Well, global warming is good for at least one thing: excavating treasures from the past! Due to draught and excessive water consumption, the Shalmala River's water levels diminished to the point that they exposed treasures carved on the rocks in the riverbed. The river runs through India and Cambodia in the Indian state of Karnataka, and the carvings on the rocks are called shiva lingas.
The specific place where these carvings revealed themselves is in Sahasralinga, meaning "Thousand Lingas" in Sanskrit. The carvings are of sexual symbols, both male and female (linga and yoni respectively). You'll also see ones dedicated to Nandi — the god Shiva's bull mount.
The Shiva Lingas are believed by historians to have been built during the Vijayanagar Kingdom between 1678-1718. It is speculated that the King of Sirsi, Sadashiva Raya, may have commissioned them so as to felicitate an heir to his throne. So...is that where there shape comes from?
One myth has it that the god Shiva's wife had died, and he wandered around trying to get over it. Of course, he was walking around naked. He came across the wives of some holy men in the forest, and they were so taken with his figure that they threw themselves on him. Then, the holy men (who had magical powers) cursed Shiva's junk so that it would fall onto the ground. Hence the male sexual symbol.
The alternate version of this story goes like this: Shiva was still walking around naked after the death of his wife. He was in abject despair. The wives still saw him. The husbands saw them. But instead of cursing Shiva's penis, they simply threw rocks at it until it fell off. The ends justify the means, we guess.
Either way, when that penis hit the ground, it set off great fires that ravaged ancient India. People died. Crops burned. It got really hot. The people begged Shiva to stick his severed stuff back on his groin. And he agreed to do so, on one condition.
That the people worship his penis! Well, there are worse things to worship, I suppose. Anyway, according to the myth, the people started installing and carving those phalluses everywhere. In temples. At home. Even in rocks in riverbeds. They were everywhere.
But the truth is in a PG myth used to explain the Shiva Lingam. Gods Brahma and Vishnu were having a pissing contest (not literally). They were arguing over each other's powers, who was stronger, superior, etc. Shiva had had enough, and transformed himself into a giant linga that extended upwards into the heavens, and downwards into the earth.
Shiva defied the two of them to find the base and top of the lingam. But they were so interminable, the two gods were at a loss. So Brahma did what any Hindu god would do in this situation: he lied. Shiva was furious, and popped out of the lingam. He made it so no one would worship Brahma, and clear that he was the first creator of all the other gods and they shouldn't complain that much.
The real meaning behind the Shiva Linga is much more beautiful. Going off the last myth involving Brahma and Vishnu, the linga is shaped ovular, both like an egg...but also like the universe. Linga translates to form. Shiva is the form to be worshipped. Pretty trippy.
Sahasralinga becomes a hotspot during Maha Shivaratri, the feast of Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims will flock to the site in February to observe the holy day. They will perform pujas, the Hindi word for a ritual practice.
The Linga is believed by Hindus to possess awesome power. It can help minds concentrate, and hearts to connect with the omnipotence of the godhead. Holy men and women have meditated on Linga, and received its beneficence. It's not just a rock: it's everything.