Broadly the art-piece appears to be the product of queer imagination, a quaint anatomy attempting at conciliating the ever conflicting elements into one form. An apparent visual fallacy, it has, however, a deeper meaning and significance with its roots in ancient India’s religious texts and metaphysics related to cosmology and creation. This form of Shiva is based on the contention that Lord Shiva is the first of all beings and the root of all elements. The prevalent proposition is that he was always there : Sadashiva, and was the ever first : Adishiva. Obviously, both as Adishiva and Sadashiva he had inherent in his being both, the male and female aspects as without both the creation could not be effected. When texts perceived him announcing : ‘ekohama bahusyami’, he was in the Creator’s role and assimilated in him the male and the female attributes as without both from one he could not be many.
This phenomenal manifestation of Shiva also has Rig-Vedic contexts. The Rid-Veda proclaims : ‘what you describe to me as Male are in reality also Female. He who has the penetrating eyes of the mind discerns this truth’. The existence is essentially composed of two sets of diverse elements, which Shiva as Sadashiva blends in his form and represents. This Vedic proposition and other texts talking of Ardha-narishvara form time and again have amazed the modern mind with such scientific concept. A number of thinkers, Osho, the great spiritual thinker of the twentieth century being the foremost among them, hold that Shiva should be worshipped only as Ardha-narishvara as that alone is his complete image for ever present benevolent Shiva could not be a part – male or female, but the ‘total’ : the male and the female.
In iconographic perception, sculptural quality, craftsmanship, minute details, finish and aesthetic visualization this brass-statue is simply superb. Though a recent work of art, it excels medieval sculptures of Ardha-narishvara in many things : facial features, anatomy of the two aspects, portrayal of male and female elements and those related to Shiva and those related to Parvati and thematic insight and thrust. The right half has been conceived as half of the four-armed Shiva. It has two arms, one carrying a goad, and other, a snake, while the left half has just one arm held in ‘lalita’ rupa. Right from crown and coiffure down to the foot this part : sensuously modeled breast, heavy protruding hip, richly clad ‘antariya’, style of foot and kind of adornment, especially the large flower used for adorning her hair as against the rays of fire emitting from Shiva’s coiffure, there reflects in everything Parvati’s feminine aspect. Shiva’s side of the coiffure has on it snakes, crescent, river goddess Ganga among others. As compared to Parvati’s leg on the left the right leg representing Shiva’s is quite heavy and crudely conceived. The image has been installed on a two-tiered beautifully moulded lotus pedestal.
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.