Sandstone linga, c. 900; in the British Museum.—Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum

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.

Variants of LINGA

linga or lingam

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