linga


linga
lin·ga (lĭnʹgə) n.
Variant of lingam.

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In Hinduism, the symbol of the god Shiva and of generative power.

Fashioned from wood, gems, metal, or stone, lingas are the main objects of worship in temples to Shiva and family shrines throughout India. Historically, the linga was a representation of the phallus, as sculptures from the 1st–2nd century AD, the earliest dates of linga worship, make clear, and most modern Hindus think of it in these terms. The stylization of the linga as a smooth cylindrical mass asserts an aniconic meaning. A sexual dimension remains in the most common form in which the linga appears today. The yoni, symbol of the female sex organ, often forms the base of the linga, a reminder that the male and female principles together represent the totality of existence. The linga is worshiped with offerings of flowers, water, fruit, leaves, and rice; the purity of the materials and the cleanliness of the worshiper are particularly stressed.

Sandstone linga, c. 900; in the British Museum.

Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum

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▪ Hindu symbol
Sanskrit“sign,” “distinguishing symbol” also spelled  lingam 
 in Hinduism, symbol of the god Shiva, worshipped as an emblem of generative power. The linga is the main object of worship in Shaivite temples and in private shrines throughout India.

      The linga was originally understood as a representation of the phallus, as sculptures from the early centuries of the Common Era make clear, but many—probably most—modern Hindus do not think of the linga in these terms. In fact, the stylization of the linga into a smooth cylindrical mass asserts a distinctively aniconic meaning, quite by contrast to the murtis (deities in image form) that serve otherwise as the most important foci of Hindu worship. This interplay is found in Shaivite temples, where the linga is apt to be at the centre, surrounded by a panoply of murtis. A sexual dimension remains in the most common form in which the linga appears today; it is placed in the centre of a disk-shaped object called the yoni, a symbol of the female sexual organ, often associated with the goddess. The two together are a reminder that the male and female principles are inseparable and that they represent the totality of all existence.

      Scholars believe that the cult of the linga has been followed by some peoples in India since antiquity. Short cylindrical pillars with rounded tops have been found in remains from Harappa (Harappā), a town that was once part of the first Indian civilization. The Vedic peoples appear to have disapproved of linga worship, but literary and artistic evidence shows that it was firmly established by the 1st–2nd century CE. The process of conventionalizing its representation began during the Gupta (Gupta dynasty) period (early 4th to late 6th century CE), and in later periods its original phallic realism was to a considerable degree lost.

      Worship of the linga is performed with offerings of milk, water, fresh flowers, young sprouts of grass, fruit, leaves, and sun-dried rice. Among the most important lingas are the svayambhuva (“self-originated”) lingas, which are believed to have come into existence by themselves at the beginning of time; nearly 70 are worshipped in various parts of India. A common icon in South India is the lingodbhavamurti, which shows Shiva emerging out of a fiery linga. This is a representation of the myth that the gods Vishnu and Brahma were once arguing about their respective importance when Shiva appeared in the form of a blazing pillar to quell their pride. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew upward to see if he could find the top of the pillar, and Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived below to find its source, but neither was successful, and both were compelled to recognize Shiva's superiority.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • linga — linga …   Dictionnaire des rimes

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  • linga — s. f. [Náutica] Cadeia ou corda que, cingindo um fardo, se prende ao gancho do guindaste para o levantar. = ESLINGA   ‣ Etimologia: inglês sling linga s. m. Símbolo fálico que representa o poder criador e sob o qual Xiva, na Índia, é vulgarmente… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • linga — refr.: Onyte sesyte, lioj linga, prie kam tu prisėdai, liliutė linga? LTR(Jž) …   Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language

  • Linga — Lin ga (l[i^][ng] g[.a]), Lingam Lin gam (l[i^][ng] g[a^]m), n. [Skr. li[.n]ga.] The phallic symbol under which Siva is principally worshiped in his character of the creative and reproductive power. Whitworth. E. Arnold. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Linga — Linga, s. Lingaiten …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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