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The Hindu god Shiva is one of the three gods central to the Veda, or texts, of the Hindu deity, dating from 4,000 to 5,000 bp. Here at Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, India, there are many ancient symbols of fertility linking the ancient texts with modern culture.

IMG_0308  The god Bhramha is one of the three major influences in Hindi, the creator, keeper of records and blessed with three-sided vision, as you can see from this carving from central India.

At the centre of a temple in Maheshwar is Ganesh, the son of Shiva, the lord of all happiness and the first to be worshipped.

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Shiva has many incarnations, Gun Phuti, the elephant god, and others representing male and female roles in fertility rites. Testicle-shaped pebbles called shivaling, formed by water erosion in the nearby holy river Narmada, are placed beside iconic female forms or yoni.

There are different opinions about the derivation of this flower-strewn image. Some say it is a phallus, others that it is a mortar and pestle. So far, Shiva remains silent on the matter.