Maha Shivaratri Festival

Traditional Story of Shiva Linga | Shiva Lingam History | Lingam Physical Shape

Lingodbhava Murthy or the legend of Shiva Linga is highly related to Maha Shivaratri. It reveals the story of the search done by Brahma and Vishnu to search the Aadi (beginning) and the Antha (end) of Shiva. Lingodbhava Murthy thus proved to be the supremacy of Lord Mahadeva above all the other gods and tells why the lingam is one of the most potential emblems of Hindu ideals. Three Puranas are being used to state the story which are the kurma Purana, the Vayu Purana and the Shiva Purana.

Shiva Linga Legend:

As per the written statements in Puranas, there was a time when there are two triads of the Hindu, as the Puranas go, God Brahma and God Vishnu once got into an argument about each other’s powers. When the fight was intense other Gods worried and sought Lord Shiva’s help. To show them the futility of their fight Lord Shiva took the form of a flaming Linga in between both Gods and challenged them to measure the gigantic phallic symbol of Lord Shiva.

Awestruck seeing the magnitude, Sri Brahma and Sri Maha Vishnu decided to find one end each to prove their powers, taking the forms of a swan and Varaha (a boar) respectively. Neither could find the end even after traveling thousands of miles.

Exhausted and bewildered with his search to find the uppermost limit of the fiery column Lord Brahma made flower Ketaki lie that he had seen the top of the column where the flower had previously resided. Later, he confronted Sri Vishnu and shared his success in finding the origin of the cosmic column. Right then, Lord Shiva pierced himself out of the central pillar revealing his omnipresence. Surrendering to the glorious sight both Brahma and Vishnu bowed to the Supreme soul accepting the greatness. Lord Shiva explained how both Brahma and Vishnu were born out of him and the three were separated into different aspects of divinity.

Agitated by Brahma’s false claims, Lord Shiva cursed him so that nobody would ever pray to him. This is why there are hardly any temples of Lord Brahma. Ketaki flower was also punished for falsely testifying and for supporting the lie. Lord Shiva banned her from being offered to any God for worship.

It was the 14th day in the dark fortnight of Phalguna month, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Lingam for the first time. Thus, the day is extremely auspicious and is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri (The grand night of Shiva) ever since. On this special day, devotees fast during the day and pray throughout the night for prosperity and happiness.

Shiva Lingam Meaning

Shiva Linga and its Physical Shape:

Physically, the Shiva Linga in this context is quite different from that of Hindu tradition. It is an egg-shaped stone of brown shades that is gathered from the Narmada River in the sacred Mardhata mountains. Polished to a high sheen, locals sell these stones to spiritual seekers all over the world. They can vary in size from one-half an inch in length to several feet. The markings are said to represent those found on Lord Shiva’s forehead.

Those who use the Shiva Lingam see in it a symbol of fertility: the phallus representing the male and the egg the female. Together, they represent the fundamental creation of life and of Nature itself as well as a fundamental spiritual balance.

The Lingam stones are used in meditation, carried with the person throughout the day, or used in healing ceremonies and rituals.

What Shiva Lingam Means:

The origin of the lingam has been described in Shiva Purana in its first section of the Vidyeshwar Samhita. Shiva-linga has been described as a beginningless and endless cosmic pillar of fire which is the root cause of all causes. It never has an end or a beginning. It symbolizes superiority over all gods like Brahma (God of origin) and Sri Vishnu (God of welfare). According to the Linga Purana, it is symbolized as the cosmic pillar signifying the infinite nature of Shiva. It is the representation of a tasteless, formless and odorless Universe Bearer. It is an oval-shaped structure that resembles the entire universe, and its lower part resembles the supreme power base that supports the entire universe.

According to the Skanda Purana, it is described as “The endless sky (that great void which contains the whole universe) is the Linga, the Earth is its base. At the end of time, the entire universe and all gods finally merge into the Linga itself. According to yogic tradition, it is described as “the first form that arises when creation occurs, and also the last form before creation dissolves”.

The meaning of Shiva Ling varies according to the uses, marks, signs and characteristics of gender. Some of the meanings are given as:

  • It is a mark, token, sign, emblem, badge, symbol, distinguishing mark and characteristic.
  • It is an unreal mark, an appearance, a disguise, a deceptive symbol.
  • It is proof or evidence, a sign of gender or sex and the male organ of the generation.
  • It is a genital organ of the Lord Siva (which means phallus) or an image of a god means an idol.
  • It is a subtle frame or body and an indestructible form of the visible body.
  • It is a creator and destructor of the universe.

Shiva Lingam and 5 Elements:

In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, 5 Shiva lingams represent the five main elements of nature; Water, Air, Ether, Fire and Earth. They are called “Pancha Bhoota Sthalas”. “Pancha” means five, “Bhoota” means elements and “Sthalas” means place. Those temples are:

  1. EARTH: Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar Temple, Tamil Nadu
  2. WATER: Tiruchirapalli Tiruvanaikovil Arulmigu Jambukeswarar Akilandeswari Temple/Jambukeswara Temple, Tamil Nadu
  3. FIRE: Tiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple/Annamalaiyar Temple, Tamil Nadu
  4. AIR/WIND: Sri Kalahasti Sri Kalahastheeswara Swami Temple, Andhra Pradesh
  5. ETHER/SKY: Chidambaram Thillai Nataraja Temple, Tamil Nadu

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