The form is both male and female (you can colloquially call it “Half Shiva, Half Parvati).
Typically, the right half represents his male aspect and the left half represents his female aspect.
This signifies the inalienable divine union of male and female…
…Something which creates life, sustains life, as well as something which sustains the entire universe.
The Ardhanarishvara form is not so common among the people compared to other idols and iconic figures of gods and goddesses. However, if you stretch your intellect to some extent, this form looks like the personified aspect of the Shiva Lingam.
There are many stories have been created and told based on this androgynous representation of Shiva…
But one story about Ardhanarishvara you may not find everywhere which is written in one of chapters of Shiva Purana.
The story elaborates on how the composite gender form of Lord Shiva came into being when Lord Brahma was helpless to create human beings that reproduce another human being.
How was Ardhanarishvara form appear as per Shiva Purana
According to Chapter 3 of Section 3, Shatarudra Samhita, Shiva Purana, the event took place as follows.
The self-born Brahma created men…
But unfortunately, they have not the functionality of creating another life or multiples from them.
So he got very disappointed and decided to perform penance to please shiva.
After doing penance for a very long period, Lord Shiva was satisfied and appeared before him in the form of the Ardhanarishvara.
Lord Brahma bowed before him to venerate…
…And Lord Shiva started to spoke to him (Shiva’s voice was thunderous as if the clouds are rumbling) as Shiva already knew for what purpose the penance was performed by Brahma.
Shiva said to Brahma that he was satisfied with his penance and was letting him knew that he can understand Brahma’s concern about increasing subjects (all kinds of being, including gods and humans).
Then Shiva detaches his other part or other half Shivā (pronounced /shi-vaa/ and this part is commonly known as Shakti) from his left side.
Brahma again bowed to her with great reverence and told her that the great and supreme soul Shiva created him and ordered him to create living things.
Hence, he is creating gods, humans, and other beings through his mind but they cannot give birth or reproduce. So, I have to create them again and again.
Then he requested Shivā (Shakti) to help him to create women that can create another life or human beings and who can multiply themselves through copulating.
After requesting this boon, Lord Brahma again asked Shakti to give another boon to him…
He said, “Please be compassionate and grant me the boon to born as the daughter of my son Daksh.
Shivā (Shakti) was pleased by his polite request and bestowed the power to him and also accepted his second earnest request.
Later, Shivā incarnated as the daughter (Sati) of Daksh and married to Lord Shiva.
This is the story behind the incarnation of Ardhanarishwara as per Shiva Purana.
Shivā and Shiva: The Two Confusing Words
According to that holly book:
Shiva means Lord Shiva or Mahadev. It is the male aspect of Shivā, the beloved of Shivā, the other half of Shivā.
You might think:
They carries the same spelling… what’s going on?
The difference is in the pronunciation:
Śivā is pronounced as /shi-vaa/
And Śiva is pronounced as /shi-və/
SIDENOTE: Ś is called s minuscule, which signifies the sound shhh (the interjection sound of silence). I’ve removed this letter in the rest of the article for improved readability.
The Perplexity of Ancient Text
In Chapter 3 of Shatarudra Samhita, there’s a description of what happened after Shivā (the Shakti of Lord Shiva) bestowed the power to Brahma.
The holly book Shiva Purana states as follows:
Therefore, she created a Shakti of equal glow from the middle of her eyebrows (using the power of her Thrid Eye) for HERSELF.Postulation of Stanza 24 of Chapter 3: Shatarudra Samhita
Does this mean that she lost her power after giving the Shakti to Brahma? And as a consequence, she needed to create another Shakti for herself as a substitute?
It COULD mean that. To fathom out or comprehend the meaning of it is not that easy.
The next perplexed thing you’ll find in the stanza 26, 27 and 28.
In the stanza 26 Lord Shiva is speaking to Shivā as follows:
O Goddess, you’ve been pleased by Brahma’s severe penance and bestowed the power to him. You’ve fulfilled his desires.Postulation of Stanza 26 of Chapter 3: Shatarudra Samhita
In the next stanza, which is 27 you’ll find the following:
After receiving the command or request of Shiva, Shakti bent her head or nodded as a sign of acceptance and became the daughter of Daksh (Shiva Purana mentions that Brahma repeatedly asking Shivā to incarnate, hence insisted).Postulation of Stanza 27 of Chapter 3: Shatarudra Samhita
And see what happened next…
It’s even more interesting…
In the stanza 28:
After Shivā gave the unmatched power to Lord Brahma, Shivā entered the body of Lord Shiva and then Lord Shiva vanished from the scene.Postulation of Stanza 28 of Chapter 3: Shatarudra Samhita
The confuzzlement is:
If Shivā or Shakti entered the body of Shiva after bestowing the power to Brahma, how did she took birth as the daughter of Daksh? Because there, it is clearly stating that she merged with Lord Shiva at the place of the event (Shiva vanished from the scene and “scene” means place).
Or is it metaphorically mean the marriage of Shiva and Parvati and signifying the post-marriage union of Shiva and Shakti?
If you directly translate the meaning from the paragraph of Shiva Purana it doesn’t necessarily mean that.
Moreover, it may also mean that…
…Since the Representation of Ardhanarishvara is the true nature of Lord Shiva, it may mean that Shiva and Shivā (or Shiva and Shakti) are inseparable and the separation is in fact illusionary.
I’ve elaborated on the confusing part of the story because it is necessary to let you know that.
Mythology (most accurately Puranic Katha, since the word Mythology could be limited at times though not always) is not easy to understand, the way you perceive something might be differently perceived by others.
Anyway, this is what Ardhanarishvara supposed to be as per the sayings of Shiva Purana.
I Want to Hear from You…
What do you think about Ardhanarishvara?
Have you ever heard any other story related to Ardhanarishvara?
Do let us know in the comment section below.