Lingodbhava is a form where God Shiva is seen emanating in the form of a lingam. This form also represents the origin of lingam and shows the supremacy of the great God Shiva.
The icons of Lingodbhava murti can be commonly seen on gopuram and walls of prominent Shaivite Hindu temples of Southern India, mainly in the states Tamil Nadu and some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
It is a common thing to see the Lingodbhava statue in the temples that were constructed following the rules of Agamas.
This form of Shiva as Lingodbhava is mainly related to a puranic story, where the ignorance of lord Brahma and Vishnu are removed.
The Lingodbhava murti statue contains a long pillarlike structure, which is the lingam, in which you can see the four armed God Shiva.
Surrounding the lingam you can see a swan flying above to the top, representing Lord brahma and at the bottom you can see a boar, symbolizing Lord Vishnu, digging down the earth to find the bottom of the linga
Lingodbhava form can be seen on the western wall of the central shrine (garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum) of Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva. These deities which adorn the walls of garbhagriha are called Kosta devatas. With the Lingodbhava murti on the west, the south wall contains Dakshinamurthy and the northern one with Brahma or Ishana.
Using this form on the temples of God Shiva is highly popularized during the times of Cholas, and later continued by several other kingdoms.
In some old literary sources, Lingodbhava murti is referred to as Linga Purana deva, indicating the form that is highly described in the Linga Purana.
In the iconography of the Lingodbhava form, one can see slight variations in their depictions. But in general, a long structure of lingam with an idol of Shiva carved in it with a boar and a swan is common.
In the most common depictions of Lingodbhava, there will be a central long pillar like Lingam in which god Shiva is shown in a standing posture, emerging out of it.
God Shiva is usually shown with four arms, holding an axe and an antelope with his upper hands, while the lower ones showing Abhaya mudra (gesture of protection) and Varada mudra (gesture of boon bestowal).
The portion of the feet of Shiva is depicted as if hidden in the linga. Sometimes, the left lower hands can be seen free on the waist in Katya valambita mudra.
In some temples, lingodbhava form can also be seen with eight hands and carrying a trident.
On the structure of the lingam, towards the top, there will be a swan which is shown as if moving upwards to find the top of the lingam. The swan depicted symbolizes Lord Brahma.
Towards the bottom of the lingam, a boar can be seen delving to the depths to find the origin. The boar symbolizes Lord Vishnu.
In some depictions one can even see the statues of Brahma and Vishnu installed on the side of Lingodbhava, in which both Brahma and Vishnu can be seen with revered hands bowing to God Shiva
The Shaivaagamas give a clear-cut view of how to depict and even the proportion to be followed while sculpting the Lingodbhava form.
Lingodbhava Kalam Significance
The time at which God Shiva appeared for the first time as Lingam is considered as the Lingodbhava kalam and the day in specific is considered as Maha Shivaratri. The Lingodbhava kalam is considered highly auspicious and has a great significance as Great God Shiva has appeared himself as the Shiva lingam.
It is believed that whoever worships God Shiva in the form of Linga would attain good fortune and further the moksha. Also their sins get vanished away.
The story of Lingodbhava is mentioned in all popular Purana books such as Shiva, Linga, Kurma, and Vayu Puranas.
Once, a dispute arose between Brahma and Vishnu, where they started debating about their superiority.
Suddenly, a huge column of fire in a form of pillar emerged between both.
Surprised by seeing the column of fire, that isn’t a part of their creation and thought to find the origin of that huge pillar.
So, Brahma and Vishnu decided that whoever finds the start or end of this pillar will be declared as superior over the other.
Accepting the challenge, Lord Brahma immediately took the form of a swan and flew upwards. On other hand, Vishnu took the form of a Boar and started digging downwards.
Both continued their search for an indefinite period of time, still none of them were successful.
Feeling hopeless, Lord Vishnu returned back to the place they started the journey. Lord Brahma too couldn’t find the start of the fire column and thought to give up.
Meanwhile, he saw a Ketaki flower descending downwards and asked it to lie for him that, he had found the starting point. Ketaki flower agreed to Brahma’s words.
On reaching Vishnu, Brahma lied that he found the starting of the column and also shown Ketaki flowers as the witness.
Vishnu agreed the Brahmas superiority.
God Shiva being in the column of the fired got angered by the wicked action of Brahma, appeared in front of them.
Seeing the Great God Shiva, the Maya or the illusion that influenced both Brahma and Vishnu got removed and they both bowed to the supreme god.
God Shiva then said the truth to Vishnu about the Brahmas falsehood. He then punished Brahma saying that due to wicked actions you will be no longer have any temples and you will be worshipped anymore.
For playing a role of false witness, Shiva cursed Ketaki flower that it shall not be used in his worship from here onwards.
Looking at Lord Vishnu, Shiva replied that, O! Vishnu, you were being true to yourself and you realized that reality of the supreme light, hence you returned back and accepted your defeat. For the truth and trustworthiness, From now on I declare that you will also be worshiped like me.
Later, Brahma surrendered to god shiva and prayed for forgiveness. Although you don’t have any temples or worship, you can still enjoy your place of importance in Yagna.
Later both praised Shiva in numerous ways.
This is how God Shiva appeared for the first time as a cosmic pillar of fire or symbolically the Lingam.
The form showing all this story and emerging of Shiva from linga is the Lingodbhava.