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Ardhanareeswara: Representation and Significance

Posted By ServDharm


Posted on February 09 2023

Ardhanareeswara represents one major manifestation among the 64 manifestations of Lord Shiva. The term Ardhanareeswara means the lord who is half woman. This manifestation is a composite form of Shiva along with His consort, Goddess Parvati. The two forms are represented together as a single entity with a vertical demarcation in the centre.

The Ardhanareeswara deity depicts Lord Shiva on the left side and Goddess Parvati on the right side. Some idols of the deity are depicted with two arms while some others are associated with four arms.

The Male Half – Lord Shiva

The male half of the Ardhanareeswara deity on the right has a pile of locked hair twisted at the top of the head. This hair is decorated by a crescent along with the Ganges flowing through the hair locks and a snake. The right ear sports a serpent earring that is referred to as the nakra or sarpa kundala. In some representations, there is a half-moustache on the male half and the eye on the male side is slightly smaller than that of the female side. There is a hooded serpent on the left side of the neck.

Some versions show the male half with half of the third eye. The two-armed deity depicts the varada mudra with one right hand and holds a skull cap with the other. On the other hand, one right hand of the four-armed deity has an axe while the other right hand shows the abhaya mudra. There are also other variations of the four-armed deity where one right arm holds a trident and a rosary or plays a veena. There is also a representation where one arm is inclined forward slightly and rests on the head of Shiva’s bull, Nandi.

The male half has a broad shoulder, a flat masculine chest, a muscular thigh and a wide waist. There is a sacred thread across the chest. The entire male half has ashes all over and has minimum or no clothing and the right leg rests on a lotus pedestal.

The Female Half – Goddess Parvati

The female half of the Ardhanareeswara deity has well-combed hair that is decorated by a basket shaped crown. The left ear has a beautiful earring and the forehead is decorated with a bhindi while the neck has a necklace of blue lotuses. The female hands are adorned with bangles or bracelets.

In the two-armed representation, the left hand is either shown resting on Nandi’s hand or hanging loose with a parrot, a mirror or a flower. In some cases, the parrot is found on the wrist. The four-armed deity shows one left arm resting on the head of Nandi while the other hand is slightly bent with a blue lotus or hangs loose by the side.

The female half has a curved body and hip along with a full and well-rounded bosom and a narrow waistline adorned with several waistbands. This half is decorated with other gold and diamond ornaments as well. The entire female half has saffron smeared and is portrayed in a dark or parrot-green colour with a gentle and calm poise. The whole female part is covered with clothing up to the ankle. The left leg has an ankle and a foot painted red to denote henna and rests on a lotus pedestal.

The Tribhanga Posture

The Ardhanareeswara deity is most often associated with the Tribhanga posture. The deity is depicted shown bent at three parts of the human body – head towards the left, body to the right and at the right leg. It is quite uncommon to see the deity in a sitting posture.

Nandi is considered to be the mount of Ardhanareeswara. However, there are a few portraits showing Nandi adjacent the Shiva half and a lion close the Parvati half.

Legends of the Ardhanareeswara

According to one legend, once all the rishis and gods went to Mount Kailash to pay their homage to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. One sage Bringi alone refused to revere Parvati as he considered Shiva the supreme deity. He worshipped only Lord Shiva and circumambulated only Him. This angered Goddess Parvati who cursed the saint to lose his body and flesh and transformed him to a skeleton. Since the saint could not stand erect, Shiva blessed him with a third leg for support.

Goddess Parvati was upset by Lord Shiva’s actions and performed severe penance. This pleased Shiva immensely and He gave her the boon of unifying with Him forever. This would force Bringi to worship both the god and the goddess in the Ardhanareeswara form.

However, Bringi would not give in. He assumed the form of a beetle and drilled a hole in the navel of the deity to separate both halves and help him with the circumambulation of the male half alone. Needless to say, the goddess was not happy about this but she was pleased with the saint’s devotion and Parvati reconciled with the saint and blessed him.

There are various other stories associated with Ardhanareeswara in the Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Matsya Purana and Kalika Purana. Ardhanareeswara also has references in tbe Mahabharata.

Benefits of Ardhanareeswara Pooja

The Ardhanari Nateswara stotra is a nine-quatrain stotra. The first quatrain is considered to be the most popular and important.

Champeya Gaurardha Shareerakayai Karpoora Gaurardha Shareerakaya

Dhammillakayai Cha Jataadharaya Namah Shivayai Cha Namah Shivaya

The Ardhanari Nateswara stotra is a nine-quatrain stotra. The first quatrain is considered to be the most popular and important.

Performing the Ardhanareeswara Pooja helps an individual to be blessed with a healthy and long life, free of any disease. It also helps to alleviate the effects of sins committed, mourning, guilt, fear and death. The pooja also assists a person gain relief from ego, problems, stress and fear in his/her life.

Some important items used for the Ardhanareeswara Pooja are a rudraksha mala, bel patra, white flowers, milk, sandalwood, curd, honey and ghee.

There are various spiritual and health benefits of Ardhanareeswara Pooja. Some of them are listed below.

  • For the divine blessings and grace of Lord Shiva and His consort, Goddess Parvati
  • For deep religious realization and spiritual upliftment
  • For fulfilment of desires
  • For enhancement of spiritual growth
  • For harmony and peace among family members
  • For destruction of past karma and sins
  • For getting rid of malefic effects of planets in one’s horoscope



The Ardhanareeswara manifestation is the right blend of male and female forms with an optimal balance of male and female energies that complement each other and work together to render equilibrium. It symbolises the unit of Purusha and Prakriti, as well as the combined masculine and feminine energies of the universe. Ardhanareeswara also depicts how the Sacred Feminine or Shakti cannot be separated from the male principle of God, namely, Lord Shiva. The manifestation additionally highlights the all-enduring and all-pervasive nature of the god.

The right side is associated with masculine traits like valour, systematic traits and logic while the left side is characterised by female traits such as intuition and creativity.


Written by - Deepthi K



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