Shivalinga, decoding Mahadev’s symbol

Of the Hindu trinity Mahadev is known as ‘Devon ke Dev’. He is known by various names such as Shiva, Shambu, Bholenath and Rudra among others. He is worshipped both in the form of a ‘Vigraha’ and ‘Linga’; mostly the latter. Hinduism is possibly one of the most flexible and liberal living religion (IMO using the term religion is misleading and it is purely used for the sake of convenience). There are many schools of Hinduism but all of them state the ‘oneness’ of the Supreme Being. Hindus can choose the path that appeals to them the most. Similarly one may worship Ishwara in either Sagun (with form such as Murti) or Nirgun (formless usually meditated upon by evolved beings such as Maharishis).

One of the most misunderstood symbols is Shivalinga. It is said to represent the Phallus and nothing can be further from the truth. Make no mistake no subject is a taboo even for the Rishis and Maharishis; hence there is no way that they would shy away from admitting Shivalinga to be a Phallic symbol if it were so. That most exponents of Hinduism state that equating Mahadev’s symbol with Phallus is a gross error.

Reading between the lines

Not everything in life is in black and white; there are several shades of grey between the two. Similarly many aspects of Hinduism are symbolic and those who can understand the symbolism behind a ritual have truly cracked the code to progress on the spiritual path. Linga is a Sanskrit word which means ‘symbol’ or ‘mark’. Shivalinga is, therefore, Shiva’s mark. It points at the omnipresence of Shiva who dwells within all of us. The purpose of having an external or physical symbol is to help a sadhaka concentrate his/her energies towards self-realization.

Explaining the Linga

Shivalinga comprises of three parts; each corresponding to one of the trinities. The lowest part is known as the Brahma-Peetha, the middle one is called Vishnu-Peetha and the topmost part of the Linga is called Shiva-Peetha. The Brahma-Peetha is the bottom most part which is connected with Srishti or creation, Vishnu-Peetha co-relates with existence or preservation known as Sthiti and the tall cylindrical part at the top, just above the Vishnu-Peetha, is the Shiva-Peetha. The Shiva-Peetha represents involution or Samhara. Rudra or Shiva-Peetha is indicative of Tamas Guna and indicates self-spin and movement. Vishnu-Peetha represents Rajas Guna. It has dynamic and active qualities and indicates the transformational stage between Tamas and Sattva Gunas. Brahma-Peetha stands for Sattva Guna and indicates calm and peaceful existence.

Some scholars deem the middle flat teapot like part as the Yoni and the cylinder that rises from it as Phallus there by connecting it with reproduction. The Yoni stands for female regenerative power and hence is connected with Devi Shakti. However, this explanation came about only in the post-Vedic Age.

Science behind Shivalinga

Shivalinga signifies both the creative and destructive power of Mahadev. It indicates the beginning-less and endless nature of Lord Shiva. Beyond the religious significance, Shivalinga has scientific symbolism as well. Shivalinga indicates the totality of the Cosmos which is usually represented in the form of a cosmic egg. An egg is sphreroidal or ellipsoidal that has no beginning or end. Additionally, we are aware of the fact that as per science the world came into existence with the formation of molecules. We also know that molecules are made of atoms which consist of protons, neutrons and electrons which form the basic premise of Shivalinga as well. Although our sages may not have used these scientific terms, the interpretations make it clear to the direction we must think.

To understand the correlation between Shivalinga and atoms we need to first look into the detailed structure of an atom as per Danish scientist Neils Bohr’s findings. Neutrons with no charge, Protons that have a positive charge and Electrons that are made up of negative charge are the components of an atom. As per Bohr’s model, electrons orbit around the proton within the atom much live the planets revolve around the sun. The behaviour of Protons, Neutrons, Electrons and energy correspond to Vishnu, Mahesh, Brahma Peethas and Shakti respectively. Suffice here to say that Hindu philosophy and theories is in conformity with modern physics.

A symbol of faith

Hindu concepts are both scientific and spiritual even if the ordinary person cannot understand the scientific significance behind rituals they follow. It is only when we rise above the materialistic things that we can enter the realm of the Rishis. That said Mahadev is possibly the simplest of all deities and the easiest to please. There are no hard and fast rules in worshipping Him. All that it takes to seek Mahadev’s grace is wholehearted devotion.