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Tattoo designs - L >> Linga

Lingam, Lingham, lingaLingam Tattoos - Lingam: 'a stylized phallic symbol that is worshipped in Hinduism as a sign of generative power, and that represents the god Shiva.' (from: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)

Shiva in the form of the lingam (or 'linga') appears in temples throughout India. It isn't worshipped for itself, but as a visible symbol of an invisible force - the most primal energy of the Creator - which is present in everything. When Creation comes to an end (we here at Vanising Tattoo are not predicting this any time soon), Hindus believe that the many different facets of God come home to roost in the Shivalingam.

Worshipping gods in such an impersonal and abstract manner - God without form - is more common in Islam, but Hinduism has no problem with its gods possessing personal characteristics as well. An anthropomorphized god makes it easier for mere mortals to focus their prayers.

lingam with yoniBefore anyone gets too excited by the sight of an erect phallus, it should be stressed that the lingam symbol has a deeply philosophic basis going back to the Hindu holy trinity - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva - creator, preserver, destroyer. That's right, Lord Shiva, though he possesses the regenerative power, is largely known as 'The Destroyer'. His creative function serves the cosmic unity known as 'Brahman', and is by necessity a god of goodness and compassion. The lingam must not be interpreted in ignorance of the big picture, which is always about an expanded consciousness.

With that understanding, the lingam (as genitalia) properly includes, at its base, a stylized representation of the female genitalia, or yoni. The shaft of the lingam appears to have penetrated the yoni. In the spirit of 'it takes two to tango' they are a unity, one phenomenon, the very instant of creation. Something brand new has come into being.

Lingam with yoni

Some interpretations of Hindu scripture state that the classic phallic shape isn't necessary to symbolize Shiva or the potency of the Shivalingam. Indeed, in some of the more important Hindu temples, the lingam isn't nearly so starkly graphic. The lingam is, after all, meant to be an abstract symbol, therefore any old rock or pile of sand will do. When it comes to worshipping God, the form is irrelevant. It's all about bowing to divine power, which is everywhere and in everything.

Hindu scholars have found themselves defending their sacred lingam against uncharitable Christian criticism. They point out that 'lingam' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'lika', meaning 'to sculpt or paint'. Lingam, therefore, means 'one who sculpts or paints'. What is God but the 'Sculptor of the Universe'? The word has come to mean any form that represents Him.

Lingam can be removed farther from its sexual connotation with a derivation that finds the word stemming from 'ling' and 'gam' - involution and evolution. Sounds a lot like the cosmic cause of all creation, ie, God. Where's the phallus in that?

"Evidently the Romans and Greeks borrowed the Linga worship from the Hindus," writes Hindu scholar, S. Sabaratna Mudaliar, "and in their debased ignorance put a wrong construction on it." It may have been sex-obsessed western civilizations, not Hinduism, that held the penis as sacred. Meanwhile, in India, the lingam according to another interpretation was a tower of flame 'of immeasurable effulgence', a sacred fire bestowing blessings. God is said to abide in each and every heart as that splendiferous glow.

Shiva lingam, Lingam, linga

Lingam Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!Beware delving deeply into Hindu symbols, lest they become a paradox that boggles the mind.

Get inspired by some really great images and photos in our Lingam Inspiration Gallery

See also: Religious Tattoos, Hindu Tattoos, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Ganesha, Kali, Hanuman, Krishna, Religious Tattoo Index

Tattoo designs - L >> Linga

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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