--> Skip to main content

Concept Of Shivling In Lingayat – Virashaivism

Virashaivism, popularly known as Lingayat, emerged in the Karnataka region of India at the end of the 12th century CE. Virasaivism is also known as Lingayata, because the followers carry in the their body a Shivling, known as Ishtalinga, as a symbol of union between the self and God; the human and the divine are in constant touch with each other. Linga as the unifying principle of Shiva and Shakti is not to be construed as male and female; they represent tat (essence), sat (existence) and chit (consciousness), the transcendent and the immanent, the static and the dynamic, the impersonal and the personal.

As the main task of the Virasaiva is to annihilate the onslaught of malas (impurities) – anava mala, mayamala and karma mala – he has to worship Shiva (pati) in the form of Shivalinga (representation of self-existent truth). He has to wear a Shivling on the body (Ishtalinga) so that the body is purified and converted to the abode for Shiva to dwell. There will be constant touch of the divine on the human in this process, so that the human self is attuned to the infinite. Wearig Shivlinga is known as lingadharana. The self is liberated from the three bonds as a guru transmits his powers to the disciple. Deep-rooted devotion to Shiva in the form of Shivalinga and the rigorous spiritual discipline constitute the practical aspects of Virasaivism.

Shiva divides himself into linga and angas and the inherent divine power into Shakti and Bhakti. Linga is worshipped and anga is the worshipper and bhakti implies not merely devotion, but worship. Until the distinction between linga and anga vanishes and samarsasya is attained, the worshiper grows step by step; his process is explainedin terms of sat-sthala. There are three famous forms of angas – tyaganga, bhoganga and yoganga. There are three well known forms of linga – ishtalinga, pranalinga and bhavalinga. A tyagangin, who is detached from the worldly ties in the waking state, worships ishtalinga. A bhogangin experiences pleasure and pain through the subtle body and prefers spiritual uplift by worshiping pranalinga. A yogangin worships bhavalinga through which a union between ling and anga takes place in the causal body. Ishtalinga is the individual divine, pranalinga is the universal divine and bhavalinga is the infinite divine.

Ishtalinga can be divided into acharalinga (practical) and gurulinga (perceptive). Pranalinga can be divided into Shivalinga (auspicious) and charalinga (dynamic). Bhavalinga is further classified into prasadalinga (gracious).

Daily worship of Shivaling as the only god is one of the five codes of conduct or panchachara to be followed by a follower of Lingayata tradition.

Wearing of Shivling on the body is part of Ashtavarana or eight fold shield of Lingayata tradition.