Shivling is well known to the people in India and very popular among the followers of Hinduism at least. Shivling (लिङ्गं, शिवलिङ्ग) has been interpreted differently by different people. Some foreign authors have considered it a sex symbol and made fun of Hindus in their books.
I went through some books written by some foreign authors who have considered the worship of Lingam as awful and have presented some stories that are, I don’t know, how true. The purpose of this article is: To find out if Shivling is actually considered Shiva’s Phallus in our ancient Texts.
As I researched on the real story of Shivling, I found that there is not one story on Shivling. Mainly the stories can be found in Shiv Puran, Padma Puran, Vaman Puran, Ling Puran and Brahmand Puran and there could be mentions in other texts too.
And there might be something in Vedas too; as appears from this statement by Stella Kramrisch in her book The Presence of Siva, on Page 174, “The Rig Veda (RV 7.21.5; 10.99.3) despairingly spoke of those who made the penis (sisna) their god. Moreover, Indra slew them”.
However, according to Swami Vivekananda the origin of the concept of Shivlinga is from Atharva Veda. He said that there is a famous hymn describing a pillar having neither a beginning nor end. For me, the words of Swami Vivekananda are more valuable than most foreign authors/speakers.
Stella Kramrisch further mentions on page 165, “The earliest sculptures that are definitely identifiable as Siva-Lingas are from Gudimallam in South India, and from Mathura, and show a pillar shape; the rounded top is demarcated and clearly represents the glans, so that the shaft represents not only a pillar but also a phallus”.
Following are some extracts from Puranas that describe the history of Shivling. I have not gone through Brahmand Purana on this.
Padma Puran - Bhrugu Curses Lord Shiva
In Padma Puran there is a story told by Hrishi Vasishtha. When Manu went to Mandarachal Parvat for a yagya, there assembled all the great sages for the ceremony. A discussion soon started on who was the most sacred deity.
Different opinions started coming up. Some supported Lord Rudra (Shiva), some said Surya, Brahma and so on. Manu suggested the name of Vishnu as the deity who should be considered by Brahmins. The sages then collectively requested Maharishi Bhrigu to clear their doubt by meeting the Tridev i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
Bhrigu (also spelled Bhrugu) went to Kailasa to get the answer but was stopped by Nandi who was guarding the entrance. He told Nandi to inform Lord Shiva about his arrival. Nandi rudely rejected his proposal by saying that Lord Shiva is in the KreedaBhavan with Goddess Parvati and it would not be possible to meet him at that time.
Bhrigu cursed Lord Shiva that this Rudra, inspired by Tamoguna is not recognizing me. All the food, water and sacrifices made to him will not be worth consuming. The word "Abhakshya" has been used in the original Hindi translation that I have which means not worth eating.
Saying this Bhrigu went to Brahma and then Vishnu and cursed them too but that is not detailed in this article as that is not the main subject of this article.
Now the point here is why people relate this story with Shivlinga Poojan.
In the Handbook of Hindu Mythology by George M Williams, Page 202, “In the Padma Puran, the great sages wanted to know, who was the supreme lord and deserved their worship. Bhrigu was selected to test each of the Trimurti, the Hindu Triad. Bhrigu went to Kailasa and demanded to see Siva. But Nandi, Siva’s bull rudely prevented him from going into Siva’s palace because Siva was making love and was not to be disturbed by anyone. After many days of waiting, Bhrigu cursed Siva: because he was so addicted to love making, he would only be worshipped as a linga and yoni (female generative symbol)”.
In the translated version of Padma Purana that I have, from where this story is said to have originated, there is no mention of either many days of waiting by Bhrigu or Bhrigu (Bhrugu) cursing Lord Shiva to be worshipped as Linga and Yoni. Where does this story come from? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I don’t have the original Padma Purana in Sanskrit otherwise I might have rejected this completely.
In his summarized version of Padma Purana, Dr. Vinay has also agreed that Bhrigu cursed Shiva to be worshipped as Lingam. He writes on page 113 in this book: “Enraged Bhrigu left cursing Lord Shiva, said: ‘Since copulation to you is the most important act, I curse that you will be known not by your actual form but by your Lingam (phallus)’.”
I stand unconfirmed on this story until I find the original version of Padma Puran.
Shivling Puja History in Vaman Puran
There is a story in Vaman Puran that throws some light on why and how Shivling puja established. According to Vaman Puran, Shiva went to a very dense forest where Hrishis used to live along with their wives. The Hrishis (sages) when saw Lord Shiva, they paid respect to him but when Shiva asked for Bhiksha (donation), none of them replied.
Shiva then went to other places (ashrams) in the forest. Watching Shiva, all the ladies, except Anusuya and Arundhati, got attracted to him and started following him. Hrishis did not like their ladies following another man. They cursed Lord Shiva’s linga (phallus) to fall off.
The linga fell down and penetrated the earth as well as the skies. Shiva disappeared. Seeing everyone amazed Brahma and Vishnu decided to measure the shivling (lingam or phallus). Vishnu went downwards and Brahma went upwards but none could find the end of Shivling. It was endless!
Brahma and Vishnu then prayed to Lord Shiva to accept that Lingam again. Shiva, then on one condition, said he would accept the lingam again that all the gods accept to worship that Shivling. Vishnu agreed and hence began the worship of Shivling by everyone.
Ling Puran (or Linga Purana) tells a similar story with a difference that Brahma and Vishnu argued and then an extremely bright pillar surrounded by flames appeared before them. Rest of the story is same.
The origination of this story could have been from Atharva Veda where a description of a pillar is there with no beginning and no end. Swami Vivekananda had famously argued on this in the Paris Congress of the History of Religions.
Given below is an example of how different the foreign authors can think or write. This is from the book Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies by Abbe J.A. Dubois, pages 629 and 630:
Summary and Conclusion:
Shivling (also called Lingam, Shiva Linga) is one of the oldest forms of worship. The description is there in Vedas and Puranas. A certain sect called Lingayat is dedicated to the worship of Linga. Some people mistakenly consider Shivling to be Shiva’s penis.
To this there is an argument: "the meaning of penis is Shishna in Sanskrit and not Linga". However, this does not seem to be very convincing as the word 'Linga' can be found for penis in some Sanskrit Texts.
Also, if you notice - स्त्रीलिंग means female gender. Here Linga is a sign of denoting something. It is not 'Women's Penis'. Hindi and Sanskrit have lots and lots of synonyms. Same word could have different meanings and sometimes the same sentence can be interpreted differently by different people. This is the beauty of Sanskrit.
Foreign authors do a lot of research on Indian culture but not sure if they actually go through the ancient texts or compose their works just by meeting different sets of people. Some of the stories told by them and some of their comments look indecent.
See for example Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies by Abbe J.A. Dubois, Page 631, “It is incredible, it is impossible to believe that inventing this vile superstition the religious teachers of India intended that the people should render direct worship to objects, the very names of which, among civilized nations, are an insult to decency”.
I think the readers should go through ancient religious texts first and then refer to the foreign authors. Shiva means auspiciousness in Sanskrit, so if Linga means symbol, meaning of Shivling is clear: The symbol of auspiciousness.
Handbook of Hindu Mythology by George M Williams
Mahanarayana Upanishad by Swami Vimalananda
Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies by Abbe J.A. Dubois
The Presence of Siva by Stella Kramrisch
Padma Purana by Dr. Vinay
Author - Archit
लाभस्तेषां जयस्तेषां कुतस्तेषां पराजयः I येषामिन्दीवरश्यामो हृदयस्थो जनार्दनः II