The Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर, romanized: Ardhanārīśvara, lit

 ’the half-female Lord’), is a form of the Hindu deity Shiva combined with his consort Parvati

Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half-male and half-female, equally split down the middle

The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes

The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century CE

Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era

The Puranas and various iconographic treatises write about the mythology and iconography of Ardhanarishvara

Ardhanarishvara remains a popular iconographic form found in most Shiva temples throughout India, though very few temples are dedicated to this deity

Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God, and vice versa

The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation

Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva’s all-pervasive nature