Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Genitalia of Hindu Worship

"Religion is like a penis.
It's fine to have one.
It's fine to be proud of it.
But please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around,
And please don't try to shove it down my children's throats."

Seen on a T-shirt

Addendum: Yours isn't better than everyone else's, regardless of what you may think.

One of my earliest primers in comparative religion came from a large, hardcover book called Myths and Legends by Bellingham, Whittaker and Grant which I bought when I was in high school because I was such a huge mythology junkie back then. It is essentially a complete idiot's guide to Norse, Greek, Chinese, Japanese and Indian stories of divinity with lots of excellent colour photographs of religious relics and arts in it. However, it is by no means encyclopaedic as it left out Middle Eastern mythoi such as Christianity and Islam, which are the two most popular superstitious belief systems in the world today.

I brought this up because pretty much everything I know about Hinduism came from between the pages of that book. In it, I first learned about Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance and the Paragon of Paradoxes, which I still consider one of the coolest gods ever conceived by the minds of humankind. However, in my readings, I also found out some stuff about Shaivistic worship which are downright goofy.

Myths and Legends Shivling
Highlighted text reads: "But Shiva is most often worshipped as the
lingam. The lingam is usually a cylinder of dark, shiny stone with a curved
top set in a circular receptacle, or
yoni, the symbol of female sexuality."

Page 152 of my copy of Myths and Legends says: "Shiva is a very ancient god. He is still extremely popular today and is often worshipped in the form of a lingam, a stone phallus."

Alongside the androgynous Ardhanarishvara (the Lord who is half-woman), the lingam is an iconograph of Shiva I have always kept an eye out for. It supposedly represents his awesome "male creative energy", which is an euphemism if I ever seen one. When I was in Shiv-Bhumi, the earthly Abode of Shiva in Bharmour, I was seeing lingams everywhere in the Chaurasi Temple complex which boasts no less than 84 of Shiva's godly tallywhacker littering the compound. It made me feel slightly violated, like I was being spiritually bukkake-ta the whole time I was there.

The most impressive shrine in the compound is the 6th century Manimahesh temple...

Bharmour Manimahesh Temple with Streamers
The tinsel streamers undulating in the breeze like sperms weren't helping to put me at ease at all.

... which houses Shiva's thick black lingam.

Bharmour Manimahesh Temple Lingam
"Kneel and worship my monolithic ebony rod, mortals!"

Come to think of it, even the stone Åšikhara-style temple is shaped like a mega-sized rock-solid schlong.

Bharmour Manimahesh Temple
And what more, it's ribbed for her pleasure.

Look at how wide its corona, I mean, roof is. And it's so long tall that it's almost a skyraper. Skyscraper! I meant to say skyscraper!

Okay, moving on.

The iconographical counterpart of the lingam is the yoni, which is the Sanskrit word for the female genitalia, and it is thought to be a symbol for the divine feminine, the source of all that exists, and it looks like a minimalistic square womb with a vaginal passage leading out of it (if you remember, I have actually mentioned the yoni in passing in one of my older posts about the Jesus Fish). When the source of existence, yoni, is conjugalated with the creative force, lingam, it becomes the abstract symbol of creation itself: the linga-yoni.

Here's one I found in the same temple courtyard,

Bharmour Yoni and Lingam
Um, that is NOT how sex works, kids.

The orange stuff covering Shiva's rigid manhood is kumkum, a powder used for social and religious markings in Hindu culture. Devotees would rub the lingam and then anoint their foreheads with their kumkum-stained fingers, making a mark called a tilaka. I don't even need to try - the jokes practically write themselves now.

And thus concludes today's lesson on the beliefs and practices of a major world religion. Isn't learning fun?

For the post describing my thrilling trip to Bharmour, follow this link: Landslides! Rockfalls! And the Road to Bharmour.

An avid 'Where's Willy?' player,
k0k s3n w4i


nicoletta said...

Did Shiva decree that his followers worship him in such a manner? If so, then he has a wicked sense of humour, and that's not such a bad thing in a god.

Anonymous said...

LOL it took me awhile but then I realised you're using kumkum as a pun! Wait, I'm not suppose to explain the joke, am I? :P

k0k s3n w4i said...

nicoletta: any god that's not threatening to throw me in hell for not believing is cool by me ;)

Anonymous: I thought "kumkum-stained fingers" was a dead giveaway.