This icon represents Shiva's head in 'Linga' or phallus format, His most popular and the earliest votive manifestation. While giving to alloy its form, the artist seems to have in his conscious mind the sharpest features and the finest proportions to attribute his image with, but his semi-conscious, or unconscious mind which considered Shiva's manifestation in 'Linga' form as the essence of Shiva, led him to blend with his visualization of the great Lord the dimensions and perspectives of 'Linga'. The base or the pedestal he has used to consecrate his Shiva head has been cast in the shape of 'yoni' or vulva, the usual base of Shiva-lingam. The large massive snake coiling around gives to this base necessary depth and a defining circumference to let it look like 'yoni'. Shiva's towering crown or head-dress is hardly in Shaivite tradition. Save for the flames of fire topping it, this head-dress is essentially Vaishnava. Such head dress, a well defined attribute of the iconography of Lord Vishnu, has been used to enhance the height perspective.
It is not only in shape or in profile that the representation tends to be phallus like. Artist's emphasis on synthesizing the two sets of Shaivite cult is otherwise too as well defined. He extensively uses the fire symbol to denote 'Linga' as the inherent and essential constituent of Shiva in whatever form He is manifested. The "Lingayata' cult, which is more prevalent in South, perceives Shiva as 'Linga' and 'Anga'. 'Linga' is Shiva's essential apparent form whereas 'Anga' is His essential being. The Lingayata believes that it is only in 'Linga' that the 'Anga' may be perceived, worshipped and realized.
The framing niche or the halo around the sacred head has all over flames of fire rising from it. In Shaivite tradition 'Linga' and fire are synonymous. 'Shivalinga' has at least six manifestations of which the 'Jyotirlinga', that is, the phallus created of flame, alone is the 'Mahalinga'. As the legendary tradition has it, it was only as a column of fire that the Shivalinga first appeared. The artist seems to be led by the 'Lingayata' cult of South or by similar other traditions. He has hence created his image of Shiva with all characteristic features, sharp nose, well defined neck, comely lips, large meditating eyes, a 'tripunda' painted forehead and slanting angular face, in peculiar South Indian iconographic style, but with inherent 'Linga' dimensions dominating the total appearance.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain. Prof. Jain specializes in the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture.