Khmer Ekamukhalinga, 8th/9th Century
Size: 11.75 inches high, 5 inches wide, 28 pounds
A linga, male phallus, symbolizes Shiva and his role in creation, and is called a Ekamukhalinga when it has a face depicted on its surface. They usually have three parts: the cubic base represents Brahma, an octagonal middle represents Vishnu and a cylindrical section with a rounded top represents Shiva.
Shivaism was the main religion of Cambodia and Shiva was generally represented by his symbol, the linga. This was particularly true of the pre-Angkor period. While the linga in the form of a realistic phallus belonged, for the most part, to the pre-Angkor period, linga with faces (mukhalinga) is an iconographic characteristic that is exclusively pre-Angkorian.
Like anthropomorphic statues, each linga seemingly has its own identity. A king who wanted to become associated with a divinity or reside in that god’s realm after his death erected a linga during his lifetime and gave it a name linking him to Shiva.
The extreme popularity of the cult of the linga in Cambodia reflects the continuation of the animistic worship of rocks and other nature spirits that existed before contact with Indic religions occurred in mainland Southeast Asia. Thus an earlier Cambodian phallic fertility symbol that could inseminate the earth and make it fruitful was blended with Shivaism, resulting in a uniquely Khmer version of the Shiva linga cult.