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Li̇ga(m)

Liṅga(m) (Skt., ‘symbol’). Hindu term for a mark or sign, especially the sign or symbol of generative energy. The liṅga and yoni, the representations of the male and female sex organs, thus bring the issues of generation and fertility into a religious context. In Śaiva temples, the liṅga stands on a pedestal (which represents the yoni), their union being the quintessential summary of creative energy. Important examples can be found in the Liṅgarāj, in the temple dedicated to Śiva as the Lord of the Three Worlds (Tribhuvaneśvar) in Bhubaneswar (hence the name of the city in Orissa, the site of many Hindu temples); at Elephanta; and at Ellora in the Kailāsa temple, dedicated to Śiva. Among the most ancient (still a centre for worship) is that in Guḍimally in S. India. The twelve Jyotir-liṅga(m)s, made directly from light without human assistance, are each a centre of pilgrimage. The Liṅga Purāṇa is devoted to the honour of Śiva.

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