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The lingam signs the presence of the invisible, transcendental Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. But in reality it combines the three functions of creation, defence and destruction. The term indicates an emblem, a symbol of Shiva, sign of the male sex: the phallus. The end of the eighteenth century witnessed the widespread custom of superimposing a metal – brass, bronze – cover on these symbols, bearing a representation of the god’s features: the mukhalinga. The pieces in the collection illustrated on these pages testify to a ritual art movement among the richest and most significant in Indian culture, which only in the past few decades has the western world begun to appreciate in all its aesthetic and ethnographic importance.
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