Today is Shivaratri, a Hindu holiday in India which is celebrated as the wedding day of Shiva and his wife Parvati. For every Hindu temple, this is the day of the biggest Shiva worship of the year. Many of you will already know that Shiva is worshipped in the form of Shivling or Shiva Lingam, a penis-shaped statue. Today I would like to present you the story written in Hindu scriptures which is behind this worship.
This story is mentioned in different scriptures and, as usual, with some variations. I will give you two of them, so that you get an idea:
Shiva’s first wife had died and in his incredible sadness, he was roaming around restlessly, wandering alone in a forest, naked and like a madman.
In that forest, there lived many rishis – which are holy men with special powers called siddhis. They had wives, too, and while Shiva was wandering around like that, these women saw him. They could not hold onto themselves when they watched him walking by naked, his divine body in full display. They ran after him, admired him and finally started touching and hugging him.
As luck would have it, just in that time, their husbands, the rishis, came by as well. Seeing their wives in close embrace with Shiva, they got very angry, accusing him of immorality. They combined their powers and cursed Shiva, no, cursed his penis, saying it should be cut off and fall down at the spot!
There is another version in which they pick up stones and throw them at him, which with their sharp edges cut off his penis, so that it falls down.
No matter how exactly it happened, the penis fell down to earth and where it fell, it stood erected and started burning like wildfire. Wherever it went – my wife asked how it ‘went’ but I cannot exactly tell you – it caused inferno and chaos. Bad things started happening in the world, as if the earth’s last day had arrived. Mountains burst, fire was spilling everywhere and people were in panic. Had the world come to its end?
All demigods and rishis went to Brahma, the creator of the world. He got to know what had happened and, together with everyone, reached Shiva. Everyone started pleading with him and praying: ‘Please, take your penis back, it is destroying the world!’
Shiva was appeased by all these prayers and agreed, but with one condition: ‘Only if you start worshipping my penis, will I take it back!’
And that is how Shiva Lingams were installed across the earth in temples everywhere and the worship of Shiva’s penis started.
There are some of you who think that this is a joke? No, it is not – and you may also enjoy the following variation:
In this version of the story, Shiva was already married to his second wife Parvati. He was nevertheless running around in the forest naked – not out of grief, just because he felt like it – and encountered the rishi’s wives. They could not withstand the power of his attraction and hugged him. Their husbands were not amused and cursed his penis, which promptly fell down, causing chaos and apocalyptic conditions all over the world.
Everyone got together in crisis to find a solution. Who could catch Shiva’s penis and hold on to it? Where should it go once captured? Oh yes, once the saving idea was found, it was very clear: only Parvati would be able to hold Shiva’s penis, in her vagina!
They all prayed to Parvati and that’s how it was done: from that time on, Shiva Lingam was worshipped, erect and fixed in the vagina.
For more stories and my comment on the biggest of hypocrisies of Hinduism, surrounding Shiva’s penis, you can read my next blog entry tomorrow.