A Shiv ling sometimes referred to as linga or lingam which in sanskrit means sign, symbol or mark. Other contextual meanings of the term include “evidence, proof, symptom” of God and God’s power. This is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Supreme Hindu deity Shiva and a votary symbol revered in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. Additionally the Hindu scriptures say that a linga represents energy and strength. Shiv Ling is a religious symbol representing Lord Shiva as the generative power, all of existence, all creativity and also fertility at every cosmic level.
The Shiva Purana describes the origin as the beginning-less and endless cosmic pillar of fire, the cause of all causes. Lord Shiva is pictured as emerging from the lingam, the cosmic pillar of fire. Accordingly 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.
According to Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, the lingam signifies two perfections of Shiva. The upper oval part of the Shivalingam represent Parashiva and lower part of the Shivalingam represents Parashakti. In Parashiva perfection, Shiva is the absolute reality, the timeless, formless and spaceless. In Parashakti perfection, Shiva is all-pervasive, pure consciousness, power and primal substance of all that exists and it has form unlike Parashiva which is formless.
One of the oldest example of a lingam is discover in the Parashurameshwara temple, midst a hilly forest about 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. It is further mention as the Gudimallam and is an active place of Shaiva worship. It has been dated to the 3rd-century BCE, or to the 2nd century BCE, and generally accepted to be from the 3rd- to 1st-century BCE.
The Hindu scriptures also say that Lord Shiva took twelve forms as Jyotirlinga, that is, a linga of light and are worship in India. The Hindu scriptures also tell about five more forms of lingas. These form of lingas represent the earth, the water, the fire, the air and the sky (or ether). There are overall five different places in India where Hindus worship these forms of Shiva.
These places are located at the following places:
- Kanchipuram: God Shiva’s linga in the form of the earth
- Srirangam: God Shiva’s linga in the form of the water
- Tiruvannamalai: God Shiva’s linga in the form of the fire
- Kalahasti: God Shiva’s linga in the form of the air
- Chidambaram: God Shiva’s linga in the form of the sky (or ether)