Lord Shiva as a Phallic Symbol: Shiv Lingam
What does the Phallus symbolize?
The phallus has been regarded as a symbol of power and fertility by many cultures around the world. Pagan religions in Europe right from the times of the ancient Greek civilizations have worshipped the phallus in many forms. In the Indian subcontinent and specifically within the Hindu cosmology the phallus is accorded the position of divinity and the one God unmistakably associated with the phallus is Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva as a phallic symbol is known as the Shiva Linga and is widely worshipped across India in this form. The Shivling is typically represented in a state of union with the Yoni or the female reproductive part. Vedic hymns are chanted as elaborate rituals are observed in worshipping the phallic Shiva.
Are there any other form of Lord Shiva that is equally Phallic?
Lord Shiva is also worshipped in the form of Jyotir Lingas that are spread far and wide around India. The first arrival of Lord Shiva is also recorded in the Puranas where it is said that Mahadeva appeared in the form of a brightly glowing column of flame that pierced the three realms of earth, heaven and paatal and supposedly stretched on both ends without any limits. The significance of the twelve jyotir lingas of Lord Shiva are enumerated in the legends surrounding each of the twelve sites where they are located but one common concept is seen prevalent in all of these sites. They essentially represent the physical existence of Lord Shanakar in each of these spots. It is important to realize that these cannot be thought of as stand-ins of Lord Shiva. It is believed that Lord Shiva actually makes these places his abode simultaneously. This concept ties up with the omnipresent attributes Lord Shiva is accorded.
The most important factor one must keep in mind while trying to understand the phallic representation of Lord Shiva is one that takes into account some amount of historic relevance alongside mythological significations. All the Jyotir Lingas and Shiva Lingas are located in the heart of cities that were once metropolitan centres of economic and political power. Chief among them, Varanasi, popularly known as the town of Kaashi, continues to be a centre of immense religious significance for Hindus. In popular imagination, Varanasi is Shiva’s own city. People come here from all across the world to draw their last breaths on the banks of the River Ganga, flowing through Varanasi. They believe that dying here is the easiest way to get to heaven.
The demon King Ravan also attempted to establish a Shiva Linga in his empire of Lanka. Lord Vishnu had to directly intervene and trick Ravan in order to prevent him from attaining his objective. The reason was simple, Ravan being a demon would have become invincible if he managed to establish Lord Shiva permanently in his empire. Lanka would come directly under the protection of Lord Shiva. This legendary tale is but one of many such tales that underscore the power of Lord Shiva as a phallic symbol. Prosperity, happiness and security of the highest order is believed to surround any and all Jyotir Lingas and Shiva Lingas.
What does one really worship when praying to a phallic Shiva?
The central male principle to the process of procreation and continuous rejuvenation of life is represented by the phallus and Lord Shiva’s virility is symbolic of the virility of all of creation. Together with the female principle of creation represented by the Yoni of Goddess Parvati, the Shiva Linga stands to represent the life force of the universe. We see therefore that the worship of Shiva as a phallic symbol does not merely stand to highlight the enormous power of Lord Shiva, it transcends Shiva to include Parvati and all the regenerative powers of our planet and our universe, much of which continues to be inscrutable in its enormity just like Lord Shiva.