अर्धनारीश्वर, ardhanārīśvara

Ardhanarishvara is also known by the names Ardhanāranārī, Ardhanāriśā, Ardhanārīnātheśvara (Lord of the Dance, who is half female), Ardhayuvatīśvara (Lord, whose half is a young girl), Paraṃgadā, Nāranārī, Ammaiyappana (a Tamil name meaning "mother-father").


Classically, Ardhanari is depicted as having a male right side and a female left side. In Shaktism there is a reverse image of the sides, where the right side is female, which to a greater extent focuses on the female hypostasis, located on the dominant right side.

Texts such as Śilparatna, Aṃśumadāgama, Aakalādhikāra, Viṣṇudharmottara and others, which have sections on iconography, describe the details of the two aspects of a single deity.
Ардханаришвара, имеющий десять рук и три лика, Храм Дарашурам

The right male half has jata-mukuta (tangled hair) with the Ganga falling on it, the hair is decorated with a crescent moon and snakes are wrapped around it; the kundala is often depicted in his ear; he wears a yajnopavita or a naga-yajnopavita.

Depending on how many hands Ardhanari is depicted with, and there may be two, three, four, and rarely eight or ten (an image from the Darashuram temple), in his hands there may be trishul, parashu, shankha, aksha-mala, one of hands can be in varada- or abhaya-mudra.

The left female half has beautiful hair decorated with flowers, the head of this half is adorned with a karanda-mukuta and in her ear is a valika-kundala. She is dressed in beautiful clothes and her hands are decorated with golden bracelets. In her hands there may be a lotus, a mirror, or she may be holding a parrot.

Most often, Ardhanarishvara is depicted with a shared third eye, but you can find images where the female half has a tilak or bindu.


At a higher level of tantric sadhana practice, he is revered in the practices of the upper amnayas, since Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of the fusion of Kundalini with Paramashiva in the sahasrara-chakra. Ardhanarishvara, although mainly associated with the left and right sides, is also a symbol of the union of heaven and earth, bottom and top, omnipresence. Ardhanarishvara is a reality that is present in the sahasrara-chakra, where Shiva and Shakti are in the ultimate connection, they both permeate their entire universe. Their union is the union of light and sound vibration, which underlie the creation of the entire universe.

Guru Yogi Matsyendranath Maharaj

Ardhanarishvara is a synthesis of the masculine and feminine energies of the Universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the feminine principle of God, is inseparable from Shiva, the masculine principle of God. The union of these principles is exalted as the cause and essence of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of the all-pervading nature of Shiva.

Of the five faces of Shiva, Vamadeva is on the north side and Aghora is on the south. “Vama” means beauty, also a woman. In Kaulic rituals such as lata-sadhana, the woman sits on the left side of the man. Goddess Vama is the one who creates the Universe. The north side is the left side and Aghora is the right side.

The north side for the Indians is associated with appeasement, subtlety of perception. There, all forces are involved to ensure that perception first passes into the space of creative consciousness, developing the subtle body to the maximum, ultimately raising consciousness to its complete freedom, to mukti.

The right side, or the direction where Aghora resides, allows one to overcome the external obstacles of the world, the southern side is precisely the war, "rajas", where you have to suppress raging passions.

This is why yogic texts say that a yogin who falls under the influence of the “sun”, “rajas”, goes to perdition, goes to Yama, who is connected with the south side. If this is translated into an understandable language, then the yogi must flexibly use all changeable forms to achieve something, but they should not “absorb” him, captivate him.

Guru Yogi Matsyendranath Maharaj


In “Sharada-tilaka-tantra”, a six-syllable mantra is given: रं क्षं मं यं औं ऊं (raṁ kṣaṁ maṁ yaṁ auṁ ūṁ). At the applied level, worship of Ardhanarishvara bestows kānti (radiance of energy), yaśas (glory), lakṣmī (wealth), vāṇī (eloquence), etc. Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, although very few temples are dedicated to this deity. 


The earliest depictions of Ardhanarishvara date from the Kushan period, from the first century AD to the fourth (AD 30-375). Its iconography developed and was refined during the Gupta era (320-600 AD).


“Skanda Purana” gives several versions of how Ardhanarishvara appeared.

The first version is described in “Maheshvara Khanda”, ch. 27–29. Girija (Uma) performed severe tapas in the mountains of Himadri, after Shiva called her black (krishna), and offended Uma decided to leave Kailas in order to gain light skin thanks to her tapas. When she was about to leave her body, seeing her intention, Brahma appeared and Uma uttered her desire:

42-43. “I got Shankara as my husband as a result of an extremely difficult asceticism. Bhava called me black-skinned many times. I want to be golden and be his love forever. I want to occupy one side of the Lord of the pretas without any hesitation or delay."
44. Hearing her words, the Lord seated on the Lotus said: “So be it. From now on, you will occupy half of your husband's body."

The second story comes from “Nagara Khanda”, ch. 254, when gods prevented Shiva and Shakti from conceiving a child. To reconcile with Parvati, Maheshvara began to dance Tandava on the fourteenth day of shukla paksha in Ashadha month. All the devas, gandharvas, kinnaras, apsaras, rishis and ganas helped Shiva in this dance. This went on for four months (chaturmasya) when on the fourteenth day of shukla paksha of Kartika month Uma was pleased with the performance and, in turn, recited Shiva’s glorification.

87. “O Parvati, if anyone reads this praise of me composed by you, he will never be separated from his near and dear people. He will be endowed with wealth for three births. He will be free from all ailments. Having enjoyed all kinds of pleasures, he will come to my city at the end.”
88. Having said this, Mahesha gave her the left part of his body, which belonged to Vishnu, and which Parvati accepted.
89. Sharva's side was with a skull in his hand; and had poison in his throat. He wore half a garland of headless trunks, this half was beautiful and white.
90. This is the part that creates the crores of Brahmand, and that part of the head had tangled hair. He shone with the light of diamonds in the form of a lunar month.
91. On one side She is decorated with gold bracelets, on the other side there were snakes instead of bracelets. On one side was the skin of an elephant, on the other – silk clothes.
92. On one side was Matsyavahana, the other side was marked with the emblem of a bull. One side was served by Parshadases, the other was served by female assistants.

Linga Purana” in chapter 41 gives a somewhat confusing story of Ardhanarishvara’s appearance, which seems to be connected with the repetitive history of creation in different kalpas.

A brief paraphrase tells that Brahma unsuccessfully tried to create the Universe several times, but time after time life in the Universe did not develop. After another collapse, Brahma created the Universe again, but life in it again did not continue. Together with their mind-born sons, they began to perform tapas, having the Supreme Lord in their heart, in order to continue creation. When the Lord was satisfied, He manifested from the center of Brahma's forehead in the form of a half-man, half-woman as Brahma’s son. Then He burned Brahma, and in order to fill the expanding universe, the Lord took the path of yoga and enjoyed his half, Parameshwari. Vishnu and Brahma were created from parts of Her body.

Further in the same chapter, it is told how Brahma, thanks to Rudra, was purified from tamo-guna. After this purification, at the dawn of Brahma’s new day, he, filled with the desire to create, began to perform severe tapas again, but despite great efforts, nothing happened. Continuing to perform tapas and seeing the absence of any result, Brahma first fell into despondency, and then into anger. Because of this anger, tears came out of Brahma's eyes and fell to the ground. From them spirits, pretas and demons sprang. Seeing the whole world inhabited by demons, Brahma, out of the wrath of despair, decided to leave his life.

From the mouth of the dead Brahma, Rudra emerged in the form of prana and revealed himself in the form of Ardhanarishvara, and he, in turn, divided into eleven Rudras: Aja-ekapada, Ahirbudhnya, Tvashtari, Rudra, Hara, Tryambaka, Aparajita, Vrishakapi, Shambhu, Kapardin and Raivata. From the female half of himself, he created Uma, and She first created Lakshmi, Durga, Sarasvati, and then Vama, Raudri, Vaishnavi, Mahamaya, Kalavikarini, Kali, Balavikarini, Balapramathini, Sarvabhuatadamani and Manonmani. Then Maheshvara, being Brahma’s son, brought him back to life. And thus Creation began to flourish.

Tamil legend tells about rishi Bhringi.

Bhringi was one of the most ardent Shiva’s worshipers, but he used to worship only Shiva, deliberately neglecting veneration for Shakti. Through his spiritual practice, Bhringi sought to transcend aspects of existence, and that is why he considered it right to worship only Shiva, separating in his mind Shiva from the manifested female energy (Shakti), from which in reality Shiva was inseparable. Excluding completely Shakti (female energy) from the prayers that were offered to Shiva, Bhringi left without honoring his vital, supportive energy, which emanated from Shakti and supported him in worship.

Once having the opportunity to see his beloved Lord on Kailash, Bhringi desired to perform pradakshina. For him, this turned out to be a difficult task, because the Lord was in the form of Ardhanari and, still fanatically worshiping only Shiva, Bhringi took the form of a wasp (or rat in other versions) and tried to squeeze between Shiva and Shakti so as not to perform pradakshina around Parvati.

For his stubbornness, he received a curse from Parvati, who said that from now on, all parts of the body that he inherited from his mother should leave him. Thus, all soft parts of the body and all the liquids left his body and Bhringi became only bones, he was now unable to make even the slightest movement. Bhringi, however, continued to stubbornly pray only to Shiva. Full of infinite compassion, Shiva granted his devotee a third leg so that he could at least stand.

Connection with Gorakshanath

Ardhanarishvara is a very significant image for tantric yogis. In India, Nathas and various Tantrics consider him Shiva Adinath.

Gorakshanath is Shiva-svarupa (the true essence of Shiva). According to the Natha teaching, all knowledge of Yoga and Tantra was revealed to people from transcendent Shiva Adinath. Thus, Adinath is the incarnation of Shiva and Shakti, he is Ardhanarishvara, Adinath’s Shakti is called Nija-shakti (the one that is inseparable from Him). Then, from Adinath, Shiva and Shakti appeared separately, Shiva later became Gorakshanath, and Shakti became a creative force that manifested the gunas (rajas, tamas and sattva), i.e. the respective Gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra).

Guru Yogi Matsyendranath Maharaj