Mukhalingam Cover with Naga

Mukhalingam with Naga

The Mukhalinga (one faced lingam cover) represents the face of the Hindu god, Shiva. The mukhalinga/m is used to cover a stone linga (phallus), which is the symbol of the god Shiva. A linga, worshipped ritually is generally  made of stone, often found in riverbeds. The cover is believed to protect a viewer from any sort of harm that could arise from seeing the stone linga, especially one with eyes painted on its surface. Many images of goddesses and gods in Hindu temples are covered with gold and/or silver laced silks, or metal forms that “protect” the viewer and only the Brahmin priests of the temple can contain the sighting of such divine power.

This Mukhalingam cover, comprised of three separate pieces, was originally placed over a rather large stone linga and removed for priestly worship of the stone. The casting of the head has deteriorated over time to reveal cracks and other surface disturbances created in the heat of casting liquid metals. In addition, significant ritual worship has worn the face and softened all the features. The Naga, in this case, is a seven headed snake, who protects Shiva from any disturbances in his resting periods. One piece is the coiled base suggesting the coils of the NagaIt is fabricated to be a separate piece that is inserted into a cylindrical holding chamber which takes the weight of the cast piece and holds it perfectly over Shiva’s head. One of the Naga heads, the central one, has been broken off the Naga. Nonetheless, this artifact has retained a powerful presence.

Shiva holds the face of the goddess Ganga in his hair which is collected into a stylized turban. His forehead has been rubbed so much that the evidence of Shiva’s third eye has been smoothed. Holes in his ears do not contain earrings, but such embellishments would have been added during the ritualized use of the Mukhalingam.

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Origin

Maharashtra India

Material

Brass

Age/Condition

19th c. Wear from ritual worship which has revealed surface imperfections. One of the small Naga heads is broken off, but is present to be reattached.