Sonia Sumitra Thakar
A shivalingam is an abstract representation of Lord Shiva. It is worshipped in Shiva Temples all around the world. A shivalingam, oft conceptualised as a pillar with no beginning and no end, is symbolic of the expansive energy and life consciousness that Shiva is, a sign of the eternal Brahman. It is believed that worshipping the lingam can help us internalise the divinity of the unseen God.
Shivalingams are of two types—those that are formed by nature (swambhu) and those that are carved by man. It goes without question that there are thousands of lingams in temples all over the country but some of them are unique for the sheer wonder of their size.
Let’s take a look at ten of the tallest Shivalingams in India.
Since 2019, the tallest Shiva Lingam in the country is the 111.2 feet tall structure at the Maheshwaram Sri Shiva Parvathy Temple at Chenkal in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram district. This Shivalingam is unique as it houses 8 floors inside, 6 of which represent the energy centres of the body. The uppermost floors feature the mountain abode of Shiv-Parvathi, Kailasha. The cave-like interiors are adorned with beautiful murals, statues and 108 smaller lingams for devotees to perform abhishekam to. The temple is fast becoming a popular centre for spiritual activities.
- Kotilingeshwara Temple, Karnataka
The Kotilingeshwara Temple is located in the village of Kammasandra in the Karnataka’s Kolar district. A true marvel, the Shivalingam here stands tall at a height of 108 feet making it one of the tallest in the world! The huge Nandi statue that faces the lingam is 35 feet high.
The temple gets its name from the 1 crore smaller lingams that are installed all over the temple site. In fact, pilgrims can even get lingams installed here with their names inscribed on them, for a price. Known for bringing a sense of calm and peace, this magnificent place is visited by crowds throughout the year.
One of the most well-known Shivalingams in the country is located at a height of 3888 m in a giant cave at the Amarnath temple in Jammu and Kashmir. This truly amazing creation—a natural lingam of ice—formed from when drops of water that fall from the ceiling freeze, waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Two smaller ice lingams representing Parvathi and Ganesha flank the main feature. Legend has it that this temple marks the spot at which Lord Shiva revealed the secret of immortality to his consort goddess Parvathi.
The cave is open for pilgrims for only 2 months in the year as it is inaccessible the rest of the time because of heavy snowfall. Despite the holy trek to the shrine being an arduous journey, the Amarnath Temple attracts lakhs of devotees for darshan every year.
The unfinished temple at Bhojpur in Madhya Pradesh is a hidden gem. 35 km from Bhopal in a non-descript village, the unfinished temple of Bhojeshwara houses a huge 18 feet high Shivalingam. Built by Raja Bhoj in the 11 century, had it been completed it is believed to that it would’ve been the largest Shiva temple complex in the world.
Stories say that the temple was abandoned by the Raja as he was unable to complete the roof due to incorrect calculations in the final stages of construction and the top of the lingam was damaged. However, the locals never stopped worshipping this massive symbol of Lord Shiva.
Intricate carvings on the walls, huge pillars that support the ceilings, a massive pedestal on which the lingam stands—all contribute to this mesmerising sight.
Located on the banks of River Kaveri, the magnificent Dravidian temple of Brihadeshwara at Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu is truly an architectural marvel. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses a huge monolithic Shivalingam and Nandi statue, both carved from single pieces of limestone. Around 1000 years old, this temple stands as a testament to the spectacular architecture of the Chola dynasty. The lingam sits directly below an elaborately carved gopuram tower; at 216 feet high, this tower is probably the highest in India!
Interestingly, the Shivalingam can be seen even when the lights are off as sunlight falls directly on the Nandi statue and is reflected back on the Lingam.
The Harihar Dham Temple in Giridih, Jharkhand, homes a huge lingam that is an amazing 65 feet tall and took almost 30 years to construct. The temple complex spans a sprawling 25 acres of land and is a major pilgrimage place during Shravan Poornima and Nag Panchami.
For several years now, Harihar Dham Temple has been a popular place for hosting Hindu marriages. Devotees believe that Lord Shiva will bless them with a happy and blissful family life if they get married here. In fact, the place holds the record for conducting the maximum number of weddings every year!
Situated at the place where the Vindhya and Satpura ranges meet, the Amareshwar Mahadev Temple is home to an 11-foot tall Shivalinga carved from a single piece of limestone. One can climb up to a platform to perform jal abhishekam to the 51-ton heavy lingam. A representation of all the 12 Jyotirlingas can be seen in the temple complex.
Surrounded by lush greenery, with a beautiful waterfall close by, this rustic and peaceful place is a popular place of pilgrimage for Shiva bhakts. The area is also significant as the source of the river Narmada.
In the middle of the Gariaband forest, near the Maruada village, in the tribal state of Chhattisgarh lies the Bhuteshwara Mahadev Shivalingam. This naturally manifested phenomenon is about 18 feet high and 20 feet in diameter and is believed to grow by 6-8 inches every year! The Ardhanareshwara lingam made of hard rock is gently tilted to one side and is visited by hordes of devotees during the lovely month of sawan.
Legend has it that years ago the land where the lingam stands today was owned by a zamindar. The village people could hear the roar of a lion coming from a mound in the ground. They started worshipping the mound and it slowly grew into the lingam that we see today.
The largest monolithic lingam of Karnataka can be found in the Badavilinga Temple in Hampi. The unique feature of this 3 m high black stone lingam is that it sits on a pedestal that is always submerged in 3 feet of water as a water channel passes through the sanctum that houses it. Carvings of Shiva’s three eyes can be seen on the lingam. It is believed that worshipping such a lingam is extremely auspicious. The inner chamber has no ceiling and the sanctum is flooded with light in the day time.
Apparently, the lingam was made by a poor woman and this gives the temple its name—Badavilingam; ‘badava’ meaning poor in local parlance. This temple that still stands from the times of the Vijayanagara Empire is located very close to the famous Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Hampi.
One of the largest lingams in India can be found at the Baba Bhusandeshwara Temple in the Bhogarai village in Odisha’s Balasore district. The lingam is 12 feet high and 14 feet wide. The lower part of the lingam cannot be seen as it is buried in the ground. Carved out of black granite, the lingam has three parts, with an interesting octagonal shaped middle part, and leans slightly towards the right side.
Locals believe that this lingam was given to Ravana by Lord Shiva himself. The gods tried to take the lingam from Ravana and in desperation he placed it on the ground despite Shiva’s warning not to put it down anywhere. The lingam was impossible to lift once it was put down and Ravana had to leave it at this spot.
Worshipping the Shivalingam with faith and devotion brings us the realisation of the ultimate knowledge of Brahman. Singing and chanting powerful prayers to Shiva while contemplating on the lingam is a wonderful sadhana for the spiritually inclined. The Shree Shiva Nitya Aaradhana is a wonderful premium offering to this end.