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linga (लिङ्ग)

Sanskrit. ‘Emblem, gender, symbol’. A representation of a phallus, the symbol of the creative power of Shiva. When a face is added to its surface it is called mukhalinga, a ‘linga with a face’, and the representation of a linga with a single face is called ekamukhalinga (fig.). There are many different types, often divided into three parts corresponding to the Trimurti (fig.), i.e. a cubic base representing Brahma (fig.), an octagonal prism representing Vishnu (fig.), and a cylindrical part with a rounded top representing Shiva (fig.). The cult is worshipped in India and Southeast Asia, by some even to this day (fig.). It is believed that water —or sometimes milk— passed over a linga becomes sacred, even magical. People of the past even carved lingas into the riverbed, such as in Kbal Spean in the jungle near Angkor in Cambodia, and at Sahasralinga near Sirsi Taluk in Uttara Kannada of Karnataka state in India, or alternatively placed removable stone slabs with carved lingas (fig.) in the rivers, in order to fertilize the water that fed their rice paddies. This ancient practice is today also represented in a water basin at the Hindu temple Wihaan Sadet Pho Phra Siwa (fig.) in Bangkok. When Mahayana Buddhism, introduced to Cambodia as state religion by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII (fig.), was after his death once again replaced by Hinduism, many of the Buddha images were crudely altered into Hindu lingas. Also Shivalinga, lingum or lingam, and in Thai ling, leung, siwaleung and siwaling. In combination (fig.) with the yoni it represents creation. An assorted collection of different styles of linga and yoni are on permanent display at the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap (fig.) See also pladkik and compare with lak meuang.