Incredible Shiva Lingas Carvings Emerge from the Shalmala River as Dry Weather Lowers the Water
Dry weather has caused a drop in the level of the Shalmala River in Karnataka State, India, revealing thousands of carvings in the rock bed of male and female sexual symbols – linga and yoni – and of Nandi, the Hindu God Shiva’s bull mount.
The place is called Sahasralinga, which means “thousand Shiva lingas” as around this many linga are carved on rocks in and around the river. On Shiva’s feast day, Mahastrashivaratri, thousands of his worshipers visit the site to worship him.
“During Shivratri, thousands of pilgrims visit this place [in Karnataka] and offer pujas, a perfect time when the water level in the river is low and most of the Lingas are visible with their bases called Yonis,” says the website Sott.net. “Each Linga also has an individual bull carved facing towards them. No one really knows when or who carved these Lingas but it is speculated that the King of Sirsi, Sadashivaraya, may have ordered their construction during his reign from 1678 to 1718.”
One myth says Shiva's phallus was so gargantuan, even Brahma flying up and Vishnu flying down could not find the limits of it. The story is mentioned in three Puranas, or holy texts of Hinduism, including the Shiva Purana.
Along the river Shalmala in Karnataka thousands of beautiful carvings of yonis, lingas and Nandi are exposed when water levels drop. (Photo by Unique.creator/Wikimedia Commons)
“According to Puranas, once the other two of the triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over each other’s prowess,” says Mahashivaratri.org. “Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a flaming Linga in between Brahma and Vishnu and challenged both of them by asking them to measure the gigantic Linga (phallic symbol of Lord Shiva).”
Awestruck, Brahma in the form of a swan flew up, while Vishnu as a boar went down into the earth. They searched for thousands of miles but could not find the limits of the great lingam.
However, the exhausted Brahma came to the ketaki flower on his way up and forced it to lie that Brahma had seen the top of the lingam, where the flower used to live. Brahma confronted Vishnu alongside the lingam and said he, Brahma, had seen the origin. Then the pillar split open and out jumped Shiva in all his glory. Braham and Vishnu bowed to him in a sign that they accepted his supremacy. Shiva told the two they were born out of him and the three deities separated into different divine aspects.
Shiva, angry with Brahma for lying, decided no one would pray to Brahma, which explains why there are only four significant temples to Brahma while there are so many for Shiva and Vishnu. Shiva also decided the ketaki flower could not be offered in any rites or worship.
A Shiva lingam in Linga Temple near Narsimha Statue Badavilinga Temple (public domain)
The same day that Shiva appeared as the lingam is celebrated as Mahashivaratri—which Mahashivaratri.org calls the grand night of Shiva. Devotees of Shiva fast that day and pray that night, and believers hope their worship will bring them prosperity and happiness.
While Shiva’s phallus ranks among the most famous and largest of phalli, many other cultures have propitiated male fertility symbols.
“The ancients would place in orchards and gardens a phallic stone to promote blossoming and fructification,” says the book Larousse Greek and Roman Mythology.
An ancient Peruvian phallus of the pre-Columbian Wari culture (Photo by russaiva/Wikimedia Commons)
Phallic stones or herms were also placed to propitiate the Greek gods Dionysus and Hermes, who was sometimes said to be Priapus' son or father. Propitiation or celebration of phalli has also been known in Japan, China, Bali, India, Russia, the Americas, parts of Africa and other places around the world.
Featured image: The riverbed rock carvings also show Nandi, Shiva’s bull mount. The lingam in this photo is the protuberance, and the figure that encircles it is the yoni, or feminine symbol. (Photo by Sott.net)
By Mark Miller