Why are svayambhu pindis situated below the ground level?



Shiva’s idol underwent changes, with the passage of time as given below.

1. Form of the phallus

        Shankar is referred to as the father of the universe; that is why, at first, the idol used to be in the form of a phallus. It is mostly five faced. The face facing the east is called Vishnu, that facing the west is called Brahma, that facing the south Shiva and that facing the north Rudra. The fifth face points upwards, that is towards spiritual progress.

Inspite of Shiva being the deity of dissolution, one will wonder how the lingas of Shiva having forms such as the phallus, Nandi, divine phallus (linga) and divine birth passage (bhag / yoni), etc. have been created. According to the Shaiva sect, Shiva is the deity of all that is creation, sustenance as well as dissolution. Only in the concept of Trimurti (Datta) is Shiva the deity of dissolution. According to psychology too for most it is easier to worship with regard to creation and sustenance and difficult with regard to dissolution.

2. In the form of an animal

        Nandi is the form of Shiva from the Vedic period.

3. In the form of a man

        This form was created during the Puranic period. Here Parvati is depicted as seated on Shiva’s lap. It symbolises that Shiva-Parvati [Divine Energy (Shakti) are the parents of the universe. This idol is always white, that is like camphor (karpur) and is named Karpurgour. Shiva being the deity of purity, the idol is white in colour as a representation of this absolute purity. This human form of Shiva possesses the following four symbolic instruments in his hands.

A. The small hourglass shaped drum (damaru): This represents the Brahman in the form of the word (shabda Brahman). Alphabets consisting of the sounds of fifty-two basic letters and the forms of fourteen Maheshvar verses (sutras) have generated from it. Later the universe was created from it.

B. The trident: It represents the following

  • The three components (trigunas)

  • The root of creation, sustenance and dissolution

  • Volition, knowledge and action are the tips of the three prongs of the trident.

  • The yama, surya and prajapati frequencies

C. The noose or the deer: The noose represents the noose of time (kalpash). (The rope in Ganapati’s hand too is the noose of time.) The deer symbolises the four Vedas.

D. The axe: This represents the destruction of ignorance.

3.1 Dakshinamurti

        ‘The word dakshina represents intellect. “Dakshinamurti” is that form of The Lord the realisation of which one acquires with the help of the right intellect. A legend says that Shiva assumed this form to be able to preach philosophy to His devotees, constantly. The Dakshinamurti idol too exists in four forms – Vinadhar, Yoga, Dnyan and Vyakhyan.

  • The idol of Vinadhar is in an erect posture and has four arms. It teaches the devotees the vina (a stringed instrument), that is meditation upon notes.

  • The idol of Yoga is seated in meditation. It is through this form that the knowledge of yoga is acquired.

  • The idol of Dnyan teaches philosophy.

  • The idol of Vyakhyan teaches other sciences. It is seated in virasan (adamant posture) and depicts the mudras of dnyan, sandarbha and vyakhyan.’

‘In this form Shiva is either in the standing or in the sitting posture. His countenance is pleasant and beautiful. He possesses four arms. Often several animals, serpents, yatis and sages surround this idol. At times Parvati too is close by. Shankaracharya has composed two verses (stotras) of Dakshinamurti.

3.2 Kalyansundarmurti

        This idol depicts the wedding ceremony of Shiva and Parvati.’

4. The form of a pindi

        The divine birth passage and the divine phallus are the two sex organs responsible for animate creation. Realising this, primitive man worshipped both these organs. The pindi was created by union of the base of the linga (shalunka) representing the divine birth passage and the linga representing the divine phallus. The earth means procreation and Shiva means purity. Although the shalunka has both creation and purity yet the universe was not created from semen but by the resolve (sankalpa) of Lord Shiva. Thus Shiva and Parvati became the parents of the world. Huishka, the son of Kanishka began worship of Shiva’s linga since the second century. The concept of the Shivalinga originated after the union of the Shiva and Shakti (Divine Energy) sects. Shiva cannot do anything without Divine Energy (Shakti) hence the worship of Shakti commenced along with that of Shiva. Shiva’s linga in the form of a pindi represents the energy of effulgence. The modern nuclear reactors too are shaped like the lingas of Shiva.

4.1 Types of pindis

A. Chal and achal: A chal linga is created for a certain ritualistic worship (puja). This is created like an idol of Ganesh made for Ganesh Chaturthi and is then immersed. An achal linga is installed in one place and not moved.

B. With context to the ground

  1. Situated below the ground level (svayambhu): This possesses tremendous amount of energy. Hence it is situated below the ground level. If situated above the ground then devotees will not be able to tolerate the energy emitted by it. (The eyes of Lord Balaji of Tirupati are half open to prevent devotees from being affected by the radiance from His eyes.) Worshippers lie down on the ground and inserting their hands inside, worship it. The amount of Shiva principle in it is next to that in the jyotirlingas. These lingas are created with the resolve of Lord Shiva. Later the linga manifests before some devotee and after it is discovered, its worship begins.

  2. Situated at the ground level: These are installed by sages or kings. They possess less energy. Devotees are able to endure only that much of energy. Worshippers perform ritualistic worship of the pindi sitting in a hollow beside it.

  3. Situated above the ground level: These are installed by devotees collectively. These have the least energy which people can easily tolerate. The worshipper performs its ritualistic worship sitting on the platform constructed beside it.

    Lingas of type 2 and 3 are referred to as manush lingas. ‘These are called so probably because they are created by man (manushya). They are included in the stable lingas. A manush linga is composed of three parts – the Brahma part, the Vishnu part and the Rudra part. The lowermost part is referred to as Brahma. It is square in shape. The central octagonal part is called Vishnu. Both these parts are buried in the ground. The uppermost round raised portion is called Rudra. This is also known as puja part as all the substances used in ritualistic worship are offered unto it. Holy texts on the science of idols state that the Rudra part should have some lines on it. These are called Brahmasutras. Divine and arshak lingas do not display such lines.’

  4. Suspended in air: The pindi of Somnath created from mercury floats in the air at a height of five metres above the ground. Worshippers pass below it. This itself becomes the circumambulation (pradakshina) of the pindi.

4.2 Linga (Divine Phallus)

  • A. linga is a representation of an object or an emotion. The text Medinikosh explains the meaning of this word as follows.

    लिङ्‌गं चिन्‍हेऽनुमाने च साङ्‌ख्‍योक्‍त प्रकृतिरपि ।
    शिवमूर्तिविशेषे च मेहेगेऽपि नपुंसकम्‌ ।।

    Meaning: The word linga is used with reference to a symbol, inference, Prakruti according to the Sankhya philosophy by Sage Kapil, special features of the idols of Shiva and the phallus and is of the neuter gender. However in common usage it infers ‘a representation of Shiva’.

  • B. It is called so because at the time of dissolution (pralay) along with the five cosmic elements the entire world merges into the linga and originates from it again, at the time of creation.

  • C. The mahalinga possesses three eyes. They refer to creation, sustenance and dissolution and to tama (tiryak), raja (visphutit) and sattva (saman) frequencies.

4.3 Shalunka [base of the linga (lingavedi)]

        Bhumi (Earth) is the eldest daughter of Daksha Prajapati . Aditi, Uttanpada, Mahi and Shalunka are its forms. The root name of the shalunka is Suvarnashankhini because the sex organs of a woman resemble a conch (and a seashell) in shape. Ritualistic worship of the shalunka implies the worship of the mother deity (matrudevata). The grooves located on the inner aspect of the shalunka are important. Due to them the sattvik (sattva predominant) energy generated in the pindi mostly remains in the pindi and in the central part of the temple (gabhara) while the destructive tama predominant energy constitutes the outflow (srot) from the shalunka.


A. Types of shalunkas based on the circumference

  • 1. A shalunka with a circumference thrice that of the linga is called inferior.

  • 2. A shalunka with a circumference one and a half times that of the linga is called medium.

  • 3. A shalunka with a circumference four times that of the linga is a superior one.

B. Height: The height of a linga should be equivalent to that of its Vishnu part.

C. Shape: It may have 4, 6, 8, 12 or 16 sides but is mostly round.

If the shalunka faces northwards then its shape resembles the figure below. Sperms and golden coloured adhahashayi (the embodied soul (jiva) which enters the foetus) (अध:शायी) (refer ‘Science of Spirituality: Chapter 24 – Creation of the Universe’) as well as neonates resemble it.

shalunka facing northwards

4.4 Jyotirlingas


        There are twelve jyotirlingas. They materialised in a radiant form. The thirteenth pinda is called kalpinda. The body (pinda) which has crossed the limits of time (kal) is called kalpinda. The twelve jyotirlingas are given below.

Jyotirlinga Site
1. Somnath Prabhasapattan, near Veraval, Sourashtra
2. Mallikarjun Shrishailya, Andhra Pradesh
3. Mahankal Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
4. Omkar /
Omkar, Mandhata, Madhya Pradesh
5. Kedarnath Himalay
6. Bhimashankar Dakini region, taluka Khed, district Pune,
7. Vishveshvar Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
8. Tryambakeshvar Near Nashik, Maharashtra
9. Vaidyanath
Parli, District Bid, Maharashtra or
Vaidyanathdham, Bangal.
10. Nagesh
Darukavan, Oundha, district Parbhani,
Maharashtra or Almoda, Uttar Pradesh
11. Rameshvar Setubandha, near Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu.
12. Ghrushneshvar
Verul, district Aurangabad, Maharashtra.

The twelve jyotirlingas are bodies the heads of which lie at Pashupatinath of Kathamandu. For acquisition of the supernatural power of a rudraksha one should choose the linga with the required quality and energy and worship it by sprinkling with water (abhishek). For example, Mahankal contains tamasi (tama predominant) energy, Nagnath is a form of Hari (Vishnu) and Har (Shiva) and is predominant in sattva and tama components, Tryambakeshvar is composed of the three components (Avadhut) while Somnath is appropriate for alleviating disease.

The meaning of a jyotirlinga

  • The all pervading Brahmatmalinga or all pervading light.

  • In the Taittiriya Upanishad the twelve principles of Brahman, the Great Illusion (Maya), the embodied soul, the mind, intellect, subconscious mind, ego and the five cosmic elements have been referred to as the twelve jyotirlingas.

  • The twelve sections of the Shivalinga.

  • In the summit of a sacrificial fire (yadnya) the shalunka represents the altar (vedi) of the fire and the linga the flame of the fire.

  • A representation of the twelve adityas.

  • The sites of eruption of fire from the dormant state of the volcano.

Since Lord Yama the master of the south is controlled by Shankar, the south is the direction of Lord Shankar. The jyotirlingas (that is the mouths of the shalunkas) face southward direction. Most of the temples do not face the southward direction. When the mouth of the shalunka faces southwards its pinda possesses more energy while the pinda with the mouth of the shalunka facing northwards has less energy.

4.5 Banalingas

        These are a type of Shivalingas. A particular kind of pebbles from the bed of the Narmada river is referred to as banalingas. Banasur had created these lingas for ritualistic worship and then left them on the mountain situated on the banks of the Narmada. The Yadnyavalkyasanhita states that along with the water currents these lingas reached the Narmada. Akin to the Narmada banalingas are also found in the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.’ Since banalingas and shaligrams of Lord Vishnu are made of non-porous stone like marble they are both heavy and do not erode easily.

4.6 Lingas according to the era (yug)

Yug Linga Yug Linga
Satya (Krut) Precious stones Dvapar Mercury
Treta Gold Kali Earth

5. The five-faced Shiva

        The following table gives information on the Names of the faces in the five-faced Shiva, the associated elements, the direction of the face, special features and their implied meaning.

Name Element Direction Special features Implied meaning of the special feature
1. Mahadev Pruthvi
East A. Three eyes

B. Ten arms

Sun, moon and fire

Ten directions

2. Bhairav Apa (absolute
South A. A mace in
     the hand

B. A citron fruit
    in the hand

Shakti (Energy)

Minute particle or

3. Nandi-
Tej (absolute
West A. A hide in the

B. A trident in
    the hand



4. Uma-
(absolute air)
North A. A mirror in
    the hand

B. A lotus in
    the hand

Spiritual knowledge


5. Sadashiv
Gaze towards
the sky
Spiritual progress


Features common to all Implied meaning Features common to all Implied meaning
Jatabhar Brahman Spotted tiger
Chandrakor Opulence Nandi Divine Righteousness
The Vasuki serpent Divine wrath    

6. The Shivalinga with five faces

        Shivalingas with five faces are also found in some places. The Names of the five faces are- Sadyojat, Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Îshan. The four faces of Lord Brahma represent knowledge of 1. creation, 2. sustenance, 3. dissolution and 4. spiritual experiences. The four faces of Shiva represent the four directions. The fifth face which points skywards is the universal face symbolic of purity and spiritual progress.

7. The three-faced form

        If there is a Shivalinga or a Nandi in front of a three faced idol then it is an idol of Shankar and if not it is an idol of Datta.

8. Lingas of the five cosmic elements

        South India has the following five lingas of the five cosmic elements : pruthvi (absolute earth) – Shivakanchi, apa (absolute water) – Jambunath, tej (absolute fire) – Arunachalam, vayu (absolute air) – Kalhasti and akash (absolute ether) – Chidambaram.

9. The hundred and eight and the thousand lingas

        These lingas are created by vertical and horizontal lines engraved on the Rudra part creating one hundred and eight or a thousand squares respectively.

10. Dharalinga

        This is created by drawing 5 to 28 deep vertical grooves on the Vishnu part of the linga. Because of these grooves water from the ritualistic bathing (abhishek) flows down easily.

Reference: ‘Shiva’, published by Sanatan Sanstha