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The Male-Female Form of the Lord
One of the 64 manifestations of Shiva - the man-woman form with Parvati constituting the left half of Shiva. This is a much-hailed form in scriptures of various languages.
Mother Shakthi once propitiated Lord Shiva with such fervent intensity that she be part of him in body and mind. Her pleased husband through his divine powers granted her this wish. The Master then absorbed her in half of himself and thus was created the half-man half-woman aspect of Lord Shiva, symbolising the oneness of all beings.
This fusion of Shiva and Shakthi representing the male and female halves transcends the distinction between and limitation of male and female and takes the Lord to the level of beyond-gender manifest Brahman, realization of which means liberation.
Shakthi part is golden, while Shiva part is snow-white. She is substrate and He is substance.. Shiva is static; Shakthi is dynamic and creative. Shiva is Being and Shakthi is Becoming. He is One; She is many; He is Infinite and She renders the Infinite into finite; He is formless and She renders the Formless into myriad forms; But both are one. Shiva and Shakthi exist in Nirmala Turiya state (Stainless Purity).
When it comes to worship of Ardhanarisvara, some worship the Shiva aspect and some worship the Shakthi aspect. Shiva is viewed as the Holder of Power, though he is inert. Shiva is Shava (dead body) without Shakthi. All that power in creation, maintenance, and dissolution rests with Shakthi. But the Great Mother does not exist without Shiva.
When they become one Ardhanarishvara becomes a being of generative and constructive force. Ardhanarishvara it seems shows us just what can be done when we embrace the opposite in ourselves.
Philosophically, this form portrays the boundless Grace of God. The formless God is called parashiva. On Its own free-will for the benefit of pashus (souls), which are drowned in pAsha (bondage), It thinks to create the worlds. Its dynamism of creation thus springs out of It, which is called Shakthi. Now Shiva and Its power Shakthi create everything. This is the form of their togetherness that makes every existence active. Shiva and Shakthi are one and the same Supreme may also act independently. They are associated like the person and the action of the person. They are one and the same like the ice and the water - one becomes the other. Poet Kalidasa hails them as inseparable like the word and its meaning, the letter and pronunciation!!
“vAk arthA viva samprakthau vAkartha pprathipathayae jagatha: pithrau vandhe parvathi parameshwarau “
To derive the pertinent idiom and its ideation I adore the Parents of Universe, Paarvati and Parameshvara, who are like an ever-embodied entity of sound and its sense.
From time immemorial the man-woman relationship has always dominated the very fabric of civilization. Whether it is the western theory of creation, that of Adam and Eve, or the Indian concept of Purusha and Prakriti, the very core of civilization stems from the concept of the union of the male and the female.
Shiva and Shakthi are compared to gold and gold ornaments; they are same; Shiva is hypostasis and when this force fuses with Shakthi results in multitude of manifestations.
We find many references in our ancient puranas, regarding the origin of this Supreme form.
Brahma the creator of the universe, crafted the cosmos as per the divine instruction. He made all the living beings and yet could not find any development. The beautiful world remained lifeless without any expansion. The maker was very much worried. A heavenly voice instructed him to commence creation with the help of copulative activities. But Brahma was finding it impossible since all the forms had been inert (males) till then. At this instance the supreme form of Ardhanareeshwara manifested. Brahma contemplated on this form of Shiva - Shakti. The Lord became very pleased with him revealed his Ardhanari form- Left side of his body resembled like a woman while the right side appeared like a man. Lord Brahma worshipped this form of Shiva and the Lord then separated the feminine part of his body and thus manifested mother Shakti. Lord Brahma worshipped her and requested to bestow such power by which he could create a woman. Goddess Shakti blessed him by saying – 'So be it' and vanished. This way Lord Brahma became capable of commencing copulative creation. It was only then that Brahma realized his mistake and created a woman, and Srishti or creation began.
In another episode, Goddess Umadevi once playfully closed the eyes of her beloved, which plunged the world into darkness. All living beings suffered in the dark. The universal mother felt for her folly and separated herself from her companion. Mother started worshipping Lord Shiva in the form of Linga to absolve herself of this sin and to reunite with him. Lord Vishnu, (or Adi Kesava Perumal, enshrined at Thiruchenkode, a unique Ardhanareeshwara temple) instructed Shakthi on the Kedara Gowri Vratam to be performed to unite with Shiva. When she reached Kancheepuram, Lord Shiva ordered her to proceed to Thiruvannamalai and do her penance. Likewise Mother Parvathi did penance at Pavalakundru with the help of Saint Gowthama. A demon called Makishasuran disturbed the penance of Mother Parvathi. The Mother took the form of goddess Durga Devi and destroyed him on the full moon day of the Tamil Month of Karthigai during the auspicious period of pradosham. Lord Shiva presented himself in the form of Fire atop the hill and merged Goddess Parvathi on the left half of his body. This day of Supreme merger is celebrated as Deepavali. To commemorate this event, every year during the festival of Annamalai Deepam, Lord Arthanareeswaramurthi presents himself as Jyothi Swaroopa to his devotees.
Another famous anecdote of Ardhanareeshwra is related to Sage Bringi. Sage Bringi was one of the ardent devotees of Lord Shiva who considered that Shiva grace is the ultimate source for existence. He was a violent votary of Lord Shiva to the exclusion of any deity in the worship including Parvathi! He refused to worship Shakthi, a woman. Even during his daily worship, he would circumbulate only the Lord ignoring Mother Shakthi, with a flashing spark of arrogance. The divine couple wanted to enlighten the sage and hence assumed this unique form sharing his body with Parvathi. The couple took the form of Ardhanareeshwara and stood unified inseparable to every atom. Even then the egoistic sage took the form of a bee (Bringa is a Sanskrit for Bee.
The sage came to be called Bhringi because he once became a bee.) and tried to pierce through the body of the Lord so that he could go around only the Shiva part. In every human body the static force of Shiva constituted the bone and the skin and the dynamic force of Shakthi triggered the blood and flesh. Goddess Shakti, being the power as the name indicates, pulled out her energy from Bringi's body. Now he was a mere skeleton and was even unable to stand. The Lord pacified Parvathi and gave the sage one more leg to stand. The sage soon realized his folly and understood that life becomes dynamic only by the blending of both grace and force which are not contradictory but complementary to each other.