The Ardhanarishvara is an androgynous form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. This form of Lord Shiva is considered the most special, just like its story. According to several Puranas, including the Shiva Purana and the Narada Purana, if Lord Shiva wouldn’t have appeared in this form, the world would still have remained deserted.
Ardhanarishvara means “the Lord Who is half woman.” It means half male and half female. Now you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with Lord Shiva. Well, it is a fact that not many temples in India dedicate prayers to this form of Lord Shiva which is also known as Ardhanari, Ardhanarisha, or Ardhanarineshwara.
As per Shiva Purana, the story of Lord Shiva’s Ardhanarishar avatar began after the completion of the creation of the world by Lord Brahma. After creating the world, he witnessed that there was no further development in the world. Everything remained exactly the same as he created. The number of animals, birds, humans, and insects that he created were not increasing as he had created only male beings. Seeing this, Brahma Ji got really upset.
Looking at this, Lord Vishnu asked him to do the penance of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was pleased with Brahma’s harsh tenacity and ordered him to create the Maithuni creation. Brahma Ji asked Lord Shiva to explain the meaning of the Maithuni creation. Lord Shiva then took the Ardhanarishvara avatar and revealed half of his body in a feminine form. This was when the male and female parts were separated. Brahma requested the female half of Lord Shiva to give him a female so that his creation ‘the world’ can continue to grow. The Goddess agreed to his request and created a female taking powers from her body.
As per Skanda Purana, Goddess Parvati requested Lord Shiva to allow her to reside with him with their “limb-to-limb” embracing each other, thereby creating the ‘Ardhanarishwar form’ of Shiva. It tells us that when Andhaka (the demon) wanted to seize Goddess Parvati to make her his wife, it was Lord Vishnu who rescued her and brought her to his abode.
This was when the demon followed her and Goddess Parvati revealed her Ardhanarishvara form to him. Seeing the half-male and half-female form, the demon lost interest in her and left. Seeing this form of Goddess Parvati, Lord Vishnu was amazed and could see himself in the female part of the form.