Hinduism is probably the oldest religion that dates back to centuries. There are so many stories, facts, and myths that link to the creation of the universe and Hinduism together.
And one of the most frequent names that are linked to the beginning of the creation of the universe and everything in it is Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva comes with different titles representing different forms of life and meanings. And humans never worship the god of destruction in a human form, i.e. people don’t worship Lord Shiva that has human-like features, unlike other deities.
Lord Shiva is always worshiped on earth as Shiva Linga, a cylindrically shaped pillar that sits above a plate or flat disc that is held by another pillar.
Now, there are so many definitions, myths, and legends associated with Shiva Linga.
And the most common misconception people believe is that Shiva linga represents the genitals of Lord Shiva.
Let’s take a look at the backstory of how people started worshiping the god of destruction for his genitals.
The Shiva Lingam Story.
After the death of Shiva’s wife Sati, it is said that he lost his sense of being and was incredibly sad.
He started roaming around the forest like a madman alone and restless, carrying his dead wife, with no clothes on.
Coincidently, the forest he was wandering housed many rishis along with their families.
While Lord Shiva drifted around naked like a madman, the wives of the rishis noticed him.
Seeing Lord Shiva walking around displaying his fully naked body, they couldn’t hold on to themselves.
All the women started running after him trying to touch him and hug him.
When the rishis found out that all their wives are running after Lord Shiva who is roaming the forest naked and restless, they grew resentful and furious.
And the Siddhis accuse Lord Shiva of immorality and curse him and his penis saying it should be cut off and fall down ( in another version they start throwing stones at him when a sharp edge of a rock cut off his penis and it falls down).
As soon as it fell on earth, it stood erect and started burning like a wildfire and wherever it went it caused chaos.
It looked like the earth started approaching towards its end. Due to the burning penis, bad things started happening around the whole world.
The people started panicking as the fire started spilling everywhere destroying everything in its presence.
Even the rishis who cursed Shiva Ji got worried about the destruction the people on earth were facing so they along with the demigods reached out to Brahma, the god of creation.
After figuring out what had happened, all of them started praying and pleading to Lord Shiva to come and take back his penis.
And thus, people on earth started worshiping Shiva Linga as a form of Lord Shiva instead of the deity himself.
Another story involves a sage named Brighu and his curse on all three gods, the creator Brahma, the protector Vishnu, and the destroyer Shiva.
According to the tale, hundreds of years ago, there was a great sacrificial ceremony about to be held.
The great sage Narada Muni was also invited in the ceremony where he was asked who would be worthy enough to receive the effects of the sacrifice.
Answering the question he said that Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are all eligible. But the problem was which one of the gods were the most worthy.
And to know who was the most deserving Brighu volunteered in finding out.
Brighu was a powerful sage that could travel to the domain of the demigods. So he decided to go and meet Lord Brahma and figure out if he was worthy to receive the effects of the sacrifice.
But when he met Brahma, the lord was too preoccupied that he could not see and recognize him. That made the rishi really furious and felt humiliated.
So Brighu cursed Brahma saying “You are so proud of your power of creation, you did not notice my arrival. For this, you shall have no temples on earth.”
Even today there are very few temples dedicated to Lord Brahma on earth.
Next, he went to Lord Shiva, the lord of destruction to meet him in Kailash. But to his dismay, Lord Shiva also didn’t notice him that fueled his fire.
This led to him cursing Lord Shiva to be worshipped only as a lingam by people on earth.
He eventually goes to Lord Vishnu who also does not recognize him ultimately upsetting him even more.
Raged with anger, Brighu hists Vishnu in his chest as hard as he can. But instead of being mad, Lord Vishnu, being the god he is, tries to calm him down and start praising him.
But goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s wife wasn’t pleased with the way he treated her husband so she cursed him instead.
This is said to be the reason why Brahmins aren’t financially blessed in many cases.
These were the tales that we grew up listening to. But when it comes to Lord Shiva and Shiva Linga there is a much deeper scientific and philosophical meaning behind it.
The Worshiping of the Phallus.
It is said that the ‘linga’ represents a male genital or a man’s reproductive organ. And the disc it rests on represents ‘Yoni’ which is a vagina or a female’s reproductive organ.
And together they are interpreted as the representation of the process of intercourse.
Thus, people link the origin of Shiva Linga back to the beginning of the Indus Valley civilization where people worshiped the Lingam and Yoni as the point of creation, energy, and enlightenment.
Even the Kalash that is hung over the Shiva Linga from where the water drips continuously also related to the idea of having sex.
Scientific Concept of Shiva Lingam.
It might sound a little strange when we relate science and religion together. But to tell you the truth, Hinduism is the most scientific religion there is.
And one of those is the meaning of Shiva Linga.
The word ‘Linga’ comes from a Sanskrit word ‘Lingam’ and since Sanskrit is highly metaphorical, Shiva Linga also represents a lot of different things along with the genitals.
Since the Lingam is shaped almost like an egg it represents the “Brahmanda” or the cosmic egg.
So scientifically, Shiva Lingam represents the whole of the Cosmos and the cosmic egg here depicts no beginning nor the end.
Another scientific concept behind Shiva Linga is that it represents the Molecules that the entire universe is made up of.
The Lingam that is made up of different parts represents different things. In the past, there was no word that would describe what Molecule is or for the Atoms consisting of Proton, Neutron, and Electron a molecule is made up of.
So instead of using these words, sages linked the molecules and the beginning of the universe with the Shiva Linga.
Philosophical Concept of Shiva Lingam.
According to philosophy Shiva Linga has even a deeper interpretation.
Here, Shiva means Lord and Lingam means symbol (which is also the Sanskrit meaning of it).
On that account, Shiva Lingam represents the mark of the lord within its creation.
When we start being philosophical about the beginning of the universe, or as a matter of fact, beginning of any form of life, it is believed that everything in this universe comes out of a circle or a ball.
A child before being born comes out from a cell, a tree also comes out from a seed. Even the tiniest cells and all the known heavenly bodies are round.
So this represents Lord Shiva who has no beginning nor does he end anywhere. And we worship Shiva Linga as his mark or the Shiva Lingam as the whole Brahmanda.
When we examine Shiva Linga, it is made up of three parts.
The bottom part that usually remains underground and has four sides that represent Brahma, the god of creation.
The middle part that has eight sides and remains on a pedestal represents Vishnu, the protector.
And finally, the top part that sits atop the mid part, the part that is actually worshiped represents Shiva, the god of destruction.
Therefore the Lingam is a symbol of both the destructive and creative powers of Lord Shiva.
The Definition of Shiva Lingam from Shaiva Siddhanta.
Shaiva Siddhanta is one of the major schools of Shaivism which is one of the 4 major sampradayas of Hinduism.
According to this Lord Shiva has three perfections: Parashiva, Parashakti, and Parameshwara.
And in Shiva Lingam, the upper part represents Parashiva which means that Lord Shiva is the absolute reality and it is beyond all attributes and human comprehension. Here, he is formless, timeless, and spaceless.
And the lower part of the Lingam represents Parshakti which means here the Lord is pure consciousness, all-pervasive, power, and primal substances of all that exists and it all has form, which is just the opposite of Parashiva.
So, Shiva Linga is seen and worshiped by Hindus all over the world as a symbol of the energy and the potential of Lord Shiva himself.