The half-male (Śiva), half-female (Śakti) androgyne figure of divinity showing the inseparable interdependent relationship nature of spirit and form, consciousness and power, wisdom and compassion, awareness and expression, subject and object, worldly success (bhukti) and spiritual liberation (mukti).
Ardhanārīśvara also represents the union of two seemingly different spiritual paths: the aloof, ascetic spiritual renunciate of inner practices and the engaged domestic householder of outer disciplines. The male side of the Ardhanārī holds Shiva’s signature trident (will, knowledge, and action) and a tiny ball of compressed ash from the cremation fire. The female side holds a simple lotus. So we have purity (lotus) and impurity (ash) in her front two hands, reinforcing the symbolic merging of opposites.
This illustration is based on the work of my teacher, Dinesh Shrestha Charan, and first appeared in Sally Kempton’s book, Awakening Shakti.