This naturally occurring stone, from the Narmada River in central India, is associated with two major Hindu philosophical beliefs. When resting horizontally, the ovoid shape suggests the golden egg of Brahma from which all creation originated. When displayed upright, as it is here, the stone represents the phallus or linga of Shiva, a powerful aniconic representation of the great Hindu god used in ritual acts of worship, puja.
These most auspicious of linga are polished but otherwise untouched by an artist's hands. The linga is often set within a yoni, a circular pedestal symbolising complementary female sexual energy. The stone's distinctive markings are interpreted as the female force that inspires Shiva's urge to create. Offerings poured over the linga are carried away by a spout in the yoni.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label