Hdeity infobox|

Name = Ardhanari
Caption = Ardhanarishvara (half male-half female God) The sculpture's left is female and the right is male, depicting Shiva and his consort Shakti/Parvati.
Elephanta caves, Mumbai, India.
Devanagari = अर्धनारी
Sanskrit_Transliteration =
Pali_Transliteration =
Tamil_script =
Affiliation = A combined form of Shiva and Parvati (Shakti)
God_of =
Abode =
Mantra =
Weapon =
Mount =

In Hinduism, Ardhanari (Devanāgarī _sa. अर्धनारी, IAST IAST|Ardhanārī) or Ardhanarishvara ( _sa. अर्धनारीश्वर, IAST|Ardhanārīśvara), is an androgynous deity composed of Shiva and his consort Shakti, representing the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies. The Ardhanari form also illustrates how the female principle of God, Shakti is inseparable from the male principle of God, Shiva. Ardhanari in iconography is depicted as half-male and half-female, split down the middle. The best sculptural depictions of Shiva as Ardhanari are to be seen in the sensuous Chola dynasty bronzes and the sculptures at Ellora and Elephanta.


Ardhanarishvara is one of the most prevalent forms of the Divine in Indian art since around the beginning of the Christian era or a little before. The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are reported from the period of Kushanas (circa 35–60 AD).


The term 'Ardhanarishvara' is a combination of three words- 'ardha', 'nari' and 'ishvara', meaning respectively, 'half', 'woman' and 'Lord' or 'God', that is, Ardhanarishvara is the Lord whose half is woman, or who is half woman. Some scholars interpret the term as meaning 'the half male' who is Shiva and 'the half female' who is Parvati. Such interpretations are suggestive of dvaita, the duality of existence, and thus contradict the Advaita Vedic stand in the matter. Such contentions also contradict the Shaiva philosophy of advaita, which is very emphatic in its assertion that He alone is the cause of the entire existence, as it is by His will and out of Him that the cosmos came into being.

In the Shaivite hymn 'Ekohum bahusyami' (Shiva Purana), that is, I am One, but wishes to be many, there echoes the Rigvedic perception of the single egg splitting into bhuta and prana. Otherwise also, most interpretations of the Vedas widely favor the principle of monogenic existence. Besides its emphasis on the unity of the outward duality, the Rigveda acclaims, 'He, who is described as male, is as much the female and the penetrating eye does not fail to see it'. The Rigvedic assertion is explicitly defined. The male is only so much male as much he is female and vice versa the female is only as much female as much she is male. The maleness and femaleness are the attributes contained in one frame.

The Rigvedic assertion was taken literally by the founder of the Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo, who claimed that the new, superhuman race, will have "unisex" bodies that are totally different from animals and free from the duality of male and female.


Barring a few exceptions, the right half of the Ardhanarishvara images comprises male anatomy and the left that of the female. A few images, obviously influenced by the Shakta sect, have a reverse placement of the male and female parts also.

As regards the height perspective, dimensions of face and other parts, the male anatomy, and more so in sculptures where bolder forms are chisel's need, is the determinant, but in paintings, which look for the softer aspects, the female anatomy is found dominating the entire figure.

Despite a similar anatomy of the two parts, the female part imparts the feeling of elegance and tenderness. An elegantly modeled prominent breast is the essentiality of the female anatomy. The Ardhanarishvara image may be endowed with two, three, four, six or eight arms. Arms more than eight are the attribute of Raudra Shiva who has been conceived with as many as a thousand arms. The two-armed image is the Ardhanarishvara in lalita posture, the beautiful one in absolute ease. The female hand carries either a mirror or nilotpala, a blue lotus. The male hand either rests on the bull or is let loose below the thigh. It may also be in abhaya mudra, the gesture imparting fearlessness. When three-armed, one is on the female side and the two on male.

Now one of the two male arms is in abhaya mudra or varada mudra and other one carries a trident or rod. In four-armed figures on male side it is almost the same, but the second female hand carries variously the mirror, nilotpala or pot. The male in six and eight-armed figures carries, besides the abhaya and varada, various weapons and the drum and the female, besides the mirror, nilotpala and pot, also the parrot.

The Ardhanarishvara images have broadly three body postures - the abhanga, a posture without a curve; the tribhanga, a posture with three mild curves; and, the atibhanga, a posture with extreme curves.

Variations in the name of this Deity:
*Aldernalisuvara, mostly applied by Japanese, sometimes abbreviated to Alder.

ee also

* Hindu views on God and gender
* Shakti
* Shaktism
* Harihara

External links

* [ Ardhanari]

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