The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1970

The English translation of the Shiva Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas. Contents include cosmology, mythology, yoga, description of sacred places (tirtha), geography, etc. The text is an important source for Shaivism and some of the oldest surviving content deals with Advaita-Vedanta philosophy and theistic Bhakti (devotion). This edition ...

Chapter 5 - The greatness of the phallic emblem (liṅga) of Śiva

Sūta said:—

1. A person incompetent to perform the three rites of Śravaṇa etc. shall fix the phallic emblem (liṅga) or the image of Śiva and worship them every day. He can thus cross the ocean of worldly existence.

2. As far as he can afford, the devotee shall make gifts of wealth too without deceiving others. He shall offer them to the phallic emblem or the image of Śiva. He must worship them constantly.

3-7. The worship must be performed elaborately. Construction of platforms, ornamental portals, monasteries, temples, holy centres, etc., offerings of cloth, scents, garlands, incense, lamps, with due piety; oblations of various cooked rice, pancakes, pies etc. with side dishes; umbrellas, fans, chowries with all paraphernalia—everything shall be maintained in the worship of Śiva. In fact, all royal homage shall be paid. Circumambulation and obeisance with Japas according to capacity shall be performed. All the different usual rites in worships like invocation shall be maintained with due devotion. A person who worships the phallic emblem or the image in this manner will attain salvation even without Śravaṇa etc. Many noble men of yore have been Uberated solely by this simple worship,

8. Everywhere the deities are worshipped only in their image. How is it that Śiva is worshipped both in the image and the phallus?

Sūta said:—

9. O sages, this question is holy and wondrous. Here the speaker is Śiva Himself and not any ordinary person.

10. I shall tell you what Śiva Himself had said and what I heard from my own preceptor. Śiva alone is glorified as Niṣkala (nameless and formless) since He is identical with supreme Brahman.

11. He is also Sakala as He has an embodied form. He is both Sakala and Niṣkala. It is in his Niṣkala aspect that the Liṅga[1] is appropriate.

12-13. In the Sakala aspect the worship of his embodied form is appropriate. Since He has the Sakala and Niṣkala aspects He is worshipped both in the phallic and in the embodied form by the people and is called the highest Brahman. Other deities, not being Brahman, have no Niṣkala aspect anywhere.

14. Hence the deities are not worshipped in the formless phallic symbol. The other deities are both nonBrahman and individual souls.

15. In view of their being embodied alone they are worshipped solely in the bodily form. Śaṅkara has Brahmatva and the others Jīvatva.

16. This has been explained in the meaning of the Praṇava (Om), the essence of Vedānta, by Nandikeśvara[2] when asked by Sanatkumāra, the intelligent son of Brahmā, at the mountain Mandara.

Sanatkumāra said:—

17-18. The embodied form alone is often observed in the worship of the deities other than Śiva. But both the phallic and the embodied forms are seen only in the worship of Śiva. Hence O benevolent one, please tell me precisely making me understand the truth.

Nandikeśvara said:—

19. It is impossible to answer this question without revealing the secret of Brahman.

20-24. O sinless one, since you are pious I shall tell you what Śiva Himself has said. Since Śiva has the bodiless aspect in virtue of His being the supreme Brahman, the Niṣkala liṅga, in conformity with the Vedic implication, is used only in His worship. Since He has an embodied form as well, His embodied form is also worshipped and accepted by all people. According to the decision in the Vedas, the embodied form alone is to be used in the worship of other deities who are only individual souls embodied. Devas have only the embodied aspect in their manifestation. In sacred literature both the phallic and the embodied forms are mentioned for Śiva.

Sanatkumāra said:—

25. O Fortunate one, you have explained the worship of phallus and image distinctly for Śiva and the other deities. Hence, O lord of Yogins, I wish to hear the feature of the manifestation of the phallic aspect of Śiva.

Nandikeśvara said:—

26-27. O dear one, out of love for you I shall tell you the truth. Long long ago, in the famous first Kalpa,[3] the noble souls Brahmā and Viṣṇu fought each other.

28. In order to eradicate their arrogance lord Parameśvara showed his unembodied Niṣkala form in the form of a column in their midst.

29. He showed his phallus emblem separate, evolved out of the column, with a desire to bless the worlḍs.

30. From that time onwards the divine phallus and the embodied image, both, were assigned to Śiva alone.

31. The embodied form alone was assigned to deities other than Śiva. The different types of the embodied forms of the different Devas yield only enjoyments. In regard to Śiva the phallic emblem and the embodied form together bestow auspicious enjoyment and salvation.

Footnotes and references:


Śiva-liṅga: the phallic emblem of Śiva which is universally worshipped.


Nandikeśvara: One of the attendants of Śiva


The term Kalpa in a precise sense means a vast cosmic period but this seems to have been a later application of it, when the scheme of cosmological time was developed. It is often used in a simpler and unspecialized way to mean ‘a period of time’, ‘an age.’ This seems to have been its earlier signification, as where it is said ‘Purā Kalpe, mahākāle’ in old time, long, long ago. In such texts Purākalpa is often used loosely and has the general sense of ‘Old time’.