One of the three main God, Lord Shiva, with one of his symbols.

Lord Shiva and the Shiva Lingam

Of all the disagreements within the Hindu community, the subject that comes up over and over is the Shiva Lingam, which is also referred to as Shiva Lingus. It sticks out for the simple fact that it…sticks out.

A phallic symbol

Many of the faith fervently believe it resembles a phallic symbol. To the inexperienced onlooker, the length-to-girth proportions of the Shiva Lingam suggest it was designed with the phallus in mind. It’s this assumption that sparks the heated debate.

The shape of the Shiva Lingam

Lingam shaped stones.

Shiva Lingam stones from Narmada River.

Ask 100 devotees to describe the Shiva Lingam and they will quickly reach consensus on some details of the Shiva Lingam. For example, there would be no arguments over the roots – the Shiva Lingam comes from the holy Narmada River and its sacred stones with flecks, spots and bands of red, brown and tan. The stones have been polished into a smooth and round shape by local artisans for hundreds of years.

All heads will nod in agreement that the Shiva Lingus has been used in worship for centuries to increase vitality and enhance pranic energy in the body. The result is improved overall health and strengthening of the conduit to the higher self. No issue here.

The bone of contention

Elements of Shiva Lingam

But when the discussion turns to the meaning of the shape – this is where all the friction begins. One group will claim the shape of the Shiva Lingam is the phallus of Lord Shiva himself. They will point out that the Shiva Lingam represents Shiva’s union with Kali and represents both the masculine phallus and the feminine egg.

These “pro-phallactics” will accuse their naysaying cohorts of being prudish, narrow-minded and uptight and implore them to relax, live a little and not take things so seriously.

Shiva's wife with Shiva Lingam

Parvathi Devi

In response, the other group will denounce the phallic connection and claim the shape simply reflects the original Shiva Lingam created by Goddess Parvathi. To impose any other meaning on the Shiva Lingus would be an insult to the sacred beauty of the stone. After all – Lord Shiva was shapeless and to suggest a phallic shape brings shame to the faith.

With this argument spanning hundreds of years, it seems neither group is likely to soften their hard-line position on this issue any time soon.

Perhaps acceptance is the teaching moment here – to simply accept that the intended shape of the Shiva Lingam is a bone of contention within the Hindu community, and after centuries of debate, will likely stick around for a few more.

written by Alex Macintosh

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