The Linga Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1951 | 265,005 words | ISBN-10: 812080340X | ISBN-13: 9788120803404

This page describes Origin of the Linga (lingodbhava) which is chapter 17 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.

Chapter 17 - Origin of the Liṅga (liṅgodbhava)

Sūta said:—

1-5. Thus the origin of Sadyojāta has been succinctly narrated. He who reads or listens to or narrates this to excellent brahmins attains identity with brahman by the grace of the supreme lord.

The sages said:

How did Liṅga originate? How should lord be propitiated in Liṅga? What is this Liṅga? What its substratum? O Sūta, you should narrate all this to us.

Romaharṣaṇa said:

Formerly, Devas and Sages had, in reverence, asked Brahmā thus: “O lord, how did Liṅga originate by itself? How should lord Rudra be worshipped in the Liṅga. What is Liṅga? What its substratum?

Brahmā said:

Pradhāna is Liṅga and lord Siva is its substratum.

6-13. O excellent Devas, it was for us both—Viṣṇu and myself that Liṅga manifested itself in the ocean. It was when the aerial charioteers had gone to the Janaloka together with the Sages and when the period of sustenance being over the creation was withdrawn and when at the end of a thousand sets of four yugas, they had gone to Satyaloka and in the end, except their overlords, had attained identity with me, then all immobile beings had dried up due to all-round drought and other beings like men, animals, Piśācas, Rākṣasas, Gandharvas including plant life were scorched to death by the rays of the Sun. Everything was a single vast sheet of water. It was terribly dark all round. In that vast sheet of water, the lord devoid of impurities and free from calamities had gone to sleep. He had a thousand heads,[1] a thousand eyes, a thousand feet and a thousand arms. He, the universal soul, omniscient, the source of origin of all, was characterized by the qualities of rajas, tamas and sattva in the form of Brahmā, Rudra and Viṣṇu. He was omnipresent and the supreme lord in view of his being the soul of all. He was in the form of Kāla with Kala in his umbilicus. He was white, black, pure, of huge arms, the soul of all and identical with Being and non-Being.

14. On seeing the lotus-eyed deity lying thus, I was deluded by his māyā. I asked him angrily:

15-16. Who are you? Tell me. Then with my hand I raised up the eternal lord. Due to the severe and firm blow of my hands he woke up from sleep and sat in his serpent couch.[2] Within a moment he regained control of himself and with his lotus-like bleary eyes he looked at me.

17. Enveloped that he was by a halo of brilliance he spoke to me as I stood before him. He got up from bed and laughing awhile addressed me sweetly.

18-32. “I welcome you, O dear Brahmā of great brilliance.” O leading Devas, when I heard his words uttered smilingly my arrogance was provoked by rajas and I spoke to him thus: “With smiles within, you call me by the appellation ‘Dear’ (as if I were inferior to you). But know that I am the cause of creation and annihilation of the universe. O sinless one, you address me as a preceptor would address his disciple. But I am the creator of the universe, the promptor of Prakṛti, the eternal, unborn Brahmā, the origin and soul of the universe. I am the lotus-eyed lord. Now tell me quickly why you speak thus in utter delusion.

He then replied to me—“See for yourself that I am the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. You are born of my eternal body. You forget that I am the lord of Universe, the Supreme soul invoked and eulogised. I am Viṣṇu, Acyuta, Īśāna, the origin of the universe. It is not your fault that you have forgotten me. This has been effected by me through my māyā. Listen to the truth, O four-faced[3] deity. Indeed, I am the lord of all devas. I am the creator, leader and destroyer. There is no other lord like me. I alone am the Supreme Brahman. O Brahmā, I am the greatest principle, the greatest luminary, the supreme soul. O four-faced lord, whatever is seen or heard in this universe—the mobile and immobile, is identical with me and permeated by me. Formerly the unmanifest pradhāna the twenty-fourth principle[4] from the gross to the indestructible atom was created by me. Out of fury were Rudra and others created. Out of joy and sport you were born as also the Cosmos: Intellect, the threefold[5] ego, subtle elements sense-organs including the mind; and gross elements were also created by me.

As he finished his speech, a terrible, thrilling fight ensued between us. In the middle of that ocean of dissolution we were engaged in fight, instigated by rajas.

33. In the meantime a brilliant Liṅga appeared in front of us in order to suppress our dispute and enlighten us.

34. It had thousands of clusters of flames. It was comparable to hundreds of (all-consuming fires). It was stable, with no decline or increase. It had neither a beginning nor an end nor a middle.

35. It was incomparable, inexplicable, and indistinct. It was the source of the universe. Lord Viṣṇu was deluded by its thousand flames.

36. I too was deluded. Then Viṣṇu said to me—“Let us test this fiery Being. I shall go to the root of this incomparable column of fire.

37-38. You should go up assiduously”. After saying this, Viṣṇu assumed the form of a boar. O Devas, I assumed the form of a swan. Ever since they call me haṃsa (swan) or Virāṭ haṃsa (cosmic swan).

39-43. He who repeatedly calls me swan, shall himself become a swan of bright and white colour, with fiery eyes and feathers. O gods! I assumed the speed of the wind and the mind and went higher and higher. Viṣṇu the all-pervading soul assumed the form of a black boar and went lower and lower. The boar looked like a heap of blue collyrium. It was a hundred Yojanas in length, ten Yojanas in girth. Its body was huge as the mount Meru. It had white and curved teeth. It had the refulgence of all-consuming sun with long snout and loud grunt. Its legs were short and its body of diverse colours. It was victorious, firm and incomparable. Assuming this form of a black boar, Viṣṇu went lower and lower, hurriedly, for a period of one thousand years.

44. Still he could not reach the root of the Liṅga. O destroyer of enemies, throughout that period of time I was going higher and higher.

45. I hurried up my efforts to see the end of that Liṅga. I was tired. Arrogant that I was I could not see the end and returned to the place of my start.

46. Similarly, Lord Viṣṇu was also tired. His fear was evident in his eyes. He, the origin of all Devas, immediately came up there.

47. We bowed to lord Siva. The noble-minded Viṣṇu was deluded by Śiva’s Māyā and he stood there in mental dejection.

48. We bowed to lord Śiva at the sides, behind and in front and wondered what that was.

49. O great Devas! then a loud sound Om[6] issued (out of the column). It was clearly a prolated sound.

81 Om is a mystic syllable consisting of three sounds a, u, m. It is the object of profound religious meditation. The highest spiritual efficacy is attributed not only to the whole word but also to each sound separately.

50-51. Thinking what it could be, Viṣṇu stood there together with me. Then he saw the eternal first letter ‘a’ on the right hand side of the Liṅga; then on the left the letter ‘u’; thereafter, the letter ‘m’ in the middle and the vibratory tone in the end. That tone was ‘Om’.

52-55. Viṣṇu saw the first syllable ‘a’ in the south, like the disc of the sun, the second syllable ‘u’ as refulgent as fire in the north, the third ‘m’ in the middle as refulgent as the sphere of the moon; above it, he saw the lord like the pure crystal. It was the fourth entity, devoid of attributes, nectarine, unsullied, undisturbed, devoid of mutually clashing opposites, unique, void, without an exterior or interior but still endowed with exterior and interior, as it was stationed both without and within. It was devoid of beginning, middle and end, it was the cause of bliss.

56-62. The three mātrās and half a mātrā called nāda, together constitute Brahman. The three Vedas Ṛk, Yajus and Sāman are in the form of the three mātrās. Viṣṇu contemplated on Śiva, the universal soul, through the words of the Vedas. The Vedas became a sage. Viṣṇu understood the glorious essence of the Vedas—the supreme lord through that sage alone.

Brahmā said:

Rudra is free from anxieties and worries. Speech recedes along with the mind being unable to attain him. He is expressible through the single syllable (om)[7], which is the Divine order, the supreme cause, truth, bliss, nectar, the supreme Brahman, greater than the greatest. Out of that single syllable ‘om’, the syllable ‘a’ is Brahmā; ‘u’ Viṣṇu, and ‘m’ is Rudra. ‘a’ is the cause of creation, ‘u’ of illusion and ‘m’ of bliss.

63-65. The syllable ‘m’ is the sower, ‘a’ is the seed and ‘u’ is the womb. The three symbolise the lord, Pradhāna and Puruṣa. Thus the sower, the seed and the womb, together with nāda, constitute lord Śiva. The sower divided itself out of his own free will. Out of the liṅga of the lord the sower created the seed ‘a’ which he discharged into the womb ‘u’ where it increased all round.

66. It turned into a golden egg enveloping the first letter ‘a’. This divine egg was ensconced in the water for many years.

67-68. Then at the end of a thousand years the egg that had evolved out of the unborn and stationed in the waters was split into two by the primeval lord himself. The splendid golden skull of the egg became heaven and the base became the earth.

69. From the egg the four-faced Brahmā was born. He is the creator of the universe, the lord of three forms.

70-72. The wise exponents of Yajus say that Om is Brahman. The Ṛk and Sāman śrutis too have declared similarly. On the lord of Devas precisely we meditated and we eulogised him by reciting the Vedic mantras. Delighted by our eulogy the unsullied lord delightfully stationed himself into the divine Liṅga after assuming the form of sound.

73-82. The letter ‘a’ was his head; ‘ā’ the forehead; ‘i’ the right eye; ‘ī’ the left eye; ‘u’ the right ear; ‘ū’ the left ear; ‘ṛ’ the right cheek; ‘ṝ’ the left cheek, ‘lṛ’ [‘ḷ’] and ‘lṝ’ [ḹ] the pairs of his nostrils; ‘e’ the upper lip, ‘ai’ the lower lip; ‘o’ and ‘au’ the two rows of teeth; ‘aṃ’ and ‘aḥ’ the palates; the five letters beginning with ‘k’ his five hands on the right side; the five letters beginning with ‘c’ his five hands on the left side; the five letters beginning with ‘ṭ’ his right leg; the five letters beginning with ‘t’ his left leg; the letter ‘p’ his belly; ‘ph’ his right side, ‘b’ his left side; ‘bh’ his shoulder, ‘m’ his heart; the letters ‘y’ to ‘s’ the seven dhātus; ‘h’ his soul and ‘kṣ’ his anger. On seeing the great lord along with Umā. Viṣṇu bowed and then looked up at him. He saw a mantra emerging from ‘Om’ with five digits. Resembling pure crystal it contained thirty eight syllables. It was conducive to the increase of knowledge, and it was the means of achievement of all righteous matters. He saw the Ṛk of twenty four syllables and four digits in Gāyatrī metre and in green colour, with the efficacy for gaining control. He saw the Atharvan mantra of thirty three syllables, eight digits, black in colour and with its efficacy of black magic. He saw the Yajus mantra of thirty five syllables, eight digits, white in colour, with the efficacy for peace. He saw the Sāman mantra of sixty-six syllables, of thirteen digits, in the jagatī metre, in the coral-red colour, with the efficacy for creation and dissolution of the universe.

Having obtained these five mantras, lord Viṣṇu performed japa. He saw lord Śiva in all digits and syllables (constituting the limbs) with body consisting of Ṛk, yajus, and sāman, with Īśāna for his coronet, Tatpuruṣa for his face, Aghora for his heart, Vāmadeva for his private parts, Sadyojāta for his feet, serpents for his ornaments, with eyes and hands all round. On seeing the great lord (of above description) the overlord of Brahmā, the cause of creation, sustenance and dissolution and the granter of boons, Viṣṇu eulogized him with pleasing words.

Footnotes and references:


Ṛgveda X.90. 1.


In Hindu Mythology Viṣṇu is represented as reclining on the serpent Śesa. A vivid picture of Śeṣaśāyī Viṣṇu is depicted on the outer wall of the Daśāvatāra temple at Deogarh.


Brahmā is four-faced (Caturmukha). It is stated that originally he had five heads but one was cut off by Śiva for telling a lie. According to another version, the fifth head was burnt off by the fire of Śiva’s eye for speaking disrespectfully of Śiva. We read in the Śatarudra saṃhitā that it was Kālabhairava, a terrible form of Śiva who cut off the fifth head. Viṣṇu Purāṇa (chapter 8) however gives a different version. It states that Bhairava attempted to cut off the fifth head of Brahmā at the instance of Śiva but gave up the attempt when Śiva intervened at the behest of Viṣṇu.


It refers to the invisible (avyakta) Pradhāna, the twenty-fourth category in Sāṃkhya philosophy.


Ahaṃkāra (ego) is threefold: sāttvika, rājasa and tāmasa.


Om is a mystic syllable consisting of three sounds a, u, m. It is the object of profound religious meditation. The highest spiritual efficacy is attributed not only to the whole word but also to each sound separately.


Om is a symbol of Brahma: Cf. Yogasūtra: ‘tasya vācakaḥ praṇavaḥ’. In later times it came to represent the Hindu triad, viz., ‘a’ (Viṣṇu), ‘u’ (Śiva), ‘m’ (Brahmā). But this order is not followed in some Purāṇas. For instance, according to Liṅga ‘a’ represents Brahmā, ‘u’ Viṣṇu and ‘m’, Rudra.

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