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The Textual Sources and Forms of

Shiva Lingas
The religious sect of Shaivism form a part of the BrahminicalHinduism
which elevatesfrom the Vedic form of Hinduism and createsnew forms of
worship with emphasis of gods and their iconic representations. Like every
religion, Shaivismalso deals with the problem of genesis. It also talks
about the creation of pantheon of gods like other sects like Shaktism or
Vaishnavism. According to Shivapurana, Shiva asks Brahma to create the
world and thus Brahmana creates it. This underscores the power and
hegemony of Shiva over other Gods as thought by the Shaivaite.
Shaivism also deals with the concept of fertility and procreation as many
other religious cults. This could be ascertained by lings worship. The
evidences of linga worship are found from Kushana period. Shaivism is
also thought to appropriate different cult worship forms like that of wage
cult which also relates with fertility or the economic use of cow through
the icon of Nandi.
Based on above mentioned assumptions scholars often say the Shiva was
an outsider in the Vedic pantheon of Gods who forced himself in due to its
following. Scholars ascertain the religion of Shiva from DakshasYajna,
Shivas attack on the yajna and Shiva punishing Indra the Vedic king of
Gods for 5 times. Although the dynamic and aggressive form of Shiva
leads us to the concept of appropriation of folk and cult worship by
BrahminicalHinduism, supported by the esoteric undercurrents in different
sects and subjects, one must also be aware of the Vedic mentions and
appropriations of Shiva. In RgVeda Shiva is mentioned as a celestial God
considered to beAditya. Even 5 hymns are dedicated to him. The RgVeda
also talks about Shisnadevas who worship phallic symbols. In
Mahabharata also one Linga worship where she says that shiva lives in
Textual Sources
However the vedic concept of Shiva changes from in the Brahminical
period. In the Brahminical period Shiva appropriates the character of
Rudra who is a ferocious God and has negative image. The characters of
Rudra are warcries and wearing elephant skin as cloth. These qualities are

also appropriated in Shiva. Thus Shiva is characterised as Virapuksa(ugly

eyes) kapali(carrying skull) urdhamerdha(always with erect phallus)
(ithyphallic) Tristhadangsha(shark tusk/teeth), god of demons with
followers of demons gunas and other ferocious people. H e is also said to
be wearing an animal skin. Shaivism also appropriates
froomAtharvavedameations of yatavidhi(tantric like acts) and pujavidhi.
Even in western India, the shaivatepujaries are not Brahmin. However, the
start of the religious form of Shaivism starts from the shatarudriy of
ShaklaYajurveda where the iconography of Shiva likes Shitikantha, or hairs
flying in air. In later vedic literature on can see mentions of Shiva depicted
in two forms. Soumya and Bhairava (GhoranachyaShivanyachya)

Linga Worship
The idea of Linga worship has been attacked with the cult worship of
fertility. Thus the evidences of phallic or vaginal worship can be found all
over the world. In India linga worship has been associated with Shaivism
by common people and scholars alike. Thus, the small cylindrical stones
found in different cities of Indus Valley like Dholavira has been ascertained
as presence of Shaivaite cult by some scholars. The Rgveda mentions of
Shisnadevas also adds to this arguments.
However the real asurtainableShaivaitelinga worship tradition only can be
found from kushana and post kushana period.
The textual sources for linga worship can be drawn back to the puranas
and shwetashevetaupanishad. Shwetasheveta which is a very important
text in shaivaite religion talks about shiva worshipped in linga form only. In
mohabharata, Upamanys mother also ascertains the fact that one should
only worship Shiva and that too in linga form as it is the body part that is
present form birth. However, the other textual sources does not ascertain
linga as the symbol of human phallus but the atmssatva(the real self) of
Shiva. Other textual sources like lings purana, refers to shiva as Agnilinga.
Thus the linga at ellora has shown flames coming out of the rim of the
linga shaft some texts also compare agnikunda with shivalngs.
However the early sculptors have freely engaged in creating a life like
image of the linga which can be seen in the Guddinavamlinga. Here the
shaft is topped with a head with a proper preputium and fernulampreputi.
The later ages shows abstraction and symbolism.

One must understand the types

and formation of linga before
going into that discussion.
Linga can be Sakalaa or
niskala.Sakalalingas are those
which has a projection of form of
Shiva on the phallic sculpture
while NishkalaLingas are devoid
of Images.
SakalaLingas are divided into two
parts namelyVigrahaLinga and
MukhaLinga. A VigrahaLInga has
a full bodied image of shiva
attached to it. A prime example of a VigrahaLinga can be seen in the
GudimallamShivalinga. The Gudimallam Shiva linga is one of the earliest
form of Linga that can be found. Here one could see the Rudra-shiva form
appearing out of the Linga. The Shiva image is turbaned and has a Ram
held by hind legs on his right hand. In the left hand the image carries a
Parashu or an axe. Another form of Vigrahalinga can be seen in the
Airavateshvara Temple where the myth of Shiva appearing as an Agnilinga
to resolve the quarrel between Brahma and Vishnu is depicted. Brahma is
depicted here through the iconography of Swan while Vishnu is seen as a
Boar or Varaha. The flames are incised on the linga to suggest the Agni
The prime aspect of Mukhalingas are the portrayal of faces on the lingas.
Mukhalingas can be of five types depending on the number of faces. While
dwimukhalingas and trimukhalingas are rarely seen, there is a profusion of
ChaturmukhaLingas and PancamukhaLingas due to the propagation of the
Pasupata sect. The idea of linga as atmasatva or the true self also relates
to the concept of Ekeswara Veda of the pasupatha cult.
However an example of ekmukha linga can be found in Aghapura
Mathura. Scholars have ascertained this Linga to be of pre Kushana
phase. Panchamukha lingas record five phases and expression of Shiva.
These five faces can be seen in Human form in Elephanta Cave no. 1.the
mukha in the west is called sadyojata. It is seen in the centre in elephant.
The northface is called mahadeva while the South face is named
Aghora.the aghora expression is best seen in Kanauj. The East face is
called Tatpurusha. There is also another face which is often overlooked
because it is on the top. This face is called Ishan. A linga at Bhita has a

fine example of
Pancamukha Linga.
Chaturmukha Linga
can be seen in
Mathura or in Kanauj.
The Mukhulinga also
called for an
development. Thus,
shrine with doors were
made called
sarvatobhaura as seen
in Jogeshwari,
orElephanta. Here one can seen probabilities of presence of

NishkalaLingas are categotised into 3 parts: they are:

1. BanaLinga

2. DharaLinga

3. ShahashrakotiLinga

A Banalinga is a naturally formed Linga which is created by placing

naturally formed cylindrical stones on River Bank. This can be seen in
Vijaynagara. A Dhara Linga is another form of Linga which has a fluted
shft. This kind of linga can be seen in Atiranachandamandapam in
Saluvanakuppam. Sahasrakoti Linga is a unique form of linga which has
lingas carved on the shaft. A Sahasrakoti Linga can be seen in Sondani,
The Linga formation plain linga formation can aslo be divided into 3 parts.
Plain top part of the shaft- Vishnu Bhaga/pujyabhaga
-the detailing of the phallus is called brahmastura
middle octagonal part- Brahma bhaga
lower square part- Shivabhaga
There are also other formations of ephemeral linga which are called
parthivalinga. They are made of sand or clay. Such lingas can be seen in
omkarnath Temple in Vijain.


BANERJEA, JN. "A Note on the Antiquity of the Linga Worship in India."
Journal of the Bihar Research Society 40 (1954).
Chaudhuri, N. "Linga Worship in the Mahabharata." IHQ., XXIV (1948).
Lopez, Donald, and Ronald M. Davidson. Religions of India: In Practice.
Discources on Shaivism