Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Ardhanarishvara:A Union of Shiva and Parvati

Ardhanarishvara is a symbolic blend of masculine and feminine energies, depicting the union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It symbolizes the balance between Shakti and Shiva, Prakriti and Purusha, embodying cosmic harmony. This deity represents unity and duality, reflecting the eternal dance of creation across time and cultures.

Origin of Ardhanarishvara

The origin of Ardhanarishvara finds its roots in an intriguing blend of ancient Hindu and Greek cultures. This captivating figure emerges as a captivating interplay of hermaphrodite representations from these civilizations, resonating with the duality that is inherent in existence. The earliest manifestations of Ardhanarishvara date back to the enigmatic Kushan era, with records dating back to the first century CE, revealing its timeless presence in history.

Evolution and Iconography of Ardhanarishvara


As the tides of time flowed, the Gupta period became a crucible for the evolution and refinement of Ardhanarishvara’s iconography. This dual-gendered form, combining the energies of Shiva and Parvati, emerged as a powerful symbol of cosmic unity. Despite its prevalence in the narrative of many Shiva temples, exclusive temples dedicated to Ardhanarishvara remain a rarity, hinting at the enigma surrounding this deity.

Ardhanarishvara’s origin can be traced back to ancient echoes, with parallels found in Vedic literature such as the composite figure of Yama-Yami, as well as in Greek mythology with Hermaphroditus and Agdistis. Philosophical underpinnings of this androgynous being find expression in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Shwetashwatara Upanishad, offering insights into the cosmic dance of creation.

Eternal Dance of Ardhanarishvara

The early images of Ardhanarishvara offer a striking juxtaposition of masculine and feminine aspects. The male half, with its distinctive features, and the female half, exuding grace, come together to create a vivid portrait of cosmic harmony. Over time, Ardhanarishvara’s portrayal evolved, featuring three or eight arms in some renditions, each arm laden with symbolism.

Beyond artistic representation, Ardhanarishvara bridges the divide between Shaivism and Shaktism, uniting diverse philosophies. Some Shakti schools even reverse the placement of the male and female halves, emphasizing the deity’s role as a symbol of unity and convergence.

Symbolism of the Male Half

The male half of Ardhanarishvara is adorned with intricate details that hold significant symbolism. The matted hair adorned with the crescent moon and serpents signifies life’s essence, while the serpent earring and third eye evoke spiritual significance. Various arm configurations depict diverse attributes of Shiva, and the depiction of a veena adds a melodic twist to the iconography.

Graceful Feminine Aspect

The female half of Ardhanarishvara exudes grace and allure, capturing the essence of duality in divine form. The crown, jewelry, and bindu on her forehead highlight her divinity, while her delicate hands hold symbols of beauty and grace. Her form is a harmonious blend of curves and elegance, emphasizing the unity of opposites.

Tribhanga Posture

The Ardhanarishvara is often depicted in the Tribhanga posture, embodying a cosmic balance that aligns with the union of male and female energies. This posture signifies the intricate interplay between various aspects of creation, with the Nandi or lion serving as companions.

Legends of Ardhanarishvara

Multiple legends surround the emergence of Ardhanarishvara, reflecting the diverse narratives within Hindu mythology. From the Tamil legend of Bhringi to the tales of Parvati’s jealousy and Shiva’s benevolence, each story offers a unique perspective on the origin of this divine form. These legends underline the concept of totality beyond duality and the harmonious unity of Shiva and Parvati.

Symbolism and Spiritual Significance

Ardhanarishvara’s symbolism runs deep, illustrating the optimal balance between male and female energies and their inseparable nature. This divine form represents the unity in opposites, with Shiva and Shakti being two sides of the same cosmic coin. The balance of material and spiritual realms, as well as the unity of the opposites, are central themes in this symbolism.

Worship of Ardhanarishvara

The worship of Ardhanarishvara offers devotees a path to Moksha (salvation) by acknowledging the necessity of balancing material and spiritual aspects of life. This deity serves as a reminder that unity resides within the diversity of creation, and both forces are crucial for cosmic harmony. As Ardhanarishvara transcends time and cultures, it continues to inspire seekers to embrace the inherent duality and unity within themselves and the universe.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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