Ardhanarishvara, “The Lord Who is Half Woman,” is a form of SHIVA whose left half is the GODDESS PARVATI or SHAKTI, with breast and sari drape. The iconic image is a popular one at temples and shrines to Shiva everywhere in India. Images were present very early in the development of stone architecture and are found at various rock cut temples such as at MAHABALIPURAM.
   It is said that BRAHMA, the creator god, tried many times to create beings who would pro-create properly. Usually the beings he created, god or human, would take up asceticism and not reproduce. Finally, he asked Lord Shiva to separate out his female goddess aspect, so that procreation could take place. Shiva did so; this feminine aspect stood before Brahma and at his request gave him the feminine energy that allowed him to become the creator of the human line.
   Through this story all human beings are seen to be descended from Brahma via his feminine, procreative energy. The Ardhanarishvara depic-tion of Shiva as half goddess is a reminder of this story.
   A different explanation for the Ardhanarish-vara is found in another story, in which the sage Bhringi respectfully circumambulated Shiva every day but ignored Parvati, unlike all the other rishis, who customarily circumambulated them both. To induce him to honor Parvati, Shiva and Parvati joined together as one, but the stubborn sage became a bee and bored between them so as only to go around Shiva (explaining the name bhringa, which means bee). Still other explanations exist (see ANNAPURNA).
   Further reading: Ellen Goldberg, A Lord Who Is Half Woman: Ardhanarisvara in Indian and Feminist Perspec-tive (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002); Stella Kramrisch, The Presence of Shiva (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981); Neela Yadav, Ardhanarisvara in Art and Literature (New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 2001).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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