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Three-armed Ardhanarishvara, Chola bronze , South India, 12th century

Ardhanarishvara ( Sanskrit , m., अर्धनारीश्वर, ardhanārīśvara, ardha = half, nari = woman, ishvara = lord, "the lord who is half woman"), also called Ardhanari , is the name for the Hindu god Shiva , who together with forms a figure half man and half woman for his wife Parvati .


In Shiva Purana , the legend of Ardhanarishvara is told as follows: Brahma could not continue to shape his creation because his creatures did not multiply. He asked Shiva for help, and Shiva appeared in his half-male, half-female form. Then he divided into Shiva and Parvati, and Parvati took over the function of fertility.

A rather popular legend describes Parvati's desire to experience the same worship from a Shiva worshiper as her husband, whereupon she decided to unite both bodies. The originally intended purpose was unsuccessful.


In representations, the left half of Ardhanarishvara's body is usually shown as a woman, while the right half is a man. The hair crown and headdress are usually divided into two parts. Shiva's half sometimes shows a trident ( trishula ), an hourglass drum ( damaru ) or an ax ( kuthara ); he is only dressed in a (tiger) fur apron. The Nandi bull stands or lies by his side. Parvati's half of the body is dressed in a sari , with the chest mostly remaining free in the classical depictions; In her hands she holds a mirror, a bouquet of flowers and / or a water jug, and she also wears arm jewelry. Associated with her is a lion, her mount ( vahana ).

Representations of the Ardhanarishvara can be found all over India, whereby a certain closeness to shaktic and tantric ideas can be ascertained, which became particularly important in northern India ( Rajasthan , Bengal ) and in Nepal. In some sculptures Ardhanarishvara can be seen with three arms, two of the arms being assigned to Shiva as the more important part.

Although statues of Ardhanarishvara can be found in numerous Shiva temples, there are only a few temples that are specifically dedicated to Shiva in his form as Ardhanarishvara. The most important of these is located in the city of Tiruchengode in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu .

In the Nagamandala ritual theater in the southwest of Karnataka , the musician and singer known as Ardhanari embodies the hybrid being, while the other of the two actors is possessed as a patri by the male snake god Naga .


Rare Ardhanarishvara figure in which the dominant right side is female. Miniature of the Mankot School, 1710–20

According to Hindu ideas, the absolute is an undivided original unity, symbolized by an egg or a point. In God and Goddess this originality is divided into polar opposites. The idea of ​​the aeon-long copulation between Shiva and Parvati developed into that of a bisexual creator god. This was stimulated by Shaktism , which began in India around the 4th century AD, which equates the male reproductive power with female potency ( Shakti ) and devotion ( Bhakti ) and emphasizes that the male element alone is powerless - only Parvati make the "corpse" (Shava) the god Shiva. In the further course of the cosmogonic process it is Shakti who - guided by the consciousness of Shiva - acts. The idea of ​​Ardhanarishvara represents a connection between the cult of Shiva and that of the female deities.

See also


  • Anneliese and Peter Keilhauer: Imagery of Hinduism. The Indian world of gods and their symbolism. DuMont, Cologne 1983, ISBN 3-7701-1347-0
  • David Kinsley: Indian Goddesses. Female deities in Hinduism. Insel, Frankfurt / M. 1990, ISBN 3-458-16118-X , pp. 77ff.

Web links

Commons : Ardhanarishvara  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Anneliese and Peter Keilhauer, p. 170
  2. Anneliese and Peter Keilhauer, p. 170