Sacrifice is at the center of Hinduism (see Hinduism entries); it is the price paid for prosperity or śri (see Śri, see Lakṣmī). Traditionally, near the sacrificial altar, standing as a kind of guard over it, is the yūpa or sacrificial column to which the sacrificial victim was once tied. The yūpa is at once a pillar of the universe and a representation of the liṇga (see Liṇga), or phallus, of the god Śiva (see Śiva). The myths related to liṇiga worship are found in the Purāṇas (see Purāṇas) and usually involve the gods of the trimūrti—Śiva, Viṣṇu (see Viṣṇu), and Brahmā (see Brahmā). These myths, like the liṇga, are particularly important to the bhakti (see Bhakti), or special devotion, associated with Śiva, whose phallus is the appropriate symbol of the destruction and regeneration that is the essence of creation. Śiva's liṇga is often unified with the yoni (see Yoni) or vulva of the Goddess (see Devī).
The following myth occurs in the Śiva Purāṇa. At the beginning of an age, Śiva as destructive fire, Brahmā as creative water, and Viṣṇu as mediating wind, arose from the primal waters. Viṣṇu and Brahmā bowed to the greater Śiva and called on him to create. Śiva agreed but dove back into the waters. Viṣṇu then asked Brahmā to create and he gave Brahmā creative energy ( śakti) (see śakti) so that he could do so. Brahmā created. Then Śiva returned and was furious that Brahmā had not waited for him before creating the world. In a rage, he burned up all that had been created. Impressed by this power, Brahmā pleased Śiva by bowing to him. To reward Brahmā for his devotion, Śiva asked him what he wished for, and the creator god asked to have his creation restored and Śiva's creative energy transferred to the sun. Brahmā promised to worship the Śiva liṇga, that which denotes past, present, and future. Śiva broke off his liṇga and flung it to the earth, where it reached down into Hell and then up into Heaven. Viṣṇu tried to find its source below and Brahmā tried to find its tip on high; both were unsuccessful because the liṇga of Śiva is without end. At this point, a voice from above cried out: “Worship the liṇga of Śiva and be granted all that can be granted.” So it was that Viṣṇu and Brahmā and all the gods worshipped the liṇga, the source of all destruction and creation.