A complex Ardhanarishvara stands on the pistil of an upturned lotus pedestal. The name is a portmanteau of the Sanskrit words, ‘ardha-nari’, which means half-female, and ‘ishvara’, which roughly translates to the supreme godhead (the Hindu equivalent of God). Ardhanrishvara is a unique deity: as a singular confluence of the masculine and the feminine, no other world culture has an equivalent.
Ardhanarishvara is formed when purusha (the energy principle, symbolised by the male) fuses into prakrti (the matter principle, symbolised by the female). The standing bronze that you see on this page depicts Lord Pashupatinath and padmadharini (lotus-wielding) Devi Parvati, distinguished by the shape of their half-forms and elements of their respective iconography (eg, the little deer feeding from the hand of Shiva).
A superbly detailed bronze such as this one has been made in the traditional madhuchista vidhana, an ancient, Agamic term for what is now known as the lost-wax method. From the flaying locks of Pashupatinath to the pleats of silk of Parvati’s dhoti, there is both skill and shraddha in the execution. The most striking aspect of this composition is the damroo on Ardhanrishvara’s head, around which is wound the body of a snake with its hood raised.
Accross all the religions ever existed on this plane, the gods have either been portrayed as a male or female. But in the Hindu philosophy, there is a form of Shiva, where he has been portrayed as half male and half female. This form of Shiva is known as lord Ardhanarishwar. And the concept of Ardhnarishwar is not just about art, it is emerging from a deep insight into the nature of human existence. Just as the universe exists because of the play of Dvait (duality), this duality manifests in the human body as well, in the form of masculine and feminine energy. When these two energies unite in perfect synchronicity, the human being rises above the nature of duality and becomes one with the source of very existence. This is what lord Ardhanarishwar symbolises, the perfect unity of the Purusha (masculine) and Prakriti (feminine).
This beautiful bronze statue portrays Lord Ardhanarishwar similar to his depiction in the ancient artworks. The sculptors of Swamimalai have done a brilliant work by portraying a perfect synchronicity between the male and female part of the statue, as if they are complementing and incomplete without each other. The male part Shiva, is barely clad and holding a weapon in one of his two hands. The Devi on the other hand, is clad with beautiful clothes and exquisite jewelries while her hand is bent in a delicate manner. Shiva is sporting a Cresent moon on his forehead that is adding to the glory of the lord. The face looks perfectly equanimous and dripped in blissfulness.
Lord Ardhanarishwar points toward a very deep mystery that is the very basis of the creation. This enchanting statue inspires to unfold that mystery, for Lord Ardhanarishwar is the very manifestation of that reality
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