Friday, 13 March 2009

The Shivalingam

It's pretty amazing to be in a city where the lingam is everywhere. Walking by the Ganges, or through the narrow alleyways of the old city of Varanasi; in alcoves, in little shrines, glimpsed through windows and doorways or embedded in the pavement are shivalinga. They do not represent the phallus, or vajra (penis) - it is the other way round. The phallus is a particular form of the symbol (Jung would call it an archetype) of the lingam which represents Shiva and is a reminder of the vertical dimension of life; the connection with Spirit.

Even more amazing is that they are not dusty old relics of a bygone age. Most, are freshly decorated with flowers and colours. In the recent festival of Mahashivaratri they are annointed with Ganges water, milk, curd, flowers, garlands. Some are tenderly dressed like precious children.

In the West anything that could connect with associations to the lingam is either ridiculed, shamed, shunned or analysed in reductive Freudian terms. The celebration of anything like this we have left is the Maypole; not long now till May day!

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