Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Ardhanarishvara Mean?

Ardhanarishvara is the name of a half male, half female Hindu deity who is a combination of Shiva and his consort, Parvati. The name comes from the Sanskrit, ardha, meaning “half”; nari, meaning “woman”; and ishvara, which means “lord” or “personal god.” The name is typically translated as “lord who is half woman.”

This deity symbolizes both the nature of the supreme deity (Ultimate Reality) as lacking gender, and the unity of male and female in the creation of the universe.


Yogapedia Explains Ardhanarishvara

Ardhanarishvara is typically depicted as male on the right side of the body and female on the left. This deity is also known by the names Ardhanaranari ("half man-woman"), Naranari ("man-woman") and Ardhanarinateshvara ("lord of dance who is half-woman"), among others.

The half male, half female deity is representative of the need to unite the opposite sides of ourselves and to embrace both the male and females aspects. The goal of yoga is liberation from samsara (the cyclic of death and rebirth) and union with the Absolute. In many Hatha yoga practices, the union of the physical body with shakti energy brings balance and is a step on the yogic path to the ultimate goal. Such balance would not be possible without unifying the masculine and feminine. Ardhanarishvara, therefore, is symbolic of this inner practice of yoga.

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Lord Ardhanarishvara

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