Thursday, December 5, 2019


The Ardhanarishvara is a composite androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half-male and half-female, equally split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes. The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century CE. Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era. The Puranas and various iconographic treatises write about the mythology and iconography of Ardhanarishvara. Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, though very few temples are dedicated to this deity.

Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God. The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva's all-pervasive nature.

The name Ardhanarishvara means "the Lord Who is a half-woman." Ardhanarishvara is also known by other names like Ardhanaranari ("the half man-woman"), Ardhanarisha ("the Lord who is half woman"), Ardhanarinateshvara ("the Lord of Dance Who is half-woman"), Parangada, Naranari ("man-woman"), Ammiappan (a Tamil Name meaning "Mother-Father"), and Ardhayuvatishvara (in Assam, "the Lord whose half is a young woman or girl"). The Gupta-era writer Pushpadanta in his Mahimnastava refers to this form as dehardhaghatana ("Thou and She art each the half of one body"). Utpala, commenting on the Brihat Samhita, calls this form Ardha-Gaurishvara ("the Lord whose half is the fair one"; the fair one – Gauri – is an attribute of Parvati). The Vishnudharmottara Purana simply calls this form Gaurishvara ("The Lord/husband of Gauri).
The conception of Ardhanarishvara may have been inspired by Vedic literature's composite figure of Yama-Yami, the Vedic descriptions of the primordial Creator Vishvarupa or Prajapati and the fire-god Agni as "bull who is also a cow, "the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad's Atman ("soul") in the form of the androgynous cosmic man Purusha,.The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that Purusha splits himself into two parts, male and female, and the two halves copulate, producing all life – a theme concurrent in Ardhanarishvara's tales. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad sows the seed of the Puranic Ardhanarishvara. It declares Rudra – the antecedent of the Puranic Shiva – the maker of all and the root of Purusha (the male principle) and Prakriti (the female principle), adhering to Samkhya philosophy. It hints at his androgynous nature, describing him both as male and female.

Ardhanarishvara is interpreted as an attempt to syncretize the two principal Hindu sects, Shaivism and Shaktism, dedicated to Shiva and the Great Goddess. A similar syncretic image is Harihara, a composite form of Shiva and Vishnu, the supreme deity of the Vaishnava sect

Male half

The male half wears a jata-mukuta (a headdress formed of piled, matted hair) on his head, adorned with a crescent moon. Sometimes the jata-mukuta is adorned with serpents and the river goddess Ganga flowing through the hair. The right ear wears a nakra-kundala, sarpa-kundala ("serpent-earring") or ordinary kundala ("earring"). Sometimes, the male eye is depicted smaller than the female one and a half-mustache is also seen. A half third eye (trinetra) is prescribed on the male side of the forehead in the canons; a full eye may also be depicted in the middle of the forehead separated by both sides or a half-eye may be shown above or below Parvati's round dot. A common elliptical halo (prabhamandala/prabhavali) may be depicted behind the head; sometimes the shape of the halo may differ on either side.

In the four-armed form, a right-hand holds a parashu (axe) and another makes an abhaya mudra (gesture of reassurance), or one of the right arms is slightly bent and rests on the head of Shiva's bull mount, Nandi, while the other is held in the abhaya mudra gesture. Another configuration suggests that a right hand holds a trishula (trident) and another makes a varada mudra (gesture of blessing). Another scripture prescribes that a trishula and akshamala (rosary) is held in the two right hands. In the two-armed form, the right-hand holds a kapala (skull cup) or gestures in a varada mudra. He may also hold a skull.

The Shiva half has a flat masculine chest, a straight vertical chest, broader shoulder, a wider waist, and a muscular thigh. He wears a yagnopavita (sacred thread) across the chest, which is sometimes represented as a naga-yagnopavita (a snake worn as a yagnopavita) or a string of pearls or gems. The yajnopavita may also divide the torso into it's male and female halves. He wears ornaments characteristic of Shiva's iconography, including serpent ornaments.

Female half
The female half has karanda-mukuta (a basket-shaped crown) on her head or well-combed knotted hair or both. The left ear wears a valika-kundala (a type of earring). A tilaka or bindu (a round red dot) adorns her forehead, matching Shiva's third eye. The left eye is painted with black eyeliner. While the male neck is sometimes adorned with a jeweled hooded serpent, the female neck has a blue lotus matching it.

In the four-armed form, one of the left arms rests on Nandi's head, while the other is bent in kataka pose and holds a nilotpala (blue lotus) or hangs loosely at her side. In the three-armed representation, the left-hand holds a flower, a mirror or a parrot. In the case of two-armed icons, the left-hand rests on Nandi's head hang loose or hold either a flower, a mirror or a parrot. The parrot may be also perched on Parvati's wrist. Her hand(s) is/are adorned with ornaments like a keyura (anklet) or kankana (bangles)

Parvati has a well-developed, round bosom and a narrow feminine waist embellished with various haras (religious bracelets) and other ornaments, made of diamonds and other gems. She has a fuller thigh and a curvier body and hip than the male part of the icon. The torso, hip, and pelvis of the female is exaggerated to emphasize the anatomical differences between the halves. Though the male private parts may be depicted, the female genitalia are never depicted and the loins are always draped She wears a multi-colored or white silken garment down to her ankle and one or three girdles around her waist. The left half wears an anklet and her foot is painted red with Mehendika. The left leg may be somewhat bent or straight, resting on a lotus pedestal. In contrast to the Shiva half, the Parvati half – smeared with saffron – is described as calm and gentle, fair in color. Very rarely, Parvati is shown with parrot-green skin, this represents how she is the daughter of the mountains but mostly she is shown as Gauri (the fair one). She may be draped in a sari covering her torso and legs.

Postures and Vahana.

The posture of Ardhanarishvara may be tribhanga – bent in three parts: head (leaning to the left), torso (to the right) and right leg or in the sthanamudra position (straight), sometimes standing on a lotus pedestal, whereupon it is called samapada. Seated images of Ardhanarishvara are missing in iconographic treatises, but are still found in sculpture and painting. Though the canons often depict the Nandi bull as the common vahana (mount) of Ardhanarishvara, some depictions have Shiva's bull vahana seated or standing near or behind his foot, while the goddess's lion vahana is near her foot

Ardhanarishvara symbolizes that the male and female principles are inseparable. The composite form conveys the unity of opposites (coniunctio oppositorum) in the universe. The male half of Ardhanarishvara stands for Purusha and the female half is Prakriti. Purusha is the male principle and passive force of the universe, while Prakriti is the female active force; both are "constantly drawn to embrace and fuse with each other, though... separated by the intervening axis". The union of Purusha (Shiva) and Prakriti (Shiva's energy, Shakti) generates the universe, an idea also manifested in the union of the Linga of Shiva and Yoni of Devi creating the cosmos. The Mahabharata lauds this form as the source of creation. Ardhanarishvara also suggests the element of Kama or Lust, which leads to creation.

Ardhanarishvara signifies "totality that lies beyond duality", "bi-unity of male and female in God" and "the bisexuality and therefore the non-duality" of the Supreme Being. It conveys that God is both Shiva and Parvati, "both male and female, both father and mother, both aloof and active, both fearsome and gentle, both destructive and constructive" and unifies all other dichotomies of the universe. While Shiva's rosary in the Ardhanarishvara iconography associates him with asceticism and spirituality, Parvati's mirror associates her to the material illusory world. Ardhanarishvara reconciles and harmonizes the two conflicting ways of life: the spiritual way of the ascetic as represented by Shiva, and the materialistic way of the householder as symbolized by Parvati, who invites the ascetic Shiva into marriage and the wider circle of worldly affairs. The interdependence of Shiva on his power (Shakti) as embodied in Parvati is also manifested in this form. Ardhanarishvara conveys that Shiva and Shakti are one and the same. The Vishnudharmottara Purana also emphasizes the identity and sameness of the male Purusha and female Prakriti, manifested in the image of Ardhanarishvara. Ardhanarishvara signifies that the great Shiva is "All, inseparable from His energy" (i.e. his Shakti) and is beyond gender.

Across cultures, hermaphrodite figures like Ardhanarishvara have traditionally been associated with fertility and abundant growth. In this form, Shiva in his eternal embrace with Prakriti represents the eternal reproductive power of Nature, whom he regenerates after she loses her fertility. "It is a duality in unity, the underlying principle being a sexual dualism". The dual unity of Ardhanarishvara is considered "a model of conjugal inseparability".

Often, the right half of Ardhanarishvara is male and the left is female. The left side is the location of the heart and is associated with feminine characteristics like intuition and creativity, while the right is associated with the brain and masculine traits – logic, valor and systematic thought. The female is often not equal in the Ardhanarishvara, the male god who is half female; she remains a dependent entity.

Ardhanarishvara "is in essence Shiva, not Parvati". This is also reflected in Puranas, where Parvati becomes a part of Shiva. It is likewise reflected in iconography: Shiva often has two supernatural arms and Parvati has just one earthly arm, and his bull vahana – not her lion vahana – typically accompanies them.

Ardhanarishwara Stotram

Shri Ardhanarishwara Stotram was composed by Sri Adi Shankara bhagavatpada. Creator and Creation are One ~ Ardhanarishwara, composite of Shiva and Shakti together in one body. This form reminds us that Shiva is beyond gender, yet encompasses both genders. Shiva represents the unmanifest and Shakti the manifest; Shiva the formless and Shakti the formed; Shiva consciousness and Shakti energy, not only in the cosmos as a whole but in each and every individual. Ardhanarishwara form also illustrates how the female principle of God, Shakti, is inseparable from the male principle of God, Shiva. Ardhanarishwara in iconography is depicted as half-male and half-female, split down the middle. 
'Ardhanarishwara` is a combination of three words `Ardha`, `Nari` and `Ishwara` means `half`, `woman` and `lord` respectively, which when combined means the lord whose half is a woman. The Ardhanarishwara represents a constructive and generative power. God is beyond the concept of any sex. God can be male, female, and even neuter too. So god existing in this intrinsic condition is referred to as Ardhanarishwara. Shiva and Shakti are one and the same supreme power. One should chant Shri Ardhanarishwara Stotram for happy and prosperous family life.

Champeya gowrardha sareerakayai,
Karpoora gourardha sareerakaya,
Dhamillakayai cha jatadaraya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva
To Her whose body shines similar to molten gold,
To Him whose body shines like the burning camphor,
To Her who has a well made up hair,
And to Him who has the matted lock.

Kasthurika kumkuma charchithayai,
Chitharaja puncha vicharchithayai,
Kruthasmarayai vikrutha smaraya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her whose body is smeared with musk and saffron,
To Him whose body is smeared with ashes of a burning ghat,
To Her whose prettiness radiates love, And to Him who destroyed the God of love.

Jhanath kvanath kankana noopurayai,
Padabja Rajat phani noopuraya,
Hemangadhayai bhujagangadhaya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya.

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her who has tinkling pretty anklets,
To Him who has the king of snakes as an anklet,
To Her who shines with golden anklets,
And to Him who has snakes as anklets.

Visala nilothphala lochanayai,
Vikasi pangeruha lochanaya,
Samekshanayai vishamekshanaya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya.

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her who has eyes as wide as the blue lotus,
To Him who has eyes as wide as a fully opened lotus,
To Her who has even number of eyes,
And to Him who has the odd number of eyes.

Mandhara mala kalithalakayai,
Kapalamalankitha kandharaya,
Divyambarayai cha Digambaraya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya.

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her whose hair is decorated with divine flowers,
To Him who wears a garland of skulls,
To Her who dresses in great silks,
And to Him wearing the eight directions.

Ambhodara syamala kunthalayai,
Thadithprabha thamra jatadharaya,
Nireeswarayai nikhileeswaraya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya.

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her who has black hair like the swollen cloud,
To Him who has copper matted locks like lightning,
To Her who is the goddess of the mountains,
And to Him who is the Lord of the universe.

Prapancha srushtyun muka lasyakayai,
Samastha samharaka thandavaya,
Jagat jananyai Jagatheka pithre,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her whose dance marks the creation of the world,
To Him whose dance destroys everything,
To Her who is the mother of the universe,
To Him who is the father of the universe.

Pradeeptha rathnojjwala kundalaayai,
Sphuran mahapannaga bhooshanayai,
Shivanvithaayai cha Shivanvithaya,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya.

My salutations to both Parvathi and Shiva,
To Her with glittering earrings of gems,
To Him who wears a great serpent as an ornament,
To Her who is divinely merged with Shiva,
And to Him who is divinely merged with

Parvathi..Ethath pateth astaka mistatham yo,
Bhakthyaa sa maanyo bhuvi deerghajeevi,
Praapnothi saubhagyam ananthakaalam,
Bhooyaath sadha thasya samastha sidhdhi

Those who chant this Ardhanarishwara Stotram with bhakti will be blessed long respectful life and will be blessed with all they wish to have in their lifetime.

Iti Shri Adishankara bhagavatpada virachitam Ardhanarishwara stotram Sampooranam ||
Here ends Sri Adi Shankara bhagavatpada composed Ardhanarishwara stotram.