Sivalinga literally means the body of Siva. Next to the symbol of AUM, it is perhaps the most potent, powerful and popular symbol in entire Hinduism. In almost all the Siva temples, worship is generally made to Sivalingas only. Very rarely we come across his images in the sanctum sanctorum of any Siva temple. A Sivalinga is usually a round or cylindrical and protruding object. The cylindrical part is held firmly by a circular base.
On the physical plane, the object resembles the male sexual organ, suggestive of the creative power of Siva. The circular base resembles that of the female, suggestive of his consort Parvathi. Physically a Sivalinga is a phallic symbol, representing the male and female sexual organs in a state of conjugal bliss. Mentally it symbolizes the union of mind and body. Spiritually it represents the union between Purusha and Prakriti, the highest principles of the manifest universe.
The Sivalinga is also symbolic of the Supreme Self. It is verily Maheswara Himself, the Highest Self and the Lord of the universe. In this aspect it has three parts. The lower part represents Brahma. The middle part, which is octagonal in shape, represents Vishnu. The upper part, which is cylindrical in shape, represents Rudra and is also called Pujabhaga since it receives the actual offerings of milk and other substances.
The Sivalingas are normally found installed in the temples . But many devotees of Siva keep them in their houses and offer regular worship. People are however cautioned not to keep Sivalingas in their houses without offering worship, since they are believed to be powerful sources of divine energy. Sivalingas are either naturally found or made artificially. Different materials are used in their making, such as clay, gold, crystal, glass, diamonds, precious stones and wood. The round and smooth stones found in the river beds of the Narmada or the Godavari are considered to be the most ideal for worship. Sometimes Sivlingas are made temporarily with clay or sandal paste and disposed of after worship. Some devotees wear Sivalingas on their bodies or around their necks. When Sivalingas are found fortuitously in the river beds and desolate places, it is considered to be a great omen. They are housed in temples or houses and offered regular worship.