The Telugus

Gudimallam Shivalingam: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

Gudimallam Shivalingam: Three-in-One Hindu Trinity

Sri Parasurameswara Swamy Temple, in Gudimallam near Tirupati and Papanaidupeta in Yerpedu mandal of Sri Kalahasti taluq of Chittoor district in the south-Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, has an earliest extant Shiva Lingam.

Located in the outskirts of the Gudimallam village on the banks of Swarnamukhi river is a relatively unvisited by worshippers unless a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. The visitors can be someone with some interest in its historicity or religiosity.

Gudimallam village has gained prominence because of the Shivalinga in the temple named as the Parasurameswara Swamy Temple. From BC to AD, since then to now over more than two thousand two hundred years, the Shivalingam is revered and diagnosed for historical, iconographic and archaeological interest uninterruptedly. The village was a Brahmana Agraphara.

Being untouched by the urbanisation like in Tirupati and Sri Kalahasti, a serene spiritual atmosphere pervades the premises. The village has about 552 families with a population of over 2000.

The deity in the temple depicts the trinity of Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.


The temple complex in the form of a square has an apsidal shrine. The Shivalinga in apsidal shrine, garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum, is semi-circular, curving behind the linga. The apsidal shrine, ardha mandapa, is in a lower level facing the mahamandapa of the temple complex. This gives the impression that the Shivalingam is in a dried water well. Whether the floor of this shrine is lowered deliberately when the Shivalingam was erected is uncertain. The sanctuary floor is now a few steps below the main floor level of the temple, an unusual feature. The floor of the sanctum sanctorum is present much below the floor levels of mukhamantapa and antarala. The temple is in a walled enclosure with peristyle cloisters and smaller shrines and surrounded by fields on three sides. The main entrance is by a lane which leads into the temple through an ornamental porch, dwarapala, in the walled enclosure.

The apsidal shrine is topped by a dome in the shape of the linga nut. Hence the vimana of the shrine is termed as lingakruti vimana, which is hollow inside and has a false ceiling of wooden joints. In the temple complex has smaller shrines for a Devi, Kartikeya and Subramanya in the parikrama area. A plain gopura adorns the temple complex at the western entrance of the compound wall.


The Linga:

The ancient linga is the main object of worship in strikingly phallic shape rising from a stone base inside the sanctum, arghapitha. The shape and the size of the vertically placed linga is attributed to reveal vedic and proto-puranic concepts of rudra. It is considered as the second earliest linga associated with Shiva discovered so far and the only such sculpture of importance to survive especially in the peninsular India.

It is a hard dark brown phallic image which measures 5 feet in height and above a foot in thickness, diameter. The glans penis is differentiated from the shaft of the lingam by being wider and with a slanting groove cut from the top of the Linga.

The mystery is there is no similar Shivalinga, even one that remotely appears like it anywhere in South India: The earliest surviving and unequivocal image. But the temple complex is a later addition to the Shivalinga dated to the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagara periods. This makes one to believe that the Shivalingam was possibly originally sited in the open air and has been in worship since then. It is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India since 1954.

The frontal face of the standing linga has a relief figure. It holds a ram by the hind legs with the right hand, head hanging downwards, in the left a globular pot and a battle axe (parasu) rests in the left shoulder.

The relief figure on the Shivalinga stands on the shoulders of a crouching and shrunken dwarf on his knees. He appears as resting the super lord on his shoulders.

THE legend of the Parasurameswara Swamy Temple:

The relief figure on the Shivalinga is of Parasurameswara or Parasuram? According to a legend it is Parasurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. How Parasurama appeared here?

Parasurama’s father Sage Jamadagni suspects his wife Renuka of infidelity. As a punishment, Sage Jamadagni orders his son Parasurama to behead his mother Renuka. Parasurama obeys to his father’s order and axes his mother. As a reward for obeying his order, the father asks the son what he wants. Parasurama asks his father to bring his mother back to life.

The infidel Renuka is brought back to life.

Although his mother Renuka is revived to life from death, Parasurama could not overcome the guilt of beheading his own mother. The remorse and the guilt of killing his mother haunts him. Upon consulting the rishis as how to overcome his guilt and remorse, Parasurama is advised by rishis to worship Shiva at Gudimallam.

After discovering Gudimallam in the forest on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi, Parasurama digs a pond nearby and begins his penance.

In the pond, every day a single flower appears and Parasurama offers it to Shiva. To guard the single flower, he appoints Chitrasena, a yaksha or demon, to guard the single flower who agrees on the condition that Parasurama should serve an animal for a meal and a pot of toddy.

Parashuram agrees to Chitrasena’s condition for the service.

One day when Parsurama is on a hunting trip, Chitrasena is tempted to worship the image of Shivalinga, the manifestation of Shiva himself. He offers the single flower to Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga.

When Parasurama discovers what Chitrasena has done, he is furious over the grievous transgression. Parasurama and Chitrasena fight. When Chitrasena is about to be crushed and vanquished by Parasurama, Lord Shiva appears. He blesses both Parasurama and Chitrasena with Sayujyamukti – merging in Him. 

Thus, the legend associates the Gudimallam Shivalingam with the holy Hindu trinity: Chitrasena as the manifestation of Lord Brahma, Parasurama as Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva in the form of the lingam.

Historical and Archaeological Interpretation:

The standing image on the linga in high relief is attributed to Shiva himself in sthanaka posture and resembles as a fierce hunter. Today’s Shivalinga has a modern golden metal frame with a naga head. 

Lord Shiva in later representations stands on such a figure such as Nataraja , Lord of the Dance. The Bhutesvara Yakshis of Buddhism in 2nd century AD also seem cheerful.

On the Gudimallam Lingam the relief figure of Shiva focuses his eyes on the tip of his nose, which indicates the Virupaksha and Yoga-Dakshinamurthy aspects of later years while the holding of a ram (antelope) indicates the Bhikshatanamurthi aspect of Shiva. He is clad in a dhoti fastened with the a unique vastra-mekhala but the deity lacks yagnopavita, sacred thread. 

Is Gudimallam lingam a motif of fertility or sexuality? According to experts the ithyphallic representation connotes Urdhva Retas:  Through austere devotion, command over the seminal discharge is obtained, the control of the rise of vital energy by semen rather than by release. The physical passions are to renunciate in mental faculties. The journey to Ananda, Moksha and Samadhi is also through the path of Brahmacharya.

The lingam in Arghya motif is also supposedly to symbolise the female part, a tantric characteristic. Originally in comparatively early times, the emblems of the male and the female deities were worshiped separately, as the earliest specimens of the phallus and ring stone testify. The pre-Gupta and the early Gupta periods did not show any real base in the shape.

The relief figure on the lingam presented is standing on the shoulders of Apasmara the dwarf, or Apasmarapurusha. Apasmara apparently represents spiritual ignorance. The dwarf has animal or conch-shaped ears, looks jolly and happy as revealed in his broad grin on his face and with fish-shaped feet.  


The inscriptions in the temple complex tells a register of gifts made to the temple like land, money and cows for the conduct of daily worship in the temple. They inform that that Bana, a feudatory family under the later Pallavas, circa AD 842-904, Vikrama Chola and Yadava Devaraya, AD 1346, made donations to the temple for its reconstruction and expansion over the centuries in the first and second millennia.  Although the temple complex is in the Pallava and Chola style, the Shivalinga is much older.

Black and redware shreds and large bricks unearthed during excavations attribute to Andhra Satavahana period (circa 1st century AD to 2nd century AD).

The earliest inscription belongs to the reign of Nandivarma Pallava (802 AD). Copper coins obtained at Ujjain belonging to the 3rd century BC has figures that resemble to the linga of Gudimallam.

The Parasurameswara Swamy Temple is declared as a monument of national importance under the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 by the Government of India. It means no person shall construct any building within the protected area or carry on any mining, quarrying, excavating, blasting or any operations that affect the temple complex.

Gudimallam: Visitors to the temple


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