In this sculpture the god Shiva and his consort Parvati are united in a single image known as Ardhanareshwara, the physical representation of the Indian concept of the nonduality of the divine principle or supreme being. Shiva occupies the dominant right side, and Parvati, the subsidiary left. The deities are distinguished by subtle physical differences, coiffure, clothing and ornaments. The straighter line of Shiva's body contrasts with Parvati's breast, constricted waist, swelling hip, and smaller face. His dhoti is short, and her garment is approximately ankle length; each is tied differently.
Ardhanareshwara is the supreme deity who unites the dualistic forces of the universe, the undifferentiated whole who both precedes and governs the cosmos. Even so, the Sanskrit poets have playfully developed the theme of frustrated love for this form of Shiva combined with his consort. The poet Bhagiratha writes:
I'll grant you the golden goddess:
He has the joy
Of embracing you forever
Without pause, since he carries your supple body
Mixed into his.
Still, inside of him
That three-eyed god
Is ever burning with sorrow,
For he will never see the gentle
Alive with loving,
in your eyes.
The following splendid verse, attributed to Mandana, in which Ganesha, the elder son of Shiva and Parvati, answers his younger brother's queries, is also of interest in understanding the concept of Ardhanareshwara.
"When father and mother became a single body,
what happened, elder brother, to the other halves of each?'
Victory to Ganesa, who explains to the younger prince,
"The one on earth was born as everyman,
the other everywoman."
This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.
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