Linga, Puja, Symbolism—S.N.Balagangadhara

Symbolic interpretation of lingam from a netizen: “In ancient India, there was a fertility cult; our ancestors knew that it was a fertility cult; Lingam was a symbol for the phallus then; it continues to be one even when many millions are ignorant of this now; and that the Modern Indians’ attitude to sex is inhibiting because of which they do not see the symbolism.”

To keep the contrast between us stark, here is what I say: Lingam is not a symbol of anything or anybody. Lingam is how Shiva’s puja is done (as against, say, how we do puja to Vishnu) by the Indians. You tell me that this factual claim is wrong and that by saying what I have just said, I project my present to ‘explain’ the past. Very well.

In the first place, I want to draw your attention to the issue that I am not providing any interpretation, whereas you are. You are the one who tells me that I doing something other than doing puja to Shiva, viz., I am doing puja to a ‘symbol’ that, in its turn, belongs to a fertility cult. Therefore, I am justified in asking you why you think so. Why did our ancestors take to doing puja to a symbol instead of saying straightaway that they do puja to the penis, irrespective of whose penis it is? It could not be because they were ‘prudish’ or ‘repressed’. If women did move about bare-breasted then, and we gave the world the ‘Kama Sutra’, surely they would not have been inhibited in saying that they worshipped penis? Why did they have to ‘invent’ a symbolism for the penis, deny that it was merely a penis and cook up the utterly fantastic story that it was the Shiva linga? If the modern day Indians were to cook this story up, one could understand it within your framework. Yet you say, most Indians do not even know they are worshipping a symbol, whereas our ancestors did. Well, you need to make this plausible to me and to the others: why ever did our ancestors take to ‘symbolisms’, cook up fantastic camouflaging stories that hide the ‘true’ meaning, instead of simply saying what I say? Why this devious route and not a direct insistence that one worships penis irrespective of its form or size?

Until you come with a satisfying story that explains the ‘deviousness’ of our ancestors, I think I am justified in saying this: we do what our ancestors did too, i.e. do puja to Shiva in the form of the lingam. Because this simple story does not satisfy you and you need the complicated talk of fertility cults and symbolisms, I am justified in my skepticism until that stage when you come up with a satisfactory story. At this moment, no one has; I do not believe you will either. But I am and remain open. (You will, of course, understand that I am adopting a scientific and rational attitude here: when two explanations of the ‘same’ phenomenon exist, one chooses the simpler to the more complicated. They call this the ‘Occam’s razor’ argument.)

Check this post “Does Shiva linga mean phallus?”


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