Linga

Most Javanese temples dedicated to Shiva house a linga (or lingam) in their main temple chambers. The linga is an aniconic representation of Shiva. It is a stone pillar, the top section of which is cylindrical, the middle section octagonal and the bottom section square. In India, when placed on its pedestal (yoni), usually only the cylindrical section of the statue is visible. In Java most often the cylindrical and octagonal sections are visible. Usually the pillar is plain, but it can also be adorned with heads, when it becomes known as a mukhalinga (a linga with a face/faces). The origin and symbolism of the linga are the subject of a heated debate. Some scholars are of the opinion that the linga is primarily a phallus symbol. Others, on the contrary, argue that Hindus do not usually associate it directly with the sexual organ. Both views are actually supported by ancient textual evidence. The linga is sometimes presented as the source of creative energy, sometimes as a pillar of light emerging at the centre of the universe. In Old Javanese and in Sanskrit, the word linga means ‘a mark, sign or token’ as well as a ‘phallus’ and a ‘pivot’. It is therefore probable that many levels of meaning have actually converged, making the linga a highly complex symbol conducive to multiple interpretations