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In Hindu temples, the statues of the deities are present in the sanctum. But in (most) Shiva temples, only a linga is present instead of a Shiva statue. The linga worship seems to be limited only to Shiva, since no other deity is worshipped widely in linga form.

Why is Shiva primarily (and uniquely) worshipped in the linga form?

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    IMHO linga is representative of the totality of God, that is, the fullness of God and His completeness, all of which are aspects of the linga. I'm just speculating here: Ishvarah refers to this complete God or Supreme Being, since Ishvara has become synonymous with Lord Shiva in recent times, these forms of linga have become associated with Lord Shiva, and obviously sectarian beliefs would prevent other devotees to depict their form of God in the same way. – Sai Jan 16 '15 at 22:05
  • Shiva was preached as destroyer only. Shivites depicted him in form of Penis(Linga) with thought that he is creator too. Shiva creates, Shiva Destroyes – fatherazrael Sep 12 '15 at 21:07
  • Shivalinga is the form of God in its totality, the only, what Hindus call paramasivam, male and female energy in constant orgasm, it is an expression, shivalinga and Shiva are different. – user4266 Dec 1 '15 at 3:41
  • If you are satisfied with one of the answers, consider accepting it. – The Destroyer May 17 '17 at 5:06

10 Answers 10

22

I am giving an additional account. The linga form of worship is the symbolic worship of Lord Shiva. As per Puranas like Brahmanda purana, Linga Purana, in the very beginning Shiva appeared to Brahma and Vishnu in the form of a bright splendor column of light whose beginning and end they both could not find out. So the linga form of Shiva also signifies the column of bright light. This account was narrated by the sage Sūta when other sages asked him about the origin of the linga:

kathaṃ liṃgamabhūlliṃge samabhyarcyaḥ sa śaṃkaraḥ
kiṃ liṃgaṃ kastathā liṃgī sūta vaktumihārhasi
[LP - 17.2]

Meaning
How can there be linga of God who is alingi (without linga). How the linga of Shankara is worshipped? What is linga and what is lingi? O Suta, please tell us these.

Then Sūta goes on to narrate how Brhama had earlier given answers to the same questions to the gods. The linga form of Siva had appeared before the beginning of creation at the time when Vishnu and Brahma were engaged in arguments:

etasminnantare liṃgamabhavaccāvayoḥ puraḥ
vivādaśamanārthaṃ hi prabodhārthaṃ ca bhāsvaram
jvālāmālāsahasrāḍhyaṃ kālānalaśatopamam
kṣayavṛddhivinirmuktamādimadhyāṃtavarjitam
[LP - 17.33,34]

Meaning
Then after that a bright linga appeared between both of us to counsel our arguments. That linga was surrounded by thousands of flames and hot like fire of death. Without any beginning and end, that was free from decay and growth.

So apart from the commonly known reason of the linga worship, this is another account we find in our scriptures.

  • When there was no beginning and end then how can you say it was in Linga Form? It could be a cyclone, Road, Try anything but not linga – Ali Adravi May 9 '18 at 21:16
18

First of all the real name is not Shiva Linga, The real name is Jyotirlingam.

It is a form of Jyoti. Jyoti is a fire, whose shape is exactly the shape of lingam.

Question is why lingam for only shiva?

"Shiva appeared in jyotirlingam form to solve dispute of Brahma and Vishnu" so for shiva, jyotirlingam is not full truth.

We need to put focus more on Shiva's actual form to understand this answer, which is "Nirguna" according to Rigveda and Shiva maha purana.

Shiva gave his introduction to Vishnu and Brahma

Gyan Swaroopam Shivohm Shivohm (Brahma)
Neejanand swaroopam Shivohm Shivohm (Vishnu)
Prakash Swaroopam Shivohm Shivohm (Mahesh- Shiva's 3rd eye)

On hearing this both Brahma and Vishnu prayed to Shiva to appear so that they can see him. Shiva appeared in Jyotirlingam form, this jyoti was a fire of love.

The 12 Jyotirlingam are 12 Jyotirstambha of Shiva. Shiva is the only deity who is accepted as "Neerakar Nerguna Brahm".

The origin of word "Aadi" came into existence because for anything's existence we have time based exam. Nobody knows the origin of time because nobody exactly existed to check Shiva's origin.

So, when Vishnu came to know about Shiva's introduction Vishnu explained that Shiva is actually a seed, Shiva is a seed and whatever we see is a tree originated from that seed -> That is "Lingam".

From The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva -> Veda Vyasa Mahabharata

The blessed Vishnu said: "I salute Mahadeva. Salutations to Thee. O Thou that art eternal origin of all things. The Rishis say that Thou art the Lord of the Vedas. The righteous say that Thou art Penance, Thou art Sattwa, Thou art Rajas, Thou art Tamas, and Thou art truth.

Vishnu himself said "Shiva is eternal origin of ..." That's why Shiva linga is seed and Whatever we see it is just a tree from that seed.

It is origin. Shiva is originator so Shiva is worshiped in the form of Jyotirlinam.

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    Nice answer. Can you post a link to that quote from Anusasana Parva? – Chinmay Sarupria Dec 1 '15 at 4:10
14

This question can be answered into two aspects:

1) Why is Linga form worshipped ?
2) Why is Shiva primarily worshipped in Linga form ?

1) Why is Linga form worshipped ?

Among the 18 major Mahapuranas one of the Purana is named Linga Purana, thus glorifying the status of Linga.

Linga is worshipped because Linga contains everything of this world. In the Linga Purana [part 2 chapter 46], once sages have debate regarding why Linga form is worshipped. Then Goddess Saraswati comes there and states this fact:

अथांतरिक्षे विपुला साक्षाद्देवी सरस्वती ।
अलं मुनीनां प्रश्नोऽयमिति वाचा बभूव ह ।।
सर्वं लिंगमयं लोकं सर्वं लिंगे प्रतिष्ठितम् ।
तस्मात्सर्वं परित्यज्य स्थापयेत्पूजयेच्च तत् ।।

May the questions of the sages stop. The whole world is identical with the Linga. Everything is found on the Linga. Hence, one shall eschew everything, install the Linga and worship it.

Goddess Saraswati also states all Gods are situated in a Linga. She states:

स्वेषुस्वेषु च पक्षेषु प्रदानास्ते यथा द्विजाः |
ब्रह्मा हरश्च भगवान्विष्णुर्देवी रमा धरा ।।
लक्ष्मीर्धृति: स्मृति: प्रज्ञा धरा दुर्गा शची तथा ।
रुद्राश्च वसव: स्कन्दो विशाख: शाख यव च ।।
नैगमेशश्च भगवाँल्लोकपाला ग्रहास्तथा ।
सर्वे नंदिपुरोगाश्च गणा गणपति: प्रभु: ।।
पितरो मुनय: सर्वे कुबेराद्याश्च सुप्रभा: ।
आदित्या वसव: सांख्या अश्चिनौ च भिषग्वरौ ।।
विश्वेदेवाश्व साध्याश्च पशव: पक्षिणों मृगा:।
ब्रह्मादिस्थावरांतं च सर्वं लिंगे प्रतिष्ठितम् ।।
तस्मात्सर्वं परित्यज्य स्थापयेल्लिंगमव्ययम् ।
यत्नेन स्थापितं सर्वं पूजितं पूजयेद्यदि ।।

All the deities like Brahma, śiva, Earth, Lakshmi, dhṛti, smṛti, prajñā, durgā, śacī, Rudra, Vasu, Skanda, viśākha, śākha, naigameśa, dikapalakās(guardians of the directions), the planets, gaṇās, nandī, Ganapati, pitṛ gaṇās, ṛṣis , kubera, āditya, sāṃkhya, aśvinīkumārās- the best of the physicians, viśvadevās, sādhyās , paśus, birds and animals, besides all the mobile and immobiles, starting from Brahma are established in the linga. Therefore, leaving aside everything, linga should be consecrated. After consecrating it with all the efforts, incase, one adores the shivalinga, then he gets adorable by all.

Thus as every Gods are situated in Linga it is highly auspicious to worship Linga. Trinities are situated in Linga and it is also stated in the next chapter ie. [Part 2 chapter 47] of Linga Purana:

मूले ब्रह्मा वसति भगवान्मध्यभागे च विष्णु: ।
सर्वेशानः पशुपतिरजो रुद्रमूर्तिर्वरेण्यः ।।

Lord Brahma resides at the root, Lord Vishnu in the middle. The lord of all unborn Pasupati in the form of Rudra resides at the top.

Thus as Godesses Saraswati herself state "Sarva Linge Pratisthitam" ie. "Everything is situated in Linga". So, worship of Linga is highly auspicious and hence Linga form is worshipped.

2) Why is Shiva primarily worshipped in Linga form ?

Now, here comes this question. Other Gods and Godesses are worshipped in idol form whereas why Shiva is worshipped primarily in Linga form?

It is related with the inseparable relation of Shiva and Shakti and linga form represents it. The relationship of Uma and Maheswara is like that of word and meaning. It is illustrated in Vayaviya samhita Shiva Purana, Shiva-Shakti Vibhuti chapter:

शब्दजालमशेषं तु धत्ते सर्वस्य वल्लभा ।
अर्थस्वरुपमखिलं धत्ते मुग्धेन्दुशेखरः ।।

The beloved  of Shiva (Uma) is in the form of words. The moon crested Lord (Maheswara) is in the form of meaning of those words.

So, just as meaning is formless and it gets manifested through words. In the similar way formless Shiva gets manifested through Shakti. The same chapter also states:

एवं परस्परापेक्षा शक्तिशक्तिमतोः स्थिता ।
न शिवेन विना शक्तिर्न शक्त्या च विना शिवः ।।

There is mutual dependence between Shakti and Shaktiman. There is no Shakti without Shiva and no Shiva without Shakti.

The inseparable relationship of Shiva and Shakti is also shown by image or idol form of ArdhaNarishwara form. However Linga form is the only form which establishes word-meaning relationship. It is because formless Shiva gets manifested in Linga form through the base of Shakti. It is shown in Linga Purana [part 2 chapter 47]:

विशोध्य स्थापत्येद्भक्त्या सवेदिकमनुत्तमम् ।
लिंगवेदी उमा देवी लिंगं साक्षान् महेश्वर ।।

The Devotee shall clean Linga along with the pedestal and then devoutly install it. The pedestal of the Linga is Godess Uma and the Linga is Maheswara himself.

Thus as pedestal of Linga is Uma/ Shakti herself, thus it establishes inseparable Shiva-Shakti relationship. It shows that Nirguna Shiva gets manifested as the base of Shakti. So as it represents the Nirguna aspect, Shiva Purana [Videysavara samhita chapter 5] states:

रुपित्वात्सकलस्तद्वत्तस्मात्सकलनिष्कल ।
निष्कलत्त्वान्निराकारं लिंगं तस्य समागतम् ।।

He is also Sakala as he has an embodied form. He is both Sakala and Niskala (formless/Nirguna). It is in his Niskala aspect that the Linga is appropriate as it represents formless aspect.

And it also denotes the infiniteness of Linga as stated by Vyasa in Drona Parva [Chapter 202] of Mahabharata:

दहत्यूर्ध्वं स्थितो यच्म प्राणेत्पतिस्थितश्चयत् ।
स्थितलिङ्गस्य पन्नित्यं तस्मात्स्थाणुरिति स्मृतः ।।

Since he is great and ancient and is the source of the life and it's continuence and since his Linga form is everlasting, he is for that reason called Sthanu.

So, Lord Shiva is primarily worshipped in Linga form because it is the only form which establishes inseparable relationship of Shiva-Shakti, it represents manifestation of Nirguna in Saguna form and Linga is identical with the Universe itself and it  represents infinity too. Thus it is best to worship Lord Shiva in Linga form.

Misconceptions:

Here are also answers which state Lord Shiva is primarily worshipped in Linga form due to curse of Sage Bhrigu. It is wrong because Lord Shiva is worshipped in Linga form from time beginning.

Curse of Bhrigu took place in recent Kaliyuga while Lord Shiva is worshipped in Linga form much much before that.

For eg. Rama worshipped Lord Shiva in Linga form. It is stated in Padma Purana [Patala Khanda chapter 104] and Lord Rama himself states it as:

विभिषणः कथमसौबद्धः श्रृंखलयानृभि: ।
मत्स्थापितंशिवलिङ्गंदृष्ट्वारामेश्वरंत्वहो ।।

Oh, how is it that Vibhisana seeing the Linga of Shiva, (called) Ramesvara and installed by me, is bound with chains.

And most importantly, curse of Bhrigu took place in this Kaliyuga, whereas there is a Mahapurana named Linga Purana which is among 18 Mahapuranas which is fully related with worship, origin, importance of Lingas and it is not that Vyasa wrote this Purana after curse by Bhrigu.

So, it is not due to curse of Bhrigu. Lord Shiva is always worshipped primarily in Linga form from time beginning.

The establishment of 12 Jyotirlinga:

Somanath Jyotirlinga, Mallikarjuna Jyotirlinga, Mahakala Jyotirlinga, Omkareshwara Jyotirlinga, Kedareshwara Jyotirlinga, Bhimashankara Jyotirlinga, Visveswara Jyotirlinga, Trayambakeshwara Jyotirlinga, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Nageswara Jyotirlinga, Rameshwara Jyotirlinga, Ghusmeshwara Jyotirlinga

All Jyotirlingas were established in Linga form from the time of their establishment. They took much and much before curse of Bhrigu. Some took place even before birth of Parvati. For eg. Moon God established Somanath Linga during the time of Daksha Prajapati when he curses Moon God. Similarly Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga is related during the period of Ravana. And similarly all Jyotirlinga were established already before curse of Bhrigu.

Moreover Skanda Purana describes more than 108 Shiva lingas which were already established before curse of Bhrigu. Shiva Purana also states about Lingas like:

Rudresvara linga, Bhuteshwara linga, Bhimeshwara linga, Guptesvara linga, Vatukeswara linga, Kumareswara linga, Kameswara linga, Nadiswara linga, etc.. etc... so much

And these all were established in Linga form the beginning ie. Lord Shiva manifested himself as Linga form in those places. It is not that someone changed the image/idol from there and established Linga after curse of Bhrigu.

Thus it clearly shows that Lord Shiva was worshipped in Linga form from time beginning and it is not due to curse of Bhrigu.

Mahabharat also clearly states Lord Shiva to be worshipped in Linga form (and it is also before curse of Bhrigu). Lord Krishna in Anushasana Parva Dana Dharma section and Vyasa in Drona Parva[chapter 202] state the same thing:

ऋषयश्चैव देवाश्च गन्धर्वात्सरसस्तथा ।
लिङ्गमस्यार्चयन्ति स्म तच्मात्यूर्ध्वं समास्थितम् ।।

The Rishis, the Gods, the Gandharvas and Apsaras, always worship the Linga form which is supposed to stand upright.

Thus from the above facts it is ridiculous to say that Linga worship started after curse of Bhrigu. Curse of Bhrigu may have created only some coincidental circumstances. That's it only. Lord Shiva is worshipped in Linga form from time beginning.

Finally,

Worshipping of Linga is highly auspicious as it contains all Gods and Goddesses, as it is identical with the Universe itself, as it represents the Nirguna Brahman, as it represents inseparable relation of Shiva-Shakti.

Lord Krishna in Anushashana Parva Dana Dharma section and Vyasa in Drona Parva [Chapter 202] states;

पूजयेद्विग्रहं यस्तु लिङ्ग वापि समर्चयेत् ।
लिङ्ग पूजयिता नित्यं महतीं श्रियमश्रुत ।।

He who adoreth Linga form of that high souled God, always obtained prosperity by that act.

And worship of Shiva Linga is in accordance with the Shruti/ Vedas. Taittariya Aranyaka of YajurVeda in 10.16.2 states:

भवाय नमः । भवलिङ्गाय नमः ।।
शर्वाय नमः । शर्वलिङ्गाय नमः ।।
शिवाय नमः । शिवलिङ्गाय नमः ।।
ज्वलाय नमः । ज्वललिङ्गाय नमः ।।

Salutation to Bhava and Salutations to Linga of Bhava. Salutations to Sarva and Salutations to Linga of Sarva. Salutations to Shiva and Salutations to Linga of Shiva. Salutations to your form of fire and Salutations to the Linga of fire.

  • it is phallus or not ? – Rakesh Joshi Jun 16 '17 at 7:36
  • @Ajay Well, after some days I'm going to answer a question related to this... wait for it... 😀😀 I'll try to clear all misconceptions about Linga there... – Tejaswee Jul 8 '17 at 16:23
  • @Tezz Are you clear? How do you defend when someone say you are a dick worshiper? – user9554 Jul 11 '17 at 18:03
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    @Ajay you should not follow Hinduism to defend.. following Hinduism is for self-realisation. It's for knowing the inner Purusha. It's for knowing the Brahaman. Who doesn't believe comes with his self imaginary loop holes. Anyway I'm not interested in convincing anyone for anything. I just write so that true seeker gets some benefits by reading my answer. I just said true seeker. And I again said true seeker. Again I told true seeker. True seeker. Jijnasa (true curiosity). Athato Brahman jijnasa.. athato Dharma jijnasa... athato Yoganusandhanam... curiosity.. curiosity... curiosity to know... – Tejaswee Jul 11 '17 at 18:34
  • So, what does a Shiva linga represent? – user9554 Jul 11 '17 at 18:56
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This excerpt from the Uttara Kanda of the Padma Purana recounts the story of how Shiva worship came to be restricted to the linga. A group of sages were once conducting a yagna (ritual) on the banks of the Saraswati river, when they started to wonder which god to dedicate the ritual to. So they sent sage Bhrigu (famous for his short temper) to test which god out of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva was most worthy. When he went to Mount Kailash to test Shiva, Nandi (Shiva's bull) prevented Bhrigu from meeting Shiva, because Shiva and Parvati were engaged in amorous pursuits at the time. Enraged by this disrespect, Bhrigu put a curse on Shiva that from then onwards he could only be worshipped in the form of a linga. (By the way, if you're interested Vishnu was the one who ultimately won the test, although it had major ramifications that led to the story of Tirupati Balaji, AKA Venkateshwara.)

EDIT: Dharmaputhiran points out that the Wikipedia article about Venkateshwara I linked to claims that according to the Tirumala Sthala Purana (the temple scripture of the Tirupati temple), Shiva was actually engaged in deep meditation when Brighu visited him. But Wikipedia is wrong about this; this excerpt from the Tirumala Sthala Purana shows that Shiva and Parvati were engaged in amorous pursuits at the time, just as the excerpt I gave from the Padma Purana says.

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    amorous pursuits? The Tirupati Balaji link you've given says that Shiva was absorbed in deep meditation when Bhrigu visited him. – Dharmaputhiran Jul 4 '14 at 9:23
  • @Dharmaputhiran I based my answer on the excerpt I gave from the Uttara Kanda of the Padma Purana, not on the Wikipedia article on Venkateshwara. But in any case, I just edited my answer to include an excerpt from G.V. Chalapathi Rao's translation of the Tirumala Sthala Purana that shows that the Wikipedia article is wrong. – Keshav Srinivasan Jul 7 '14 at 0:53
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    ha ha! nice for pointing out how online sources like wikipedia can not be always trusted. – Be Happy Jul 7 '14 at 4:24
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    @AnilKumar Brahma didn't create Shiva, it was Shiva who created both Brahma and Vishnu. – Chinmay Sarupria Nov 2 '15 at 6:08
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    @ChinmaySarupria i didn't say Brahma created Shiva (there's comma), Brahma created species and he had a trouble how to replicate them. Then Shiva separated his Shakti and gave it to species. When Brahma asked Shiva to create, Shiva created people like him "RUDRAS". And even Vaishnava Puranas say Brahma created RUDRA and thus they are in accordance with Shaiva Puranas – The Destroyer Nov 2 '15 at 6:24
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I will try to answer the question what exactly Shiva Linga means. Hopefully this will answer your question as well.

I am copy-pasting from a blog I wrote about Shiva Linga-

Shiva Linga means “Shiva’s Symbol”. Here Shiva refers to Para-Brahman. Adi Shankara defines the word Shiva as “the very nature of Chit & Anand”. Hence, Shiva refers to Para-Brahman, who is One without a second, without form and without attributes. And this Nirguna Brahman is worshiped through a symbol- the Linga. Further, the Linga is not only a Symbol of Para-Brahman, it is Brahman itself. Linga Purana says “Lingas sakshaan Maheshwarah”. In other-words, Shiva Linga is Para-Brahman itself which is available as Linga (Saguna Brahman) for worship.

The Shiva Linga can be divided into two portions-

  1. The vertical Shaft that is called as Linga

  2. The Horizontal Platform that is called as Yoni or Adishtana

There are broadly three ways in which the symbolism of Linga and Yoni and their mutual relationship can be understood-

  1. The more popular understanding is that, the Yoni or pedastal represents Shakti and the Linga/Shaft represents Shiva- “linga vedi mahadevi lingam sakshat maheshwarah”. Hence, Shiva Linga denotes the Union of Shiva-Shakti or Purusha-Prakriti. Hence, Shiva-Linga as a whole is Para-Brahman itself who is depicted in his Saguna aspect as Shiva & Shakti in Cosmic Union.

  2. According to another interpretation, the Shaft/Linga portion is called as “Rudra Bhaga”, the Adhishtana portion is called as Vishnu Bhaga and the portion hidden below the Pedastal is called as Brahma-Bhaga. Hence, Shiva-Linga as a whole represents Para-Brahman itself which manifests as the trinity in Saguna aspect. Upanishads say that the Universe is born out of Brahman, is sustained in Brahman and finally dissolves in Brahman. Hence, Shiva Linga represents Para-Brahman who is creator (Brahma), sustainer (Vishnu) & destroyer (Rudra) of Universe. Linga purana also says that “layanaal lingam ity uktam”.

  3. The third interpretation is a Samkhyan interpretation. According to this view, “Linga” is another name for Prakriti or Pradhana. Hence, the Shaft/Linga represents Prakriti and the Adhishtana represents Purusha. This Purusha is called as “Lingin”- the bearer/supporter of Linga/Prakriti. In Vedanta, the Prakriti is called “Maya” and is described as “Ishwara-Aashrita” i.e. supported by Ishwara. Hence, Shiva Linga as a whole represents Para-Brahman in Saguna aspect as Purusha who is bearer of Prakriti or Shiva/Ishwara who is bearer of Shakti/Maya. The Shaft portion signifies that the whole Universe which is Prakriti is born out of & sustained in Brahman, who is the substratum of Universe.

Hence, in all three interpretations, the imagery of Shiva-Linga represents Para-Brahman who is Nirguna & beyond perception but has himself manifested as Linga- a perceivable form (i.e. as Saguna). It is to be noted that the interpretation of Linga=Phallus and Yoni=Vagina has practical application only in certain Tantric Sadhanas like Shiva lata mudra. In such Sadhanas, the Sadhaka self identifies himself with Bhairava & his partner with Bhairavi. And their Sexual Union leads to Samadhi. Only in such Sadhana, that the first symbolism of Cosmic Union of Shiva & Shakti translates practically into Sexual Union of Bhairava & Bhairavi.

Link to the blogpost- nithinsridhar

4

I am giving rough translation from Hindi Version of Shiva Mahapuran as published by Geeta press here.

Sages said:- Everywhere the deities are worshipped only in their image. How is that Shiva is worshipped both in the image and the linga?

Suta said:- O sages, this question is holy and wondrous. Here the speaker is Siva Himself and not any ordinary person. I shall tell you what Shiva Himself had said and what I heard from my own preceptor. Shiva alone is Niskala (nameless and formless) since He is identical with supreme Brahman. He is also Sakala as He has an embodied form. He is both Sakala and Niskala. It is his Niskala aspect that the Linga is appropriate. In the Sakala aspect the worship of His embodied form is appropriate. Since He has the Sakala and Niskala aspects He is worshipped both in the linga and in the embodied form by the people and is called the highest Brahman. Other deities, not being Brahman, have no Niskala aspect anywhere. Hence the deities are not worshipped in the formless linga symbol. The other deities are both non-Brahman and individual souls. In view of their being embodied alone they are worshipped solely in the bodily form. Sankara has Brahmatatva and the others Jivatva. This has been explained in the meaning of the Pranava (Om), the essence of Vedanta, by Nandikesvara when asked by Sanatkumara, the intelligent son of Brahma, at the mountain Mandara.

Sanatkumara said:- The embodied form alone is observed in the worship of the deities other than Shiva. But both the Linga and the embodied forms are seen only in the worship of Shiva. Hence O benevolent one, please tell me precisely making me understand the truth.

Nandikeshvara said:- It is impossible to answer the question without revealing the secret of Brahman. O sinless one, since you are pious I shall tell you what Shiva Himself has said. Since Shiva has the bodiless aspect in virtue of His being Supreme Brahman, the Nisakal Lingam, in conformity with the Vedic implication, is used only in His worship. Since He has an embodied form as well, His embodied form is also worshipped and accepted by all people. According to the decision done in the Vedas, the embodied form alone is to be used in the worship of other deities who are individual souls embodied. Devas have only the embodied aspect in their manifestation. In sacred literature, both the Linga and the embodied forms are mentioned for Shiva.

Lord Shiva said:- Since the Linga rose high resembling a mountain of fire, this shall be famous as Arunachal (Aruna, means “first light or first fire” and Achal, means “mountain”) mountains. Many holy centers will spring up here. A residence or death in this holy place ensures liberation.

I have two forms : the manifest and the unmanifest. Dear sons, first in the form of the column of fire and afterwards in this embodied form I have expounded to you my formless Brhman-hood and embodied Ishwar-hood.

I am the Supreme Brahman. My form is both manifest and unmanifest in view of Brahman-hood and Ishvatva. My duty is blessing etc., O Brahma and Vishnu, I am Brahman because of Brhatva(huge size) and Brmhanatva(causing to grow).O children,similarly I am atman due to Samatva(equality) and Vyapakatva (pervasiveness). There are five activities in respect of the universe beginning with Anugraha(liberation) and ending with Sarga(creation). Therefore, these activities devolve on me because I am Ishwara and not on anyone else.

enter image description here Arunachal or Mountain of first Fire/Light

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Agni Linga/Mountain of Fire

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Swayambhu(self-formed) Linga at Amarnath

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The Linga form is believed to be introduced by Lord Shiva himself, to settle the dispute among Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. This is a brief narration of the incident that jabahar has mentioned in his answer.

Once, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma were fighting over each other's supremacy. Worried by the intense fight between them, Shiva decided to make them realize the futility of their fight. He took the form of a flaming pillar (linga) between Brahma and Vishnu, challenging both of them to measure the gigantic Linga. They accepted the challenge and decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other.

Vishnu took the form of a Varaha (boar) and went into the earth (patala loka) to find the bottom end of the Linga. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and flew up to find the top end of the Linga. Even after a very long journey, they were not able to find the end of the Linga.

On his way upward, the exhausted Brahma met a Ketaki flower which fell from the Linga. Brahma got the flower to agree to support his claim of having seen the top of the Linga. Then Brahma descended and met Vishnu and lied to him that he has reached the top. As agreed, the Ketaki flower also supported Brahma's claim.

The unethical act of Brahma enraged Lord Shiva and he appeared with his full glory from the central part of the pillar. Overawed by Lord Shiva's magnificence, Vishnu and Brahma bowed before him. However, the enraged Shiva cursed Brahma, that would never be worshipped nor would he have any temples. Shiva also banned Ketaki flower from being used in any worship as an offering to the gods. Shiva, impressed by Vishnu's perseverance, granted him a status equal to that of himself.

Since Lord Shiva manifested himself in the Linga form, Shiva is widely worshipped as a Lingam.

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This question was asked in Shiva Purana, Vidyesvarasamhita, Chapter 5. The answer, after removing the sectarian claims, is that the Saivites use the linga form to signify nameless and formless aspects of the deity.

I am posting the quote (I changed the word phallus into the more appropriate linga):

Sages said:- 8. Everywhere the deities are worshipped only in their image. How is that Siva is worshipped both in the image and the linga?

Suta said:- 9. O sages, this question is holy and wondrous. Here the speaker is Siva Himself and not any ordinary person. 10. I shall tell you what Siva Himself had said and what I heard from my own preceptor. Siva alone is Niskala (nameless and formless) since He is identical with supreme Brahman. 11. He is also Sakala as He has an embodied form. He is both Sakala and Niskala. It is his Niskala aspect that the Linga is appropriate. 12-13. In the Sakala aspect the worship of His embodied form is appropriate. Since He has the Sakala and Niskala aspects He is worshipped both in the linga and in the embodied form by the people and is called the highest Brahman. Other deities, not being Brahman, have no Niskala aspect anywhere. 14. Hence the deities are not worshipped in the formless linga symbol. The other deities are both non-Brahman and individual souls. 15. In view of their being embodied alone they are worshipped solely in the bodily form. Sankara has Brahmatatva and the others Jivatva. 16. This has been explained in the meaning of the Pranava (Om), the essence of Vedanta, by Nandikesvara when asked by Sanatkumara, the intelligent son of Brahma, at the mountain Mandara.

  • Your answer has become a subset of Ravi J's answer. However he posted just recently, while yours was quite early. – iammilind Mar 24 '16 at 14:07
  • Is it written in the Shiva Purana that if a girl worship Linga, she will get good husband? – user9554 Jul 11 '17 at 18:05
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The word "Lingam" or "Linga" means "Symbol." 'Siva," in addition to other meanings, means "Great." Thus, "Sivalingam" means "Great Symbol."

Sivalingams are found in both Saiva and Vaishnava Temples. Mostly, it is either a circular base part with a cylindrical upright stump in the centre or a square with a cylindrical upright stump at the centre. In both cases, combined figure symbolizes "the Middle Path.

"The Middle Path is the fundamental philosophy of Buddhism. It is the Buddhist Dhamma. Here a question may be asked: What has "the Middle Path" to do with Siva and Vishnu? Actually both Siva and Vishnu are the imaginary creations based on Buddha and his Preaching!

To understand this, one must have a thorough knowledge on Symbolization and Symbolization of Buddha and Buddhism. Vishnu holds a conch by his left hand and rotates a circular disc by his right forefinger. What do these two symbolize severally and jointly? Our "learned" will come with something told in Puranas!

A conch makes sound that could be heard by everyone without any discrimination. Therefore a conch could symbolize making a public announcement or preaching something to all. Now the question arises as what is preached by Vishnu.

The answer is given by the rotating circular disc. A circular disc rotated by the forefinger symbolizes the Middle Path. Therefore Vishnu is a person who preached the Middle Path to all. Again a question arises as what type of person Vishnu is. Vishnu has a "U' mark placed symmetrically above his nose.

This also symbolizes Middle Path. Therefore Vishnu is a one who adheres to the Muddle Path and Preaches others to practice the Middle Path. Buddha was the only person who adhered to the Middle Path and preached all to practice the Middle Path. Therefore Vishnu is an imaginary creation based on Buddha and Buddhism!

Likewise Siva also carries a hand drum, Tri-suula and burning flame. He has Triple stripe on his forehead. Hand drum sumbolizes preaching something to all. Tri - Suula has its two outer limbs curved outside pointing the opposite directions.

The muddle one is straight. Therefore Tri - suula symbolizes the Middle Path. Burning flame symbolizes light or Enlightenment. The Triple stripe also symbolizes the Middle Path. Therefore Siva is also a person who adheres to the Middle Path and Preach the Middle Path to all that produces Enlightenment! Thus, Siva is also an imaginary creation based on Buddha and Buddhism.

So the Sivalingams could be placed in bith Saiva and Vaishnava Temples. In the Vaishnava temples of Ariyaluur, Kaaramadau, Mondippaalayam, Thirumarugalin South India, we find Sivalingams.

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    Welcome to Hinduism SE! you should cite sources for your answer. – The Destroyer Oct 30 '15 at 9:39
  • Worship of Shiva , as a Yogi,and His Vahana, the Bull ,predates Buddhism.These images are found in Indus valley Civilization,which existed between 2500 BC to 2000 BC .<br/> The symbols of Linga and Yoni , are much older . These are worshipped as the God & Goddess of Fertility ,by aboriginal tribes ,all over the World---representing Sexual Intercourse.<br> Philosophical meanings , have been assigned to these Symbols , by different Civilizations ,at different times.<br/> Will Durant , has studied these aspects in his book--The History of Civilizations.<br/>Ref. also-Carl Jung – b.sahu Mar 23 '16 at 19:29
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Worship of Shiva , as a Yogi,and His Vahana, the Bull ,predates Buddhism.These images are found in Indus valley Civilization,which existed between 2500 BC to 2000 BC .
The symbols of Linga and Yoni , are much older . These are worshipped as the God & Goddess of Fertility ,by aboriginal tribes ,all over the World---representing Sexual Intercourse.
Philosophical meanings , have been assigned to these Symbols , by different Civilizations ,at different times.
Will Durant , has studied these aspects in his book--The History of Civilizations.
Carl Jung – the Psychologist,has studied the meanings of different Religious Symbols and their inspirational values.
One explanation,that I heard in a religious discourse ,linked it to the Adwaita Vedanta. Adwaita , means literally--not Two.So it is one (or/and) zero .
The Linga is the sybol of one .The cross section is a circle ,representing zero.
GOD is either ONE or ZERO ( Sunya or Space)

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