With one additional arm, suggestive of four-armed anatomy, the right half of the statue is essentially the manifestation of Shiva. The style of hair on the right side, half knotted as ‘jata-juta’, and other half, unfurling like flames of fire, and the bell chained around the ankle of the right feet, are two of the essential aspects of the Shiva’s iconography in his Nataraja form.Besides a goad, the instrument of annihilation, carried in the upper hand, the gesture of his lower hand, suggestive of dissolution, which in the Great Trinity is Shiva’s cosmic role, are essentials of Shiva’s form. In contrast to fully clad left leg the right half is clad just in a loin-cloth made of plain tiger skin except for a bit of lace defining its edge. Correspondingly, the left half with feminine attributes is the manifestation of Shiva’s consort Parvati who is acclaimed in scriptures as Shiva’s ‘Vamanga’ : his left half.
As the Shaivite doctrine has it, Shiva, who manifests in his being the cosmos, or vice-versa, cosmos is whose mere manifestation, combines in him both male and female aspects of creation. This doctrine of the unity of cosmic existence which Shiva manifested in his Ardhanarishvara form was initially the Rig-Vedic perception acclaiming that : ‘what you describe to me as Male are in reality also Female.’ The existence is essentially composed of two sets of diverse elements, which Shiva as Sadashiva and Adipurusha blends in his form. Everyone born, but Shiva who is unborn, is either a male or a female; the Adipurusha Shiva, the Sadashiva, the ever present benevolent One, is the total, all that is masculine and all that is feminine. Western world’s inseparable unity of male and female seen in the form of Cupid and Psyche is the unity of the two in two forms. In Ardhanarishvara this unity is in one form. Unlike most of the Ardhanarishvara images in which male, that is Shiva, comprises their principal form, and female, secondary or less significant. Astonishingly, in this brilliant innovative form it is the female aspect that seems to dominate the figure’s totality, its anatomy, aesthetics and psyche.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.