Worshippers of phallus

  • Get News Alerts

“Is Shiva Linga a phallic symbol and are we worshiper of phallus?” This is what my friends and relative often ask me once Maha Shiva Ratri is close. Western scholars and Indologists beginning with Max Mueller in the 19th century up to Wendy Doniger in the current century are predominantly inclined to believe so, and we too are on not away from this fallacy.

To trace the genesis of this conflict, western Indologists from the time of Max Müller were convinced that the Vedic religion was the outcome of the worship of the fire, the sun, and other awe-inspiring objects of natural phenomena. Based on this Gustav Oppert, a German scholar gave his scholastic finding Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893 that the Shiva-Linga was the phallic emblem of the male and the Shaligram-Shila represented the female generative principle. In other words, he wanted to establish that the worship of the Shiva-Linga and that of the Shaligram were nothing but the component parts of the worship of the Linga and the Yoni, which were put together in course of time. Similarly, Jeaneane Fowler believes the Linga is a phallic symbol in his book Hinduism: beliefs and practices published in 1997. Likewise, David James Smith, believe that throughout its history the lingam has represented the phallus. The theories of Linga as phallus as claimed seems to be based on their observation seeing its shape, and Max Muller's idea of Vedic Dharma as religion motivated by objects of natural phenomena.

 The oldest scholar supporting Linga as phallic symbol seems to be Max Müller himself, in 1887, in a speech delivered in the hall of St. John’s College on request of the Vicar of St. Giles said. “When I undertook to publish for the University Press a series of translations of the most important of these sacred books, one of my objects was to assist the missionaries. Likewise, he wrote to his wife: It took only 200 years for us to Christianise the whole of Africa, but even after 400 years India eludes us, I have come to realize that it is Sanskrit which has enabled India to do so. And to break it, I have decided to learn Sanskrit." Similarly, how can we leave Lord Maculay’s address to the British Parliament on February 2, 1835 where he has proposed to replace old and ancient education system and culture of India to conquer over it.The idea of western scholars were more misinterpretation of Shiva Puran,,Bhramanda Puran,,Padma Puran and Linga Puran which seems to be intentional.

In contrast to western Indologists Swami Vivekananda, at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, repudiated above thesis of Gustav as completely unfounded and ridiculous, arising from misinterpretation of some Vedic and Puranic texts. He pointed out that worship of the Shiva-Linga originated from the famous hymn in the Atharva-Veda Samhitâ sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha, the sacrificial post. In that hymn a description is found of the Stambha or Skambha (pillar) without a beginning or an end, put in place for the eternal Brahman. In the Linga Purân, the same hymn is expanded in form of stories, in order to establish the glory of the great Stambha and the superiority of Mahâdev. 

 Further Sadhguru, founder of Isha foundation, has claimed the word Linga means “the form.” We are calling it “the form” because when the un-manifest began to manifest itself, or in other words when creation began to happen, the first form that it took was that of an ellipsoid. A perfect ellipsoid is what we call a Linga. Creation always started as an ellipsoid or a Linga, and then became many things. Further he has described the word “Shiva” which literally means “that which is not.” That means nothing. Nothing is a very negative word. You would understand it better if you put a hyphen in between: no-thing. That which is, is physical manifestation. “That which is not” is that which is beyond the physical. In India, there are thousands of temples which are built for “that which is not.” Most of these Shiva temples don’t have a particular deity of any form. They just have a representative form and generally it is a Linga. The form of a Linga is a hole in the fabric of creation. So, the temple is a hole through which you enter into a space which is not. It is a hole through which you can fall beyond.

Similarly, many writers have cited Shiva Puran to tell the origin of Shiva Maha Puran where Shiva appears in an infinite Linga-fire pillar, as Vishnu tries to find the bottom of the pillar while Brahma tries to find its top. Lord Shiva says it is his true form; he has no beginning and no end; he was never born nor could he die. Thus infinite pillar conveys the infinite nature of Shiva. The Shloka of Nyaya Darsan (a school of thought in Hindu Dharma) “Linam prachannm artham gamyati bodyatiti lingam” is often cited which clarifies In Nyaya Darshan it is seen as a symbol or indicator to manifest the hidden object. Also the Sankhya Darshan has seen Shiva Linga as a symbol of consciousness or the symbol of infinity formed by balance between Purush and Prakriti both of them are energies not gender. Also Yoga Darshan sees it as a balance between Ida and Pingala meaning balance of energies. Further, many scholars have argued phallus in Sanskrit is called “Shishna” while symbol in Sanskrit is called “Linga”, so by the etymology of the language, it does not seem that the word may have at any time been used to refer to a phallus whether divine or of common origins.

There are many educational institutes in world that have made Sanskrit a compulsory subject and there are many Sanskrit Universities in the world but in a country like Nepal, it is about to become defunct. The time has come to revive our glorious language; else we need to trust the westerners for interpretation which will most likely be biased. Protecting Sanskrit is important in order to understand about our history, culture and the pragmatic knowledge attached with it. If we ignore this pragmatic knowledge, soon we as a society will develop an inferiority complex thinking of our society as savage society which will lead to identity crisis and we will be compelled to follow the West which will colonize us like Müller and Maculay wanted in India by attacking their education and culture. The attack on Shiva Linga as Phallus is just a beginning.

Sanjay Adhikari is studying law at Kathmandu School of Law (K.S.L).



  • Challenges for reconstruction Challenges for reconstruction

    One of the major challenges faced in the reconstruction process of Nepal is the absence of elected local government. Lack of government in local level was reflected in the major pre-disaster and post-disaster events, where it took months to reach the affected region and still no widely-accepted data is available. In the absence of an elected local government, top-down approach of governance has its own accountability deficit.

    Apil KC/Keshab Sharma

  • Making sense of Adityanath's rise in Modi's India Making sense of Adityanath's rise in Modi's India

    The most notorious incitement of communal hatred by Adityanath was his exhortation to 'kill ten woh log ['them' meaning Muslims]' rather than knocking the doors of legal system 'if one Hindu is killed' in riots.

    Jiwan Kshetry


  • Identity and nationhood Identity and nationhood

    Whoever says nationhood is not important would be lying. For example, belonging to a particular nation may give certain advantages to a person that one belonging to another nation would not get.

    Ketan Dulal

  • The shankha blower from Bichour The shankha blower from Bichour

    Coincidentally, Ram Lal Joshi, the Radio Nepal singer had his house adjacent to ours and had been hearing him blow it every day. Hari worked as a bagainche in Singha-durbar during day. Ram Lal got him to blow the shankha as a part of musical instrument for Radio Nepal’s iconic signature tune.

    Hemant Arjyal

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.