By Chirag Sharma
|Image Source: leelesh.blogspot.com|
With Shivratri, the well-observed, internationally widespread Hindu festival approaching, our office was abuzz with what art and design could well have to do with the Shivling, especially since the Shivling is vastly considered as the primordial form of abstractionism...
Firstly, we sorted out the inventory of images that we had - of beautifully decorated Shivlings, something that we felt we just had to share with our readers. (Wish we knew who mailed them to us – could have credited the photographer). Next, research pads quickly filled up with jottings from various sources.
|Prasat Kravan Angkorwat temple, Cambodia.|
However, the initial euphoria of celebrating this aspect of Indian heritage has given way to an uncanny uncertainty. Theories confound as much as they mesmerize – from scientific allegories to mythological tales; and just as intriguing are the conflicting opinions and conjectures, definitions of the Shivling and its symbolic interpretations.
|Sailesh Vera's Digital Work|
Sharing a fraction of our findings with you -Shiva is represented by the Ling or Mark, the outward symbol of the formless being, which manifests in the ‘Creative Power of Divinity’ - a creative power that artists have explored in various forms - Shivling, Nataraja, Ardhanarishwara etc. Lord Shiva’s manifestations are memorialized through temple complexes of Khajuraho in north India to Madhurai in the south and continue to be a point of exploration for many a contemporary artist. The Nataraja pose of Lord Shiva and is manifested as a popular form of metal sculpture.
|Image Source: connect.in.com|
|Image courtesy: suzynaik sulekha.com|
Shiva mythology, in fact, is a rich source of Indian thinking about sexuality, social relations, ritual, cosmic process, and metaphysics. The Male-Female union in the form of ‘Shiva Linga or Yoni-Linga’ or ‘Ardhanarishwara’ may be visualized as a parallel to the Chinese philosophy of ‘Yin-Yang’ or ‘Male-Female’. Metaphysically too, scientific philosophy explains fundamentals of existence through ‘positive and negative’ or ‘male and female’ aspects of matter and life.
|Ujjain Mahakaleswar Temple|
The late astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book, Cosmos, asserts that the Dance of Nataraja (Tandava) signifies the cycle of evolution and destruction of the cosmic universe (Big Bang Theory). “Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shiva in a beautiful series of bronzes. Today, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the pattern of the cosmic dance. Thus, the metaphor of the cosmic dance unifies ancient religious art and modern physics,” he writes.
In Varanasi, at the famed Kedarnath temple is a Shivling in the main sanctum, which is a low flat rock with speckled light granite on one side, a line of white granite going across the rock and dark speckled granite on the other side. The Puranic (ancient Hindu Text) story is that this Shivling represents a plate of rice and lentils. The ling is epitomized as a bisexual symbol where shaft of the ling of Shiva is set in a circular base, called a ‘seat’. It is the seat of that divine energy personified as Shiva's female half called Shakti.
|Image Source: dattapeetham.com|
|Sailesh Vera's Digital Work|
Absorbing philosophies apart, to enunciate the common expression of the Shivratri Festival, it is celebrated on a moonless night in the Hindu month of Phalgun that corresponds to the month of February-March in the English Calendar. According to Hindu mythology, Shivratri or 'Shiva's Great Night' symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is also believed that Shivratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. On this day, the Shivling is bathed with milk, honey, yogurt, sandalwood paste and rose water. Decorations range from beautiful floral patterns and garlands accompanied by select fruits (especially the jujube fruit) and traditional loin cloths. But the most important and significant offering to the Shivling on this day is the Bel Patra or leaves of a forest tree called Aegle marmelos (bilwa, maredu, wood apple), which have to be a stalk with three leaves.
|On the eve of Shivaratri festival in Vizag, more than ten million small Shivalingas|
were joined together to get the shape of a mighty Shiva Linga on the beach road in Vizag in 2009