From ‘Ardhanarishvar’ to ‘Androgyny’ – Cultivating Harmony in Gender Role


Humanity wants to attain harmony with one’s own self and with others in the journey of his/her life. In this paper, the focus is to study the eastern concept of ‘Ardhanarishvar’ and western concept of Jung’s theory on gender role, with respect to ‘Androgyny’. Moreover, the paper wanted to understand both the concepts to cultivate harmony within the self and with others.

The form of Lord Shiva as ‘Ardhanarishvara’ is depicted as half male and half female split down the middle. It represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti is inseparable from Shiva. The theory of Carl Jung, on ‘Anima and Animus’ is the projection of the concept of ‘Ardhanarishvara’ in psychological analysis of understanding human behavior. He said that most people are not strictly feminine or masculine but androgynous, that is, they possess both masculine and feminine characteristics. Persons with androgyny make less stereotyped behavior and having healthy adjustment in life.

The modern world must understand the concept of ‘Ardhanarishvara’ as it aspires to resolve the paradox of opposites into a unity through positive experiences of life. The matching of opposites produces the true rhythm of life.

As per Jung’s theory, to create a better world, with better understanding, a man and a woman will be both – because sometimes a man needs to be a woman and vice versa. There are moments when he needs to be soft in tender moments, love-moments.  Whereas woman also needs to be expressive and/or aggressive both.

Key Words: Ardhnarishvar, Androgyny, Gender Role

*Paper presented in national seminar on ‘Gender and Development’ conducted by Sociology Dept., Guj. Uni. Ahmedabad, during 13-14 March 2015.


Humanity wants to attain harmony with one’s own self and with others in the journey of his/her life. But Human differentiation based on gender role plays a fundamental role that affects virtually every aspect of people’s daily life. It creates conditioned mind set in human beings and it starts manipulating ones’ own identity itself. So, he/she never feels the oneness with own self and with others.

In this paper, the focus is to study the eastern philosophy of ‘Ardhanarishvar’ and western psychology of Jung’s theory on gender role, with respect to ‘Androgyny’.  Moreover, the focus is to understand both the concepts to cultivate harmony within the self and with others.

The data of this study paper is derived from web sources only.

The Purpose of this Study:

The perception of the universe and its understanding lies within the brain. Both philosophy and science aim to render intelligible to us our world of experience. Both want to reveal the principles or truth involved in it. The difference between these two disciplines is in their different approaches. Ancient Hindu concepts regarding brain science are, now attracting the scientific community to explore some of their mystical findings and make use of them in further understanding of brain behavior. So, Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas are being reviewed all over the world. Philosophy and Psychology both have their perspectives to understand human as an existence or being in its own self.

The paper has focused to understand the concepts of Ardhanarishvara and Androgyny. How they both have given stress on equality in gender role. Moreover, it has tried to understand how we have started developing stereotyped roles and created disharmony in life and how can we bring harmony by transcending gender roles.

Gender Roles:

The process by which children acquire the values, motives, and behaviors viewed as appropriate for males and females within a culture is called gender typing. Children develop gender-based beliefs, largely based on gender stereotypes; the latter are reflected in gender roles. Children adopt a gender identity early in life and develop gender-role preferences as well. Once the child is aware of his or her gender they will start to behave in gender roles that his or her role would normally adopt. Therefore, the individual’s responses become internalized and functions according to the appropriate gender-role standards. The responses that individuals receive from their social group will mold their identity, becoming more feminine or masculine and thus affects the way they view the world.

Now the meaning and philosophy of Ardhnarishvar and Androgyny are discussed.

The meaning of Ardhanarishvara:

Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर, Ardhanārīśvara), is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu God Shiva and his consort Parvati (also known as Devi, Shakti and Uma in this icon). Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half male and half female, split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes.

The Philosophy of Ardhanarishvar:

अर्धनारीश्वर – Ardhanārīśvara Image of Lord Shiva

Raveesh (2013) wrote the philosophy behind Ardhanarishvar. The man, with woman in form Parvati, constituting the left half of Shiva is Ardhanarishvar. In this aspect, he draws the feminine into his own self. He is half man, half woman. A symbol of the Samkhya philosophy which talks of Purusha (the male energy) and Prakriti (the female energy) together makes the cosmic energy. As Ardhanarishvar, Shiva destroys the old, for in destruction, there is renewal, it cleanses and constructs a new. In this new construction, he is the Father of Brahma. And the cycle of time, the process of recreation begins all over again. Mother Shakti once propitiated Lord Shiva with such a 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, symbolizing the oneness of all beings. One can state that even in gender definition, this aspect became the fundamental root of Advaitha.  This fusion of Shiva and Shakti 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. Shiva is Shava (dead body) without Shakti. All that power in creation, maintenance, and dissolution rests with Shakti. However, the great mother does not exist without Shiva. When they become one, Ardhanarishvar becomes a being of generative and constructive force.

The meaning of Androgyny:

The term derives from the Latin: androgynus, derived from Ancient Greek: ἀνδρόγυνος, from ἀνήρ, stem ἀνδρ- (anér, andr-, meaning man) and γυνή (gunē, gyné, meaning woman).

For humans, androgyne (/ˈændrədʒaɪn/ AN-drə-jyn) in terms of gender identity, is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles of their society. Androgynous may also use the term ‘ambigender’ or ‘polygender’ to describe themselves.

The Psychology of Androgyny:

Anima and Animus

The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality. Anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality, Animus.

The Anima and Animus can be identified as the totality of the unconscious feminine psychological qualities that a male possesses or the masculine ones possessed by the female, respectively. Because a man’s sensitivity must often be repressed, the anima is one of the most significant autonomous complexes of all. It is said to manifest itself by appearing in dreams. It also influences a man’s interactions with women and his attitudes toward them and vice versa for females and the animus.

Masculine and Feminine Projections

How to cultivate harmony?

Raveesh (2013) has given the resolution how the philosophy of Ardhnarishvar can bring rhythm in our life. He has written, “Everywhere in nature, animate or inanimate, we find in every individual or particle a tremendous urge to be united with something else, outside, or inside. The urge comes from within as the individual is composed of opposites and through the union there is a resolution of the opposites. What is an unconscious urge with nature is transformed into conscious love with human being? Until there is duality, there is tension, which sometimes may prove to be disastrous. The modern world must understand the concept of Ardhanarishvaras it aspires to resolve the paradox of opposites into a unity, not by negation, but through positive experiences of life. The matching of opposites produces the true rhythm of life.”

As per Jung’s theory, to create a better world, with better understanding, a man will be both, a woman will be both – because sometimes a man needs to be a woman and vice versa. There are moments when he needs to be soft in tender moments or love-moments. Whereas some time woman needs to be expressive or/and aggressive both.

Gender Suppression

But we are behind so far as harmony is concerned, because our mind sets are conditioned with stereotype roles as per our gender. So, we must be cautious all the time what to say, what to talk, what to wear, how to laugh, how to cry and so on. It naturally divides our personality in to fixed role, and we must suppress or to hide the other gender, which always wants to come out. 

So as the philosophical concept of Ardhnarishvar and the psychological concept of androgyny, both make us to understand their equalities and importance in their own perspective. We must nurture the children in such a way that they should develop both the qualities. They should not cultivate any stereotype gender behavior. Thus, no duality with one’s own self there would be harmony with one’s own self and with others too.    


It can be said that when truth is experienced time and place are vanished. Expressions in language may differ, but the essence or substance is the same. So, let us make this earth a wonderful place to live with harmony, the way nature lives in tune with each other. Because half of the world population is of the other gender, it is worth to spend time experiencing your own and the other ‘role’ in society. It would be the best experience to introspect of our “Inner Man/Inner Woman”. Diving into our own masculinity and femininity releases insights that no book or theory can give us.


“Ardhanarishvara”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Available from: [Last accessed 2012 Jun01].  (Retrieved on 28-02-15)

“Androgyny”. Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.

(Retrieved on 06-03-15)

 “Online Etymology Dictionary: androgynous. Retrieved 13 July 2013. (Retrieved on 06-03-15) (Retrieved on 28-02-15) 5545;year=2013;volume=55;issue=6;spage=263;epage=267;aulast=Raveesh;type=2  (Retrieved on 02-03-15) (Retrieved on 28-02-15)

By Smita Trivedi

અમદાવાદની બી.ઍડ. કૉલેજમાં ૨૫ વર્ષ ઍસો. પ્રોફેસર તરીકે સેવા કર્યા બાદ હાલ નિવૃત્ત જીવનમાં સાહિત્ય, અધ્યાત્મ અને સંગીત સાથે પ્રવૃત્ત જીવનને માણી રહી છું. જીવનની પ્રત્યેક ક્ષણ એક નવો ઉઘાડ લઇને આવે છે, અને સતત નવું શીખવાની તક આપે છે.


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