Shiva's Ardhanarishvara manifestation is neither a riddle nor a 'pashu-kunjara' (see below) type quaint artistic experiment. It rather conceptualises a deep principle of cosmology, which considers existence as essentially composed of two sets of diverse elements. In Indian thought it is only Shiva who as Sadashiva or Adipurusha blends this diversity into his form and as Ardhanarishvara manifests it. A born one is a male or a female, the Adipurusha Shiva, the Sadashiva, the ever present Unborn, is the 'total', all that is masculine and all that is feminine, and it is this perception of existence which the Ardhanarishvara vision of Shiva manifests. West also perceived this inseparability of male and female elements, but could not see it blend into a single form. An inseparable unity, which they see manifest in the forms of Cupid and Psyche, is the unity of the two in two forms. In Ardhanarishvara this unity is in one form.
This metal-cast, a bronze, reminds of great Chola bronzes of South India. Sculptural perfection marks this tiny masterpiece. Sharpness of features and minuteness of details, especially in casting hairdressing, ornaments and garments, is simply unparalleled. The right half of the figure is packed with factors of male physiognomy and most of Shaivite attributes and the left half with those of a woman and the attributes of Shiva's spouse Parvati. The right side has two arms - the two of Shiva's four, and the left just one, obviously one of Parvati's two arms. Upto thigh level figure's right leg is without cloth but the left representing part of Parvati's figure is elegantly covered with decently plated saree. The job of the artist-caster must have been quite challenging. On one hand he was required to discover out of the most conflicting and diverse elements - the masculine and feminine, the unity of his figure's form and on the other with as much distinction, precision, and minuteness he had to create his contrasts, and in both he has so well excelled.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
Of Related Interest:
Ardhanarishvara the Divine Androgyne (Miniature Painting On Paper)
Ardhanarishvara (3.3 Feet High Statue)
Ardhanarishvara (Silk Painting)