Linga (a Sanscrit word which literally means a sign or symbol) denotes, in the sectarian worship of the Hindus, the phallus, as an emblem of the male or generative power of nature. The Linga-worship prevails with the Saivas, or adorers of Siva. SEE HINUISMI. Originally of an ideal and mystical nature, it has degenerated into practices of the grossest description, thus taking the same course as the similar worship of the Chaldeans, Greeks, and other nations of the East and West. The accounts how Linga became a representative of Siva vary greatly, but coincide in the main in that Siva, having scandalized the penitent saints by his amour with Parwati, was cursed by them to be changed into what occupied so much his being, and to lose his genitals, by which he had given offense; later, when finding the punishment not in proportion to the result, they resolved to hold that very sign in reverence. It is most probable that the organ of generation was here considered in the same light as Phallos and Priapus in Egypt and Greece. The manner in which the Linga is represented is generally inoffensive — the pistil of a flower, a pillar of stone, or other erect and cylindrical objects being held as appropriate symbols of the generative power of Siva. Its counterpart is Yoni, or the symbol of female nature as fructified and productive. The Siva-Purana names twelve Lingas which seem to have been the chief objects of this worship in India. See Chambers, Cyclop. s.v.; Vollmer, Mythol. Worterb. s.v.

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