''Shiva Linga'' - 30 mystifying facts

Thanjavur Big temple -huge Shiva linga in natural form. Divya Darisanam
Shiva Lingam .pinterest.com
The practise of worshipping Shiva Lingam as the holy symbol of Lord Shiva, has been in vogue since  ancient time. ''Linga'' worship is an important part of the Hindu religion. The Cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is described by some scientists as the dance of subatomic particles. Sage Vyasa, who wrote the  Mahabharatha, states that  Lord Shiva is smaller than the sub-atomic particle like Proton, Neutron and Electron. What is mystifying is Lord Shiva is greater than anything greatest. Being  the cause of vitality in all living things, both living  and  non-living forms  arose from Shiva. Engulfing  the whole world, he has neither birth nor death. He is timeless,  invisible and unmanifest. He surpasses the space and time boundaries, sentiments and passion. Quite mystifying, Shiva Lingam  induces concentration of the mind and helps us focus our attention. He is the  master of Yogic Power. 

In our great epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Shiva worship was given due importance.  Sage Vyasa mentions that Arjuna fashioned a Lingam out of clay when worshipping Lord Shiva. Similarly, in the  Ramayana before crossing to over to Sri Lanka, Rama, Lakshmana and fashioned a Shiva Lingam at Rameswaram for worshipping Lord Shiva and also that Ravana could not lift the Lingam after it was placed on the ground by the small boy. After slaying the demon King Ravana, back at Rameswaram again fashioned a Shiva Linga; this time  to do tharpanam for the reason he had slain a great Shiva Baktha. Arjuna  and Rama and Sita worshipped Lord Shiva as Nirguna Brahman or the formless Supreme Being. According to the Indian sages, Shiva and Vishnu are present in the Lingam.
Brihadeeswar temple, Thanjavur. luxoindia.com
Brihadeeswae temple, Shiva lingam, Thanjavur, TN Lingampixshark.com
Above image: Brihadeewar Shiva temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The Shiva linga here is one of the tallest ones in India and the sanctum (garbagriha is right below the tall tower entirely made of hard rock - granite. Built by the Chola ruler Rajarajan II, the temple is 1000 plus years old; completed in 1010 AD. It is called as Dhakshina Meru (Meru of south). It is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site........................................
The following are quite awe-inspiring facts of Shiva Linga: 

Shiva Lingam krishnasankar93.blogspot.com
01. Shiva Lingam is the most prevalent and common structural feature of Lord  Shiva - the famous cosmic dancer and one of the trinity Gods in the Hindu pantheon. There is no Shiva temple across India that does not have a Shiva Lingam. Countless temples do have self-manifested natural objects / linga (often referred to as Swayambu linga). In all Shiva temples the Shiva Linga is reverentially kept in the sanctum sanctorum (Garbagriha/ Srikovil). With divinity in it, it is  considered sacred by the  Shaivites. as the place is sanctified. 

02. In traditional Indian society, the lingam is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva himself and is consecrated in the center of Garbagriha right below a tall or small tower and  it is the focal point the cosmic energy from outside through the upper part of the tower. 

03. According to Anthropologist Christopher John Fuller the an-iconic Shiva Linga is an  exception though most sculpted images (murtis) are anthropomorphic. This kind of Linga worship is native to India, in particular, South India and it part of religious tradition here.  

04. The lingam is a pillar-like or oval (egg-shaped) symbol of Shiva; all-pervasive formless 'Reality', it is made of stone, metal, or clay. In south India in many places, the lingam is made from granite and its related group of hard stone.

05. A lingam (a word derived from Sanskrit) also Shiva linga) is an abstract or an-iconic representation of Lord Shiva and is often depicted  as resting on  a circular platform called a yoni or pitha (or Peetam).

06. It is a symbol of  the form and formless God – Paramatma – Atma Linga.

07. The important revelation worthy of mention is the concept of Linga that helps us believe that the god does not have any definite form. Neither has he a beginning nor an end, yet he is all-pervading and  powerful.

08. The Lingam embodies the creative and destructive powers ever operating on the universe. Geologically speaking, the earth's crust is being created on one side  and destroyed on the other side in the subduction zones across the globe, thus maintaining a  perfect equilibrium between creation (aggradation) and destruction  (denudation). 

09. A lingam represents the space in which the universe creates and destroys itself symbolically maintaining a right  balance between creation and destruction as mentioned above. 

10. It is quite pertinent to point out that  it brings out  the transient nature of life and the things around us. 

11. Skanda Purana mentions: "The endless sky (that great void which contains the entire universe) is the Linga, the Earth  acting as its base. Toward the end of time, the whole universe and all the Gods and Demi gods finally merge into the' Linga' - the last form  before total destruction. Ironically it was the same lingam (cosmic space) the first one arising during the process of creation.

12. It is quite interesting that Yogic tradition views  Lingam is as a perfect ellipsoid - the first form of creation. Obviously,  the final form before total dissolution is also a Lingam. Modern cosmologists are of the opinion that the core of every galaxy is in the form of ellipsoid. Yoga always maintains that the first and final form is a Lingam. It is to be noted that if a person meditates (on something), his/her energies will naturally take the form of Lingam. So the first and final form before dissolution is also a Lingam. Hence Shiva Linga assumes much importance among the Hindus. 
Prakaram, Ekambereswarar temple, Kanchipuram, TN flickr.com
13. Some critics argue that the word ''Lingam'' has some 
connotation with male genital  organ. That Lingam represents a phallus is absolutely non-sense and fallacious.and it shows their ignorance of the the Hindu scriptures. How come they attach obscenity with  divinity? It is an irresponsible interpretation and quite baseless. German Orientalist, Gusta Oppert traced it to phallicism. Swami Vivekananda  and others refuted his  misconception by quoting Rig Veda and said it represents the ''beginingless and endless'' nature of the divine God Shiva.  

14. The word Linga associated with  Shiva has come from two words that is Leen and Gati. Leen means dissolve and Gati means grow. It means man should dissolve (Leen) in Shiva and grow (Gati). Being symbolic of formless God, he is soulful and above all. 
Chidambaram Nataraj temple gold-lated roof, En. wikipedia. org
15. He is an embodiment of Panchabootha - water, fire, earth, ether and air. None will affect his soul. The concept of creation is embodied in the Shiva Linga. This being due to  Viraag and Union of the Supreme God himself as male and female (Shiva and Shakti). Hence, he is often referred to as Arthanareeswarar - one half is male and the other half  female. The underlying fact is the creation is possible with the coexistence of both male and female forms. Comparing the elliptical or rounded lingam with the male genital organ is in bad taste.
Arunachaleswarare, Thiruvannamalai, TN walkthroughindia.com
16. Shiva Lingam represents the totality of the Cosmos and the Cosmos, in turn, is being represented as a Cosmic Egg. Again an egg is an ellipsoid  with no beginning, nor end. You can not find out where it begins and ends. According to the Linga Purana, the lingam is a complete symbolic representation of the formless Universe Bearer – the oval-shaped stone is the symbol of the Universe, and the bottom base represents the Supreme Power that holds the entire Universe in it.
17. According to Shaiva Siddhanta (a major school of Shaivism
(Shaivism is one of 4 major sampradaya of Hinduism), Lord Shiva has 3 perfections: Parashiva, Parashakti and Parameshwara.The upper oval part of the Shivalingam represent Parashiva and lower pedestal part of Shivalingam or pitha represent Parashakti. In the former,  Lord Shiva is absolute reality which is beyond human comprehension and is beyond all attributes. In this aspect Lord Shiva is timeless, formless and spaceless. In the latter (Parashakti perfection) Lord Shiva is all-pervasive, pure consciousness, power and primal substance of all that exists and it has form unlike Parashiva which is formless.

18. A Shiva Lingam has three main parts. The four-sided four-sided  bottom is below the ground; the 8 sided middle part is on a pedestal. The  visible elliptical or rounded part which is worshipped is at top. The tradition is the height of the elliptical part is roughly equal to  one-third of its circumference. The three parts are quite symbolical and represent the Trinity Gods - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The bottom part represents  Brahma. middle part  Vishnu and  the top Shiva. 

19. Abishekam or anointing is an integral part of Shivalinga worship and the pedestal has a provision to drain out the water, etc poured on the round part during puja. The abisheka water is collected in a small stone tank out side the temple.  

20. As to the origin of  Shiva worship, it goes way back to  3500 BCE to 2300 BCE as confirmed by small statues (Terracotta Shiva Linga figurines)  found in excavations at Indus Valley Civilization site of Kalibangan and other sites.
Thanjavur, TN Big Temple, rows of  Shiva lingas. Flicker. com
21. In the Atharvaveda(10 Sukla 7 verse 13; Atharvaveda Kanda 10 Sukla 7 verse 35) the hymns praise  a sort of column or pillar (stambha in Sanskrit)). The latter hymn is an interesting one:  '' the Pillar (Stambha) is holding both earth and the heaven and it is holding the vast atmosphere. Pillar (Stambha) is holding 6 directions and  is pervading this entire universe.''  Some believe Shiva Linga has a close link  this Yupa-Stambha, the sacrificial post. This could be one early origin of linga worship. 
22. In one of the  hymns,  there is a description of the  the Stambha as being beginning-less and endless Stambha. Later it assumed importance taking the place the eternal Brahman. The Yupa-Skambha  over a period of time became the Shiva-Linga. Linga Purana the same hymn extols the glory of all pervading, eternal Stambha  which is fathomless. The revelation of  the supreme nature of Mah├ódeva (the Great God, Shiva).

23. Shiva Purana, a great Hindu Scripture,  describes the  beginning-less and endless cosmic pillar (Stambha)  as the the cosmic pillar of fire, the cause of all causes. Lord Shiva is depicted as emerging from the cosmic pillar of fire – proving his superiority over the gods Brahma and Vishnu. This is known as Lingodbhava. The Linga Purana also supports this interpretation of lingam as a cosmic pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.  

24. The Pillar of fire also represents the Trinity Gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara while the Disc or Peedam represents Sakthi. The Disc is shown with three ridges, encarved at its periphery.

25. People belonging to the Lingayat community in Karnataka State  compulsorily wear a lingam, called Ishtalinga.I believe they got a sub-religious status under the Indian constitution. 

26. The Linga being egg-like  represents the Brahmanda (cosmic egg). The universe is like Linga. 

27. Shiva represents Pancha Boothas - five elements of nature that are essential for survival - fire, water, earth, sky and air (ether).

28.  Pancha Bhoota Stalam refers to five temples dedicated to Shiva, each representing a manifestation of the five prime elements of nature: land, water, air, sky, and fire.Pancha means "five," Bhoota means "elements," and Stala means "place." The temples are located in South India, four in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. The five elements are believed to be enshrined in the five lingams of the temples, with each lingam named based on the element represented.
Panchabootha  lingas /sthalas. maalaimalar.com
Above image: Top - L to R : Ekambareswarar, Arunachleswarar, Thillai Natarajar.
Bottom- L to R : Jambukeswarar, Kalhastheeswarar. ...............

Earth (Prithivi Lingam),Ekambareswarar Temple, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Water (Appu Lingam/Jambu Lingam), Jambukeshwarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval, near Trichy, Tamil Nadu.
Fire (Agni Lingam /Jyothi Lingam), Arunachaleswara Temple,Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.
Air (Vayu Lingam), Kalahasti temple, Kalahasthi, Andhra Pradesh
Space (Aagaya Lingam/Akasha Lingam),Thillai Natarajar Temple, Chidambaram,Tamil Nadu.

29. A Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam, is a devotional representation of the Supreme God Shiva. Jyoti means 'radiance' and lingam the 'Image  of Shiva; In these places Shiva is believed to have appeared as a tall column of blazing fire; both the crown and the bottom are unreachable. The other trinity Gods Brahma and Vishnu made unsuccessful attempt to reach them. 

30. There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India.The twelve jyothirlinga are:
Somnath in Gir Somnath, Gujarat, Mallikarjuna in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh,Mahakaleswarin Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh Kedarnath in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, Bhimashankar in Pune, Maharashtra, Vishwanath in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra, Baidyanath in Deogarh,JharkhandNageshwara in Dwaraka, Gujarat, Ramanathaswamy in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, Grishneshwar in Aurangabad, Maharashtra