Ardhanarishwara – Half Woman God
The word Ardhanarishwara literally means ‘ Half woman god’ in Sanskrit. The divine embodiment of the non–duality of the cosmos. As seen, it is an androgynous form of the Hindu god Shiva and Parvati, the right side being male and the left being female.
This depiction is representation of the combination of the female energies and the male energies of the universe. There cannot exist masculinity without a woman or femininity without a man. It symbolizes that the female energy and the male energy work together in synchronization with each other. They exist because of one another. The female and the male are not entities by themselves but together they are and entity.
Parvati the goddess had requested her husband Shiva to exist within him and that is how the form came into existence. The female form is always depicted on the left of the male, to emphasize that the female energy is of the heart and the male energy is of action.
Parvati being the ‘Shakti’ and Shiva being from the holy trinity itself ‘The Destroyer’, together they manifest the balance in nature. They are the core of the all creation.
This form of Shiva is in a never ending dance of balance with his female counterpart to maintain balance in this world. The divine representation of the male and female in the universe as one, the two sexes as one body is to emphasise that neither can exist without the other.
Symbolically, it means that the partners in love cannot exist without each other and that they exist within each other.
The female side or the left side is the mother of all creation. It is this Shakti that has given the strength to procreate and Lord Bramha of the Holy trinity worships her for her ability of creation that he himself could not do. The energy of the female being ‘Prakriti’ and the male being ‘Purusha’.
Ardhanarishwara is often depicted with their respective vahanas : the Bull and the Lion. The Bull or Nandi is the Vahana of Lord Shiva, and the Lion being the Vahana of Devi Shakti.
The head gear of the male counterpart is the jata- mukuta, the matted hair or commonly known as dreads upon which rests the crescent moon and the river Ganga is ever flowing through it. The Female however has a mukuta, which symbolizes the a basket or a chalice, again emphasizing on the female’s ability to procreate.
It can be seen that the Shakti side holds a lotus in her hand depicting beauty and creation. The male side of Shiva however is seen holding a Trident.
The trident is the main astra or weapon of Lord Shiva, he is never seen without it. Shiva’s trident controls the earth and has the power to destroy the world. Thus further shows the quality of both the sexes are opposites and yet are one.
Another striking feature is that one side represents spirituality and the other the worldly responsibilities. The meaning of Ardhanarieshwara is in layers, some being the evident things like the two sexes and some are entwined in the depiction of the combination of aspects.
The trident & the Lotus, in each hand representing creation and destruction. The rudraksha and the ornaments on each side reflecting spirituality and worldly responsibilities.
Ardhanarishwara is a reflection of the ancients, that for a world to exist is perfect balance the man and woman have to coexist.
When we bring this form of SHIVA –SHAKTI into our homes, it improves the balance in the household. It also improves relationships and brings harmony.
Read about Forms of Lord Shiva.
Read about Parvati