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A Dictionary of Hinduism

W. J. Johnson

yoni (‘ womb’, ‘ uterus’, ‘ vagina’, ‘ vulva’) 

A stylized representation of female genitalia, representing the Goddess and/or female power (śakti). The best known iconographic depiction is the near aniconic yoni which provides the pedestal (pīṭha) into which Śiva liṅgas are usually set, sometimes shaped as a spout, enabling water, and other substances used in the abhiṣeka of the liṅga, to drain away. The liṅga and yoni together (representing Śiva and his śakti) are taken to represent the undifferentiated unity of spirit (male) and matter (female), which is the god's unlimited, and continuously dynamic potency—his simultaneously creative and destructive energy. The most important, and, according to some, the original śaktipīṭha is a spring-moistened cleft in the rock at Kāmarūpa in Assam, which is thought to represent Satī's dismembered yoni. This provides one of the few instances where the yoni is worshipped separately from the liṅga.