Origin of Lingam
In the Hindu mythology, there is a hymn in the Atharva Veda that honours a pillar and this is one probable derivation of Lingam worship. In the Linga Purana, the same hymn is developed in the shape of stories designed to set up the glory of the great Stambha and the superlative nature of Lord Mahadeva. A parallel interpretation is also found in the Skanda Purana.
In yogic tradition, the Lingam is considered as the first form to happen when creation occurred, and also the last form before the ending of the creation. It is therefore seen as an entrance to Shiva which lies beyond physical creation. In Mahabharata, at the end of Dwapara Yuga, Lord Shiva says to his followers that in the coming Kali Yuga, He would not emerge in any exacting form, but instead as the formless and universal. The oldest example of a Lingam that is still used for worship is in Gudimallam (Village). It dated to the 2nd century BC. A figure of Lord Shiva is carved into the front of the Lingam.
Concept of Lingam
According to myths, Shiva Lingam is the mark of lord within its formation. Everything in the world happens out of a dome. Everything being round is a sign of the Lord Shiva. Since Lord Shiva cannot be grasped, people worship his mark. Philosophically, Shiva Lingam consists of three parts. The base part which is four-sided remains underground, the centre part which is eight-sided remains on a platform. The top part, which is in reality worshipped, is round. The height of the round part is one-third of its perimeter. The three parts symbolize Brahma at the bottom, Vishnu in the middle and Shiva on the top. The platform is presented with a way for draining away the water that is poured on the top.
Myths of Lingam
In myths, Sage Vyasa mentions that Lord Shiva is greater than everything supreme. He is the source of energy in all the living things. He has overwhelmed the whole world. He is Timeless. There is a mysterious or unspeakable power in the Shiva Lingam to persuade the attention of the mind and helps focus one’s attention. The worship of Shiva Lingam is stated in the epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana. In Ramayana, before crossing Sri Lanka, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita approached a Shiva Lingam at Rameswaram for worshipping Lord Shiva. These examples demonstrate that God may be conceptualized and worshipped in any suitable form.
According to the puranas, the myth of Shivalingam is associated to the Mahashivaratri, a significant festival of Hinduism. It is the legend of unsuccessful hunt of Brahma and Vishnu which was about to find out the ‘Aadi’ (means beginning) and the ‘Antha’ (means end) of Lord Shiva before the beginning of universe.
Aspects of Lingam
In Veerashaivism, Lord Shiva is divided from His Absolute form into Lingam, the Supreme Lord and ‘Anga’, the individual soul. There are three aspects of Shivalingam in myths. First is the ‘Ishtalingam’ that is the personal form of Shiva, in which the lord fulfils 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.
Types of Lingam
In Hinduism, Shiva Lingam is divided into many types according to the materials used to make it such as sandalwood paste, river clay, wood, stones, white marbles, precious gems, metal, mercury, gold, silver, etc. Around 70 Shiva Lingams are worshipped throughout the world and have become the places of pilgrimage. Following are the types of Lingam:
Significance of Lingam
Shiva Lingam is spoken itself as Nature which marks the existence of shapeless Lord. It is a form of never-ending soul who dwells into deepest self means ‘Atman’. Lingam is not only a block of material or stone or other things; instead it is a medium to attach with God. It raises mind and body awareness and helps to get attention at one place. The Lingams are used in meditation, carried with the person throughout the day, or used in healing ceremonies and rituals.
Sacred Shiva Lingams in India
Of all the Shiva Lingams in India, a few stand out as holding the most significance. The temple of Lord Mahalinga at Tiruvidaimarudur, Thanjavur which is also famous as Madhyarjuna, is regarded as the great Shiva temple of South India. There are 12 Jyotir-Lingams and five Panchabhuta Lingams in India.
The practice of worshipping Shiva Lingam as the sacred symbol of Lord Shiva has been from time immemorial. Shiva Lingam observes in it a representation of fruitfulness.