Saturday, May 22, 2021




 Shiva is the third god in the Hindu triumvirate believed to be the  controller of destruction to ensure orderly regeneration. Shiva is also the god of untamed passion, who at times becomes an ascetic abstaining from all worldly pleasures. As Maheshvara, Shiva is total- the Sakala and Nishkala, the Atman and Maya, all that is timed and all that is beyond time, the manifest and the unmanifest,  the ephemeral and the transcendental, the masculine and the feminine.
Rigveda mentions Shiva as Rudra . As Rudra, Shiva is Agni, who as Prana, energizes all things. As Bhuta- the Prakriti or matter is only his aspect, he is the entire existence. He creates out of him and is thus himself the creation. He is thus male as also the female. 

Shiva image- both the anthropomorphic and the symbolic Linga, has the pre-Vedic emergence. Excavations at Indus sites have revealed images of Shiva as Mahayogi and Pashupati and the Linga type objects suggestive of Shiva's manifestation as Linga and the cult of Linga worship. The remains of Hellenistic civilization also reveal traces of Linga worship. Ancient Egypt perceived its god Osiris in the form of Linga and worshipped it. These early images of Shiva do not so much reveal an iconographic perception of him but reveal quite significantly his divine dimensions, out of which developed his Sadashiva and Maheshvara and consequently the Ardhanarishvara forms. 

Ardhanarishvara is one of the most prevalent forms of the celestial  in Indian art since the ancient period. Some scholars have discovered an Ardhanarishvara type figure on the face of a Kushana period coin. It is believed that this could be the first-ever reported Ardhanarishvara image. Some art historians believe that the Ardhanarishvara form is an art perception, a product of man's remarkable imagination, an appealing composition seeking to reconcile the ever conflicting male and female elements into one divine form.
Traditionally, Ardhanarishvara is a form of Sadashiva, Adishiva and Adipurusha. Being the first, he is the Adishiva, and being always, he is the Sadashiva. Both as the Adishiva and the Sadashiva, Shiva has inherent in his being the male and the female, the positive and the negative, and thus his Ardhanarishvara form. 

Kashmir has a long history of sculpting or painting Ardhanarishvara. A beautiful concept of merging masculine and feminine energies by painting Shiva and Parvati as one entity existed in Kashmir since the ancient period. It finds mention in every important text like Kalika-Purana , Nilamata-Purana, Visnudharmotara-Purana , Kuttanimata of Damodaragupta, Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva , Rajatarangini of Kalhana and Jonaraja . There are many Tarangas in Rajatarangini where Kalhana is invoking directly Ardhanarishvara.In some texts of Kashmir, Ardhanarishvara is also referred to as Gaurisiva. I have seen some stone images of Ardhanarishwara in S.P.S. Museum, Srinagar. Some of these sculptures were obtained from Avantipura or Verinag in Kashmir. 

Kalhana writes this:-

“Glory to that formation of the body of lord ( Siva )which consisting of a female and a male half is fit for him, who embued with a fondness for diverse combination holds by his side the bow, constructed from the horns of the goat and a bull, as well as Gana ( Ganesa )whose body unites with the halves of a man and an elephant .” 

Damodaragupta in his Kuttanimata writes this:-

“Siva has accommodated Gauri in half of his body as though separation from his beloved was unbearable to him even for a moment .”

Somadeva in his Kathasaritsagara writes this :-

“ Glory to Siva, half of whose body is the moon-faced Parvati, who is smeared with ashes whiten as the rays of the moon, whose eyes gleam with fire like that of the sun and moon, who wears a half-moon on his head .”
Jonaraja write this:-

“ One half of Hara’s person has united with one half of Parvati as if they had become one through mutual affection. The other halves 
of their persons, adored in the three worlds have disappeared as if in sorrow, because they could not unite .”

A Tirtha of Ardhanarishvara existed at Village Naru in Kashmir. Stein has even located a small temple of ancient origin that was renovated during the Dogra rule in Kashmir. In this temple, an image of Siva as Ardhanarishwara was worshipped. It is worthwhile to mention that a stone Ardhnarishwara from Kashmir has reached New York’s ‘ Kapoor Galleries’ owned by the jailed international art smuggler.

 Known as Purusha and Prakriti, the Ardhanarishvara concept has also been brought into paintings by G. R. Santosh, the foremost practitioner of neo-Tantra art from Kashmir. His Aradhnarishvara finally settled down at a meditative torso in Padamasna . This image is  neither male nor female that bears the  essential Tantric symbolism of Prakriti and Purusha or Shiva and Shakti.

                                                    ( Ardhanarishvara in Indian sculpture )

 There is hardly any artist in India who has not been fascinated by the concept of Ardhanarishvara . The half male and half female are split down the middle with one half ( generally the right side ) as the male Shiva illustrating his traditional attributes. Some images influenced by the Shakti cult, have male Shiva on the left side. Ardhanarishvara image is drawn in Abhanga, Tribhanga and Atibhanga postures.

( Avtar Mota )

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