Ardhanarishwara - Lord Shiva: Who is Half woman and Half Man


The Ardhanarishwara - Lord who is half woman, Shiva is represented with one half of his body bearing a feminine appearance Ardhanarishwara & characteristics & the other half adorning masculine features. This representation has several interpretations, which largely advocate the androgynous nature of his being, which transcends the limiting & relative aspects of gender.

Folklore has it, that this was Parvati’s ploy to keep Shiva  tightly embraced to prevent him from going astray towards either his carnal or spiritual pursuits .

On a more intellectual plane, one may perceive the fusion to represent a coalition of the passive forces or Purusha (male) with the active Prakriti (nature). In this composition, he embodies consciousness or spirit interspersed with matter on the terrestrial plane of relativity. The “nothing” from which “everything” gets its meaning.

So, in this form there is malleability between male & female forms negating a stark differentiation between the two. It is only through Shakti or the dynamic whirlpool of creation that Shiva realizes his own nature. In advanced spiritual rapture, the Yogi or Sage, experiences, this divine essence of being, a soul  devoid of the physical & qualitative dichotomies that create boundaries & separateness, all of which are associated with the material  world of relativity pertaining to the ideas of the body and mind.

It is interesting to note, that this interpretation does not actually point to an idea of neuter, infertile “half man-half woman” but must be understood as “Lord (Ishwar) who is half (ardh) woman (nari)”. So in effect, the form underscores the fact that Shiva’s productive force, when he assumes the role of the creator, requires a feminine presence. The word then does not really assign equal status to the genders but instead highlights a “masculine concept which incorporates a female partnership.” A spiritual reader would however consider such intensive deconstruction a mere semantic quibble and champion the belief that there is no subtle hierarchical superiority but a symbiotic harmony instead.  The glorious compatibility & mutual interdependence between the two forces is, infact the sum & substance of all that exists.

The image is also symbolic of syncretic ideology. Syncretism here involves the amalgamation of divergent philosophies to form a whole “new entity”. In such an interpretation, the Ardhnarishwara personifies the dissolution of sectarian strains and the adoption of a more holistic, all embracing worldview. It is interesting to note here, the myth involving sage Bhringi, an ardent follower of Lord Shiva. He was adamant in his worship of only Shiva and simply refused to acknowledge Parvati. Even when Shiva transformed into the Ardhnarishwara form, Bhringi transformed into a beetle and worshipped only the parts that was Shiva.  This tale shows us how syncretism faced opposition from the learned even as it found acceptance from Shiva himself. Shiva acknowledges worship as an intensely personal matter and allows his ardents to worship him the way they find it acceptable, provided it comes with true devotion.

In mystic circles, the feminine energy of Shiva, captured in this form is perceived as the Cosmic Kundalini at work for the evolution of human consciousness. She plays the role of the divine mother. Without meaning any discourtesy to the legends of other religions, some Shiva bhaktas like to believe that when she (Prakriti) incarnates on the terrestrial plane of relativity, in the space time continuum, she carries in her womb all divine beings and saints born on earth. Descending thus on earth, as matter, she takes on various forms like Devaki- mother of Krishna, Kaushalya- mother of Ram , Maya- mother of Buddha or Mary- mother of Jesus, to name a few.

It is vital to acknowledge that the physical form in which Shiva manifests himself, as male & female entities forged as one, is inconsequential. The value rests on the divine work they attain when they incarnate in pairs. To describe it symbolically, one may be called the lightning-holder the other is the lightning – each, an irreplaceable component of the other.

Conclusively, thus it may be said that the Ardhanarishwara, projects the transcendental identity of Shiva, which supersedes the attributes & limitations of gender to personify the formless all pervading infinite who graciously, embraces both sexes into the harmonious phenomena of creation.

Shiva Puja
Om I bow to Shiva and the five devatas and offer this scent and flower Om! Om I bow to the Sun and the planets and offer this scent and flower Om! Om I bow to the Guardians of the Directions and offer this scent and flower Om! Om I bow to all Goddesses and offer this scent and flower Om! Om I bow to the guru! (Left) Om I bow to the guru's guru! (Right) Om I bow to the source of the gurus! (Centre) Om I bow to Ganesha. Om namah shivaya. Om hail to Hara. (Establish Linga in North) Om I bow to Maheshvara. (Oblate Linga) Om O One Holding the Trident, truly be here!

Nyasa -- Placing
Om Sham I bow to the thumbs Namah. Om Shim I bow the index fingers Svaha. Om Shum I bow to the middle fingers Vashat. Om Shaim I bow to the ring fingers Hum. Om Shaum I bow to the little fingers Vaushat. Om Shah I bow to the front and back of hands Phat. Om Sham to the heart Namah. Om Shim to the head Svaha. Om Shum to the peak Vashat. Om Shaim to the armour Hum. Om Shaum to the 3 eyes Vaushat. Om Shah to the missile Phat.

Dhyana -- Meditation
Om. Meditate always on Mahesha, like a mountain of silver, with a beautiful crescent Moon as his crest-gem, whose body is as bright as a jewel, gracious of appearance, his hands holding axe, deer, bestowing boons and dispelling fear, seated in the lotus position, surrounded and praised on all sides by immortals, wearing a tiger-skin, seed and sprout of the Cosmos, destroying fear, with five faces and three eyes. (Place a flower on the head. Perform mental worship. Place the flower on the linga.) O Bearer of the Staff, enter herein! Indwell here! Reside here! Reside here! May happiness be here! May happiness be here! O Rudra, I perform your worship!

Upachara -- Offerings
Om hail to Pashupati. (Bathe Linga) Om this is water. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is arghya. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is for sipping. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is for bathing. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is scent. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is flower. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is birch-leaf. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is incense. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is flame. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is food. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is for sipping again. Om namah Shivaya! Om this is betel nut. Om namah Shivaya! Om I offer this scent and flower to Sharva, the Earth form (East) Om I offer this scent and flower to Bhava, the Water form (NE) Om I offer this scent and flower to Rudra, the Fire form (N) Om 1 offer this scent and flower to Ugra, the Air form (NW) Om I offer this scent and flower to Bhima. the Aether form (W) Om I offer this scent and flower to Pashupati, the Magician form (SW) Om I offer this scent and flower to Ishana, the Sun form (S) Om I offer this scent and flower to Mahadeva, the Moon form (SE) Om hail to Nandi. Om hail to Bhringini. Om hail to Kshetrapala. Om hail to Vamadeva.

Japa -- Mantra Recitation
Hara Maheshvara Shulapani Pinakadhrik Pashupati Shiva Mahadeva!
You are the secret at the core of every secret! Take this recitation! O Maheshvara, of Your grace, bestow siddhi on me! All hail to You, O one with closed eyes! Hail to You, with divine vision! Hail to You who holds the staff! Hail to You who holds the Vajra! Hail to You who holds the trident, sceptre, noose and sword in Your hands! Hail to You, Natha of the Three Worlds, the Lord of all Beings! Om namah Shivaya. Hail to You the Peaceful One! Cause of the 3 Causes! I offer myself to You, O Parameshvara, You who are my goal and refuge!


Ardhanarishvara Stotram: meaning

chAmpeya gaurArdha sharIrakAyai karpUra gaurArdha sharIrakAya |
dhammillakAyai cha jaTAdharAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 1 ||

gaura--shines, ardha--in one half, chAmpeya--golden yellow,
like 'chAmpeya' flower (Mesua ferrea);
while the other half shines bright white like karpUram--camphor;

One side of the head is dhammilla--ornate with braided hair;
the other sports jaTAmakuTam--unkempt crest;
I bow to this shivA (pArvatI) and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


kastUrikA kungkuma charchitAyai chitArajaH punjavi charchitAya |
kRitasmarAyai vikRitasmarAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 2 ||

ambAL on the left half is charchita--smeared with kastUri--musk
and kungkumam--vermilion;
while shiva on the right is punjavi charchita--smeared with heaps of
chitAraja--ashes from the funeral pyre;

In one half she is kRitasmarAya--pleasing to reflect on;
in the other he is vikRitasmarAya--ugly, deformed, transformed.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


jhaNat-kvaNat-kangkaNa nUpurAyai pAdAbjarAjat-phaNi nUpurAya |
hemAngadAyai bhujAngadAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 3 ||

ambAL on the left side wears kangkaNa--bangles/bracelets on her wrists
and nUpura--anklets on her feet; they jhaNat-kvaNat--jingle as she moves;
shiva on the right wears on his pAda-abja--lotus feet, phaNina--a hooded
serpent for his nUpura--anklets.

hemAnga--of gold-worn parts on the left;
bhujAnga--of snake-worn parts on the right.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


vishAla nIlotpala lochanAyai vikAsi pangkeruha lochanAya |
samekShaNAyai viShamekShaNAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 4 ||

ambAL on the left has nIlotpala--blue lotus, lochana--eyes;
shiva on the right has pangkeruha vikAsi--blossomed in mud, lochana--eyes.

ambAL is sama-IkShaNa--pleasing and harmonious to look at;
shiva is viShama-IkShaNa--poisonous and dissimilar to look at.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


mandAra-mAlA kalitA lakAyai kapAla-mAlAnggita kandharAya |
divyAmbarAyai cha digambarAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 5 ||

ambAL is kalita--adorned with, mandAra mAlA--garland of hibuscus flowers
on her laka--forehead;
shiva has a kapAla-mAlA-anggita-kandha--a garland of skulls worn neck.

She is dressed divyAmbara--in divine, royal clothes;
He is digambara--practically naked, dig ambara--having only the directions for his clothing.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


aMbhodhara shyAmala kuntalAyai taTit prabhAt Amra jaTAdharAya |
nirIshvarAyai nikhileshvarAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 6 ||

She has kuntala--locks of hair, that look like aMbhodhara--clouds that are
shyAmala--dark with water;
His jaTa--twisted locks of hair, are taTit--raised like the banks of a river,
and prabhAt--shining, like Amra--the ripe mango fruits of golden hue.

She is nirIshvara--godless, that is with no God above her;
He is nikhileshvara--the immanent God of everything.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


prapancha sRiShTy-unmukha lAsyakAyai samasta saMhAraka tANDavAya |
jagaj jananyai jagadeka pitre namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 7 ||

She performs her lAsyaka--dance in dramatic delight, at the prapancha--universal
sRiShti--creation, that is unmukha--springing up, at her dance;
He performs tANDava--a frantic dance, which is saMhAraka--destructive,
of samasta--everything, and the universe subsides back in it.

She is janani--mother, of the jagat--world, so jagajjanani;
He is jagadeka pitRu--the sole father of the world;
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


pradIpta ratno-jjvala kuNDalAyai sphuran mahApannaga bhUShaNAya |
shivAnvitAyai cha shivAnvitAya namaH shivAyai cha namaH shivAya || 8 ||

Her kuNDala--ear rings are, pradIpta--sparkling, studded with
ujjvala--blazing, ratna--precious stones;
His bhUshaNam--ornament, is only sphuran--trembling, mahApanaga--great serpents.

She is anvita--inherent, shivam--auspiciousness, happiness;
He is anvita--inherent, shivam--auspiciousness, happiness too.
I bow to this shivA and shivaH, in the form of ardhanArIshvara.


etat-paThed aShThakam iShTadaM yo bhaktyA sa mAnyo bhuvi dIrghajIvI |
prApnoti saubhAgyam anantakAlaM bhUyAt sadA tasya samasta siddhiH || 9 ||

This final verse is the phala shruti of this stotram.

etatpaThed--one who reads this, aShThakam--hymn of eight verses,
yo bhaktyA--with devotion, will obtain, sa mAnyo iShTadaM--all honour
and respect desired, bhuvi dIrghajIvI--will live long in the world,
and prApnoti--attain, saubhAgyam--fortune and prosperity,
and bhUyAt--when one repeatedly chants this stotram will attain
sadA tasya--perpetual, samasta siddhiH--all powers and perfection.


iti shrImat paramahaMsa parivrAjakAchAryasya
shrIgovinda bhagavat pUjyapAda shiShyasya |
shrImach-ChaMkara bhagavataH kRitau ardhanArIshvara stotram saMpUrNam ||

Thus concludes the ardhanArIshvara stotram, composed by shrI Adi shaMkarAchArya,
disciple of shrI govinda bhagavatpAda.

रत्नाकरधौतपदां हिमालयकिरीटिनीम् ।
ब्रह्मराजर्षिररत्नाढ्यां वन्दे भारतमातरम् ॥

To her whose feet are washed by the ocean, who wears the Himalayas as her crown, and is adorned with the gems of rishis and kings, to Mother India, do I bow down in respect.


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