Linga means phallus. Yoni means womb. A Shiva temple, and by extension the whole world, is the yoni of the Goddess.

Structure of Dravidian Temple
Author of Illustration: Raghu Raj Kishore – Dravidian Structure of Shiva Temple

The entrance to the is the leaf-shaped through within the temple, which envelopes Shiva’s linga. The Goddess thus draws Shiva’s phallus into the world. The tip of the leaf-shaped through always points to the north, suggesting that Shiva is lying on the ground facing the north. That the Goddess is always visualized as sitting on the top of Shiva is indicative of her proactive role in making Shiva interact with the world. Water is poured on the symbol of Shiva and collected in the symbol of Shakti with aim of drawing the energy of Shiva’s fire into samsara. This highly erotic imagery is highly typical for Tantra.

The marriage of Shiva and Shakti transforms both God and Goddess. When she steps on Shiva, Shakti is Kali, nature wild and untamed. Shiva is consciousness that is indifferent. When they marry, Kali becomes Gauri, nature that is nurturing and fertile. Shiva becomes Shankara, consciousness that is attentive. Just as devotees pour water on Shiva to draw his attention towards them, they offer clothes to Shakti when they visit her shrine. They want to see her not as the naked and bloodthirsty Kali but as the maternal Gauri.

Inspired by Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik – A Decoding of Hindu Mythology

Photo:  Zuzana Zwiebel – Shiva Lingam in Varanasi


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