Shivling, also pronounced as sivalingam, is another Hindu symbol that has been commonly misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West. The expression shivling or sivalingam is a combination of two Sanskrit words: shiva or siva, a name given to God’s power to dissolve and regenerate His creation, and linga or lingam meaning symbol, token, sign or gender. Linga also means: a place where created objects get dissolved during the disintegration of the created universe.

It represents the power of Lord Shiva. The shivalinga looks like a short cylindrical pillar with a rounded top projecting from a pedestal. The round shape connotes the message that God has no beginning and no end. He always existed when nothing was in existence; He will always exist when nothing will exist.

Since, according to Hinduism, the same God creates, sustains and dissolves the universe, shivling symbolically represents God Himself. Hindus have used shivling as an auspicious symbol and a medium for ritualistic worship of God for thousands of years. The ancient literature of Tamil Hindus refers to the setting up of ritual posts or altars, which probably pertains to shivling.

But from the times the Western scholars started interpreting Hinduism, shivalinga became a centre of controversy, as they described shiva as a fertility god and the linga as his phallus.

Hindus are very much pained and offended by this vulgar distortion of their religious icon. The overzealous proselytizing Christian missionaries in British India used this misinterpretation as a tool for anti-Hindu propaganda, in their efforts to convert uneducated Hindus to their faith. They condemned Hinduism as a primitive religion and labelled Hindus as phallus worshippers.

Angered by this malicious and obscene propaganda, Mahatma Gandhi once commented, “It was in a (Christian) missionary book that I first learned that shivling has any obscenity at all . . .” Every Hindu temple in Canada is adorned with a shivalinga. I hope they would not be charged with displaying an “obscene” object.

Article By: Ajit Adhopia
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