Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Vietnam's venerable phallus
Vietnam is doing all it can to promote tourism, but unless you yearn to visit government ministries, what is there to see in Ho Chi Minh City? A big penis, that's what.
The newspaper of Vietnam’s Youth Association highlights this point of interest in "Phallus representing Shiva worshipped in Vietnam Indian temple." Thanh Nien News reports in the Travel section that
... [The temple] was established in the 19th century for Lord Subramaniam, also known as Karthikeya, the son of Shiva.
Some of the other deities in the temple are the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, another son of Shiva; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer, himself in the form of the Linga....
The Linga – which is always accompanied by a feminine base Yoni representing the vagina – is a depiction of the phallus.
Those dating from the first century BCE to the third century CE are highly phallic in shape before they progressively become more abstract.
That's modern art for you!
It is the presence of the Linga that attracts much interest among visitors to the temple.
Shiva is the god of destruction and it is from destruction that new lives emerge, he says. Thus, in terms of creation, Shiva also disseminates the seeds of lives and benediction.
It is for the latter reason that he swallowed deadly venom spewed by a celestial snake called Vasuki to protect the universe.
We all have our reasons.
Shiva then split himself into two parts, one feminine and the other masculine. He is, thus, symbolized as half man and half woman.
(See my note on transpédégouine.)
The Linga, fountain of life, is shown in its erect form, and is usually placed in the Yoni, the source of all that exists.
But not always.
Originally the cylindrical shape represented the formlessness of creation before gradually becoming associated with Shiva until the Linga began to be worshipped as the god himself.
In Shiva temples it is usually the Linga that is the main deity unlike other Hindu gods who are all represented by idols.
I have known some Linga worshippers. Little did I realize there was a god involved.
What else the youth of Vietnam learned today
Coincidentally the Vietnamese read in the News section today a story from Reuters—"New US church leader says homosexuality no sin." The article discusses the elevation of Katharine Jefferts Schori to be the first woman ever to head a branch of the Anglican Communion and notes the controversy over the consecration of a gay bishop by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. As for the bishop's Biblical views—
Asked how she reconciled her position on homosexuality with specific passages in the Bible declaring sexual relations between men an abomination, Jefferts Schori said the Bible was written in a very different historical context by people asking different questions.
"The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear – there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't observe today," she said.
"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that's certainly the great message of Jesus – to include the unincluded."
Zip it up!
And finally, some Vietnamese have been playing fast and loose with that phallus—
The Ho Chi Minh City people’s committee has decided that no official with more than two children will be nominated for any senior post under a population and birth control policy for 2006-2010.
The policy also provides for covering public officials’ birth control expenses.
I'm sure Vietnamese officials are grateful for the perk, but do they feel a little capitalist pang when they read that U.S. officials have prostitutes delivered by limo?