The center part of the lingam is eight-sided and remains on a dais. Lastly the top part of the lingam is in round form and worshipped. The height of the round part is one-third of its circumference. The three parts together represents the three Gods. The three parts are classified as, Lord Brahma
being at the bottom, Lord Vishnu
in the middle and Lord Shiva
on the top. The dais is provided with a passage for draining away the water that is poured on top by disciples. The Shivalingam is also a sign of both the creative and destructive power of the Lord Shiva.
In Veerashaivism, Lord Shiva is divided from His Absolute form into Lingam, the Supreme Lord and Anga, the individual soul. The two form or identities are eventually reunited in undifferentiated oneness.
There are three aspects of Shivalingam. First is the Ishtalingam that is the personal form of Shiva, in which the lord fulfills his desires and removes afflictions. The second aspect is Bhavalingam, this means Shiva beyond space and time, the highest divine principle, knowable through intuition. The last is the Pranalinga, the reality of God which can be detained by the mind.
Shunyasampadane means earning eternal emptiness. The soul or the Anga merges with Shivalingam by a progressive, six-stage path called shatsthala.
The worship of Shivalingam is stated in the epics like Mahabharata
. In Mahabharata, the great warrior Arjuna worshipped Lingam for acquiring Pashupatasthra. Ravana, king of Lanka in Ramayana worshipped Shiva to present his mother Atmalinga. Many renowned rishis and sages worshipped the simplest looking Lingam.