The Linga Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1951 | 9,466 words | ISBN-10: 812080340X | ISBN-13: 9788120803404

This page describes Introduction (1): The Linga-purana of the English translation of the Linga Purana, traditionally authored by Vyasa in roughly 11,000 Sanskrit verses. It deals with Shaiva pilosophy, the Linga (symbol of Shiva), Cosmology, Yugas, Manvantaras, Creation theories, mythology, Astronomy, Yoga, Geography, Sacred pilgrimage guides (i.e., Tirthas) and Ethics. The Lingapurana is an important text in Shaivism but also contains stories on Vishnu and Brahma.

Introduction (1): The Liṅga-purāṇa

Purāṇas: Origin and Development

According to the Viṣṇupurāṇa[1] the sage Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa compiled a Purāṇasaṃhitā from the various ancient episodes and imparted it to his disciple Romaharṣaṇa. The latter composed his own Purāṇasaṃhitā and among his disciples Kaśyapa, Sāvarṇi and Śāṃśapāyana composed their own. These four were the original Purāṇasaṃhitās. The Vāyupuraṇa specifies the number of the Purāṇas as ten. This represents the second stage in the development of the Purāṇas. The traditional number eighteen is the final stage.

The traditional list as given by several Purāṇas comprises the following: (1) Brahma, (2) Padma, (3) Viṣṇu, (4) Vāyu, (5) Bhāgavata, (6) Nāradīya, (7) Mārkaṇḍeya, (8) Agni, (9) Bhaviṣya, (10) Brahmavaivarta, (11) Liṅga, (12) Varāha, (13) Skanda, (14) Vāmana, (15) Kūrma, (16) Matsya, (17) Garuḍa, (18) Brahmāṇḍa.

The Purāṇic scholars are agreed upon the authenticity of the seventeen Purāṇas but in regard to the eighteenth there is a difference of opinion. Majority of the Purāṇas include Śivapurāṇa in the list while a few others substitute Vāyu for Śiva.[2]

The Liṅgapurāṇa—Contents

The Liṅgapurāṇa is divided into two sections comprising respectively 108 and 55 chapters.

Section I describes the evolution of Liṅga, a phallic form of Siva. It records traditions about the rise of Liṅga cult, modes of worshipping Liṅga, principles of its ritual, efficacy of its worship illustrated by myths, legends and anecdotes. It provides a graphic account of the geography of the earth with seven continents, their flora and fauna, their people, mountains, oceans and rivers. It describes the size of the earth, stars and planets, their positions and movements in the heavens. It recounts the genealogies of some famous monarchs of the solar and lunar dynasties. It gives an account of prominent Asuras, their expeditions and destruction.

Section II contains legends on the glorification of Liṅga, a detailed account of the form, concept and attributes of Liṅga and the vratas, gifts and mantras related to his worship. Finally, it explains in detail the procedure of the Pāśupata Yoga as the means of attaining the ultimate goal viz., the absorption of the personal soul into the supreme soul—Lord Siva.

The Title—Liṅgapurāṇa

The Liṅgapurāṇa is a Śaiva Purāṇa. It derives its name from the fact that it reveals the supreme lord Śiva in his niṣkala (attributeless) and sakala (qualified) forms, recounts his emblems, qualities, exploits and incarnations, narrates legends on the origin and importance of Liṅga—-his phallic idol, dwells upon the merit of installing and consecrating it, describes the ritual and philosophical principles of the Liṅga cult and embodies sermons and dissertations on the glory of Liṅga image.

The author of the purāṇa

The authorship of the Purāṇas is attributed to the sage Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana but Bhaviṣya[3] speaks of separate authorship for different Purāṇas. According to this authority the Liṅga was composed by the sage Taṇḍi. But this statement of Bhaviṣya is not supported by the internal evidence, although the Purāṇa suggests the theory of separate authorship. For instance, when Bhaviṣya states that Viṣṇu was composed by Parāśara, we find that Liṅga had already stated this fact.[4] Besides, this voluminous set of Purāṇas beset with differing strata of society of different times cannot be ascribed to a single author.

Authenticity of the text

The extant Liṅgapurāṇa is not the same as the original which was recited by Śiva in the Agnikalpa to Brahmā and was, later on, divided by Vyāsa into two parts. For the Agnikalpa text, according to the Nāradīya,[5] contained 11,000 verses—a fact acknowledged by the author of the extant Liṅgapurāṇa—while actually the present Veṅkaṭeśvara edition has only 9, 185 verses. Furthermore, contrary to the statement of the Nāradīya, the present text deals with the matters of the Īśānakalpa[6] and not with those of the Agnikalpa. It can, therefore, be presumed that there was an old Liṅgapurāṇa text based upon the Agnikalpa on which the Nāradīya description is based.

The above statement is supported by the internal evidence. Liṅga (II. 55. 36-37) states that it is divided into two sections. Section I contains one hundred and eight chapters while Section II is comprised of forty-six. But as a matter of fact, the extant second section has fifty-five chapters. The author of Śivatoṣiṇī,[7] a commentary on this Purāṇa, dissolves the compound “ṣaṭ-catvāriṃśat” as “ṣaṭ ca nava ca catvāriṃśac ca” (madhyamapadalopi-karmadhāraya) and by this grammatical device arrives at the required number 55. But would it not be a forced and farfetched interpretation? Conversely, would it not be rational to suppose that the original text of this section contained forty-six chapters to which nine chapters were added later on?

Date of Composition

The Liṅgapurāṇa was abridged by Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa in the beginning of Dvāpara age.[8] Originally it was composed by Brahmā with the material derived from Īśāna kalpa.[9] The abridgement was a natural course, for the old contents ceased to appeal to the later generations. At the same, fresh material was available which the new compilers inserted in the old corpus. The process continued till the beginning of the fifth century A.D. when the bulk of this Purāṇa was settled to its present form.

There are references in the Liṅgapurāṇa in support of this argument. Chapter 40 refers to king Pramati in the line of king Candramas who organized extensive military expeditions against the Mlecchas. In this inset of twenty-three verse[10] we find a powerful and historically true description of the achievements of Candragupta Vikramāditya II. The description tallies with a similar account in the Matsyapurāṇa and seems to have been given by a person who was an eye-witness or who had heard from a direct source. Moreover, in II. 336 there is a reference to the Mlecchas having seized the idol of Viṣṇu.[11] We learn from history that Mlecchas were wild ferocious tribes, such as Huns, whose violent activities caused vast devastations and struck terror in the social life of the country. Like the cattle-lifting Paṇis of the Ṛgvedic age, these Mlecchas were the breakers or stealers of idols. The Purāṇa is also aware of the foreign tribes Kirātas (Burmese) in the east and Mlecchas in the west[12] As the destroyer of Mlecchas King Pramati of this Purāṇa can only be identical with King Candragupta Vikramāditya who destroyed the Mlecchas during his reign of twenty years by engaging his army drawn mostly from Licchavis—a kṣatra-brahmin tribe.[13] The reign of Candragupta Vikramāditya II (380-412 A.D.) is the lowest limit by which the bulk of this Purāṇa had assumed its present shape.

General Characteristics of the Liṅgapurāṇa

1. Creation

The supreme lord Śiva is represented by the half-male and half-female form. At the advent of Creation, the male form enters into the womb of the female form and lays the golden seed therein. The seed is of the nature of fire, the creative force and is permeated by a creative potency. According to the Liṅgapurāṇa[14] this creative energy is personified as Brahmā; the recipient of the seed, the foetus, is named Viṣṇu while the sower

The seed is sentient. When it enters into the womb it activates and gives impetus to the insentient Prakṛti. The Cosmic Egg is born, out of which is evolved the entire universe. In fact, both the insentient Prakṛti and the sentient principle belong to lord Śiva himself who out of sheer will and sportively too creates, dissolves and then re-creates and re-dissolves the universe. In this eternal process everything created in the feminine form is Prakṛti and everything masculine is Puruṣa. The half-man and half-woman body (ardhanārīśvara) of Śiva is responsible for the origin of creation by copulation. As stated above, the creative force is of the nature of agni (fire) and its forty-nine forms[15] constitute the different forms of the supreme lord who in his qualified (sakala) state is characterized by three functions viz. creation, sustenance and dissolution.

According to the Purāṇic account of creation, in the beginning the insentient Prakṛti in the form of the Cosmic Egg remained in the Cosmic waters for thousands of years, until it was activated by the sentient principle which entering divided it into two halves. One of the two became the celestial and the other the terrestrial sphere both constituting the fourteen worlds.

The constituents of Prakṛti, the material cause of the universe, are twenty three in number. They are: (1) intellect, (2) ego, (3-7) five subtle elements, (8-12) five senses of action, (13-17) five senses of knowledge, (18-22) five gross elements and (23) the mind. The unevolved Prakṛti is called (24) Pradhāna. This set of twenty-four principles is insentient and to this is added a threefold set of sentient beings viz. (25) Jīva (the individual soul), (26) Puruṣa (the cosmic soul) and (27) the Supreme soul, Śiva. In this formulation, Pradhāna, the twenty-fourth category, is the source of twenty three principles (mentioned above); Jīva, the tweny-fifth, is the knower of Pradhāna: Puruṣa, the twentysixth, has the perception of the two lower categories viz. Jīva and Pradhāna but he cannot bestow grace.[16] Lord Maheśvara, the twenty-seventh,[17] alone is omnipotent and is capable of bestowing grace. In this context, Prakṛti is apratibuddha, Jīva is buddhimān, Puruṣa is buddha and Maheśvara is prabuddha. The twenty-six principles emanate from the saptaviṃśaka (the twenty-seventh) principle viz, lord Maheśvara.

The twenty-sixth principle Puruṣa is represented as passive and a spectator of the working of Prakṛti. He is distinguished from the personal soul, Jīva, as the latter is the enjoyer of the fruits of the world-tree. Lord Maheśvara is beyond Pradhāna and Puruṣa. In his one half, i.e. the masculine form, he is devoid of qualities (niṣkala) but his other half (sakala) is characterized by the three attributes: sattva, rajas and tamas which are personified as Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra.

The entire phenomenon of creation is symbolised by the phallic image[18] (liṅga) of lord Siva.

According to the Liṅgapurāṇa[19] Pradhāna, the primary unevolved matter, the cause of the universe is Liṅga itself. At the root of Liṅga the creator Brahmā is stationed; Viṣṇu the sustainer of the world is stationed in the middle; Rudra the annihilator is stationed above; lord Śiva is its substratum. He permeates and imparts impetus to Liṅga and effects the work of creation in this way.

The Purāṇic cosmology divides creation into nine classes arranged in three groups: (1) Primary, (2) Secondary and Primary-Secondary as follows:

I Primary II Secondary II Primary-Secondary
1. Intellect and Ego 4. Insentient objects 9. Mind-born sons of Brahmā
2. Subtle elements 5. Animals  
3. Gross elements 6. Divine beings  
  7. Human beings  
  8. Sentient Feeling  

According to the Liṅgapurāṇa this set of threefold creation—Primary, Secondary and Primary-Secondary—was unable to create. The mind-born sons of Brahmā remained celibate. Then out of his body Brahmā produced eleven sons; still the creation made no progress. Then Brahmā divided himself into two forms—one half a woman and the other half a man. In that half form of a woman he created a couple—Manu and Śatarūpā who obeyed the creator and began the work of creation.

2. Dissolution and Re-creation (Pratisarga)

The creation of the universe is not a permanent feature, for all creations end in dissolutions which in turn give place to recreation. Thus, there are several dissolutions—minor and major.

As the Purāṇas relate, a creation lasts for a day of Brahmā equal to a kalpa, a period of four hundred thirty-two million years of mortals. A kalpa consists of fourteen Manvantaras. Thus, a day of Brahmā, equal to a kalpa contains fourteen dissolutions. But these are partial dissolutions. At the end of fourteen manvantaras, equal to a day of Brahmā that lasts for a kalpa, there occurs a great dissolution. There is also a complete dissolution when Brahmā has completed his life-time. At the advent of this dissolution (Prākṛta pralaya), the mobile and immobile beings, Devas, Asuras, serpents,. Rākṣasas etc. are all destroyed. Everything dissolves itself into Prakṛti which remains hidden in the supreme lord Śiva. The lord alone survives; there is no second being anywhere.[20]

At the advent of re-creation after dissolution, Lord Śiva is present in two forms: Prakṛti and Ātman. Lord Viṣṇu adopts the body of Prakṛti and lies on the yogic couch in the midst of waters. Then Brahmā is born of his umbilical lotus. Brahmā asks Śiva to grant him power to re-create?[21]

3. The ages of Manus (Manvantaras)

The creation is divided into time-units—kalpas, manvantaras, yugas, saṃvatsaras and other relatively bigger and smaller units. When creation ceases to exist these time-units disappear as a matter of course.

The description of the time-unit, manvantara, is one of the many characteristics of a Mahāpurāṇa. A manvantara comprises about seventy one caturyugas equal to 1200 years of the gods or l/14th day of Brahmā. The fourteen manvantaras make up one whole day of Brahmā, equal to a kalpa. After each manvantara there is a minor dissolution. Thus, a day of Brahmā has fourteen dissolutions and re-creations. The scheme of fourteen dissolutions repeats itself from one age of Manu to another.

The purāṇas mention fourteen manvantaras. These derive their names from fourteen successive progenitors and sovereigns of the earth. The present Purāṇa mentions fourteen Manus by name. They are (i) Svāyambhuva, (ii) Svārociṣa, (iii) Uttama, (iv) Tāmasa,(v) Raivata, (vi) Cākṣuṣa, (vii) Vaivasvata, (vii) Sāvarṇi, (ix) Dharma, (x) Sāvarṇika, (xi) Piśaṅga, (xii) Apiśaṅgābha, (xiii) Śabala, (xiv) Varṇaka, On their nomenclature the Purāṇas are not unanimous.

4-5. Genealogy and history of Royal Houses (Vaṃśa and Vaṃśānucarita)

Genealogy and history of kings and illustrious personages play an important role in the Mahāpurāṇas. The sūtas were the custodians of genealogical records which they learnt by rote and which they recited at sessional sacrifices. But in the course of oral transmission from one generation to another some variations entered in these records. Moreover, there were traditional variations too, for different versions existed in different families of sūtas. When the records were incorporated in the Purāṇas, the interpolations and the traditional variations also settled therein. This explains the difference that exists in the genealogical records of the Purāṇic literature.[22]

The Liṅgapurāṇa is not interested in recording the genealogies of ancient royal houses and illustrious personages. Still it contains, in five chapters (I. 65-69), lists of the solar and lunar dynasties of Ayodhyā and Prayāga. Chapters 65-66 deal with the solar dynasty of Ayodhyā from Vaivasvata Manu to Satyavrata, from Satyavrata to Sagara and from Sagara to Bṛhadbala. Chapters 67-69 recount the lunar dynasty of Prayāga from Aila Purūravas to Yayāti, from Yayāti to Jyāmagha and from Jyāmagha to Śrīkṛṣṇa. As for the history of reigning monarchs (vaṃśānucarita) it is interested mainly in the records of the solar and lunar dynasties. It recounts the. deeds of some monarchs of these houses. Amongst these Sagara, Yayāti, Jyāmagha and Śrī Kṛṣṇa figure prominently, while Dhundhumāra, Babhru, Satrājit, Akrūra and others occupy a secondary place.

Monism of Śiva and the means of the soul’s release

The above analysis demonstrates that the Liṅgapurāṇa possesses the conventional character of a Mahāpurāṇa. But its real greatness lies in expounding the monistic background of Śaiva philosophy especially in the context of the Liṅga cult.

The Liṅga is described as twofold: gross and subtle. The subtle liṅga is the fourth state of the soul and beyond in which the other three states merge, losing their identity. The gross Liṅga, made of clay, wood, stone, crystal etc. is meant just to create a feeling of devotion in the gross-minded people. In fact lord Śiva, like the ether, is an indivisible centre whose division into sakala and niṣkala forms as of the ether into ghaṭākāśa and maṭhākāśa is illusory.[23] Even the state of being one (ekatva) is not present there as a distinct attribute. Similarly, in relation to the tattvas, he is placed in the twenty-seventh category; but the tattvas too emanate from him; they are the products of his power of projection (Prakṛti or Māyā).[24] He is related to them as the gold is related to the ornaments or the ocean to the waves. Their group of twenty-four forms a noose which binds the individual and cosmic souls, categorized as the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth principles.

A major portion of this Purāṇa is concerned with the suppression of illusion through the attainment of knowledge by means of Pāśupata yoga, accompanied by purificatory and expiatory rites and acts of physical and mental worship with the Tantra, Mantra and Yantra appliances. A particular emphasis is laid upon selfpurification. Along with the purification of the three guṇas, viz. sattva, rajas and tamas, the Purāṇa enjoins the purification of the fivefold set of tattvas[25] viz. Yauvana (five gross elements), Pada (five subtle elements), Varṇa (five organs of knowledge), Mātrā (five organs of action) and Kālādhvara (the fourfold group consisting of intellect, ego, consciousness and mind). These practices, accompanied by mental concentration, are said to help the aspirant achieve spiritual enlightenment and attain release from the entanglement of the senses and his absorption into the supreme soul.

Footnotes and references:


Viṣṇu III. 6.


For detail, sec introduction to Śivapurāṇa Part I, English Translation P. xiii.


Bhaviṣya. III.28.10-15.


Liṅga. I.64.120-121.


Nāradīya. I 102. 1-4.


Liṅga. I.2.1.


His name was Gaṇeśa Nātu. He was the son of Ballāla and Yaśodā and the disciple of Nīlakaṇṭha. He lived in 1760 (or 1769) Śaka era, at Poona. Vide the introductory verses of Śivatoṣiṇī (a commentary on the Liṅgapurāṇa),


Liṅga 1.2.3.


Ibid., 1.2.1.


Liṅga I. 40. 50-72.


Ibid., pratimāṃ ca hareś caiva mlecchā hṛtvā yayuḥ punaḥ II.3.36. of the seed is lord Śiva himself. Thus, the half-man and halfwoman form of the lord is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe.


Ibid,, I. 52. 29; Matsya 50. 75-76; Mark. 57. 8.


Cf. Liṅga I. 40. 53.


Liṅga I. 20. 73 ff.


Liṅga I.6.4; 1.7.105.


Saḍviṃśakam anīśvaram I.17.109.


yaḥ saptaviṃśako nityaḥ parāt parataraḥ prabhuḥ I.71.51.
tasmād abhedabuddhyaiva saptaviṃśatprabhedataḥ I.75.34.


A Liṅga in the form of a column, arising out of a yoni (vaginal passage) is set up in temples dedicated to Śiva. Formerly 12 principal Liṅgas existed, of which the best known arc Somanātha in Gujarat, Mahākāla at Ujjayinī and Viśveśvara at Vārāṇasī.


Liṅga, I.74.19-20.


Ibid., I.85. 7-8.


Ibid., I.85. 10-11ff.


For instance, (i) according to Liṅga Āgnīdhra was the eldest son of Priyavrata. But according to a Vāyu version he was the son of Priyavrata’s daughter, (ii) Liṅga ascribes the origin of the name Bhārata to king Bharata, the eldest of the 100 sons of Ṛṣabha and grandson of Nābhi (cf. Vāyu 33, 51-52; Mārkaṇḍeya 53.39-40; Bhāgavata 11.2.15-17; Skandapurāṇa, But according to Matsya 114.5-6, Bharata is the name of Manu himself who creates and supports the people here.


Liṅga I.75 ff.


Ibid., I.16.32-34; II.20.52


Ibid., II.20.44-47

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