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  • Writer's pictureAkanksha Damini Joshi

Shiva Linga: Does it just mean Phallus?

Consider this.

What are written words? Lines, curves, shapes. A, B, C. Shapes that acquire sound, then, meaning. A, ae, apple. B, bee, ball.

The basis of text is an image. The basis of a communication is an image or a sound that we all agree to mean a particular object. Same with the images, murtis - call them idols if you like - of Lord.

Lets take, #Linga.

Unlike what modern interpretations - devoid of deep spiritual roots of the Hindu agamic tradition - project, this ancient word holds a meaning richer than just the phallus.

Linga, लिंगते अनेन, by which something is indicated.

It is a sign or an indicator, "indirect reference". So when we see the form of Shiva 'Linga' it is indicative of the formless.

It is a sign, a symbol, an image - like A, B, C - an indicator of the presence that is Ishwara.

This presence, is in a place of rest - receptacle, seat, abode - which is also another meaning of the word, #Yoni.

For in the Hindu vision, Ishwara is not just our 'father in heaven' but Mata and Pita, Mother and Father, together. Parents. One.

As #Kalidasa says

"वागर्थाविव सम्प्रुक्तौ वागर्थप्रतिपत्तयेजगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ"

Which - apart from other meanings - also means :

For gaining knowledge of language I bow to you, Parvati-Shiva, Parents of the world, ONE,Just as word and its meaning.


For the knowledge of language - vak, speech, communication - we need the grace of the jagat pitrau, world parents.

For what is said, and what is interpreted, often gets all mixed up. In most other languages there is no flexibility for this mix up, as there is no recognition of word permutation-combinations, word play. Its all often linear, straight, clearcut, to the point, functional.

But Sanskrit opens up this world of play, of possibilities. The more you look into a word, split it, combine it, this way, then that. The more possibilities emerge.

So, the right interpretation, is a #possibility that comes with our engagement with the text.

Lets say, our interpretation of the image of the text - which depends on our own knowledge.

One cannot just consume the words, one has to first taste, then ... chew, swallow, digest.

For those, first, the blessings.

Jagatah Pitrau Vande ParvatiParmeshwarau!


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